The Informer: Unanimous decision not required by grand jury to indict

Published 6:31 am Wednesday, April 17, 2024

How many jurors are on the grand jury, and must the vote be unanimous to return a true bill of indictment, or merely a majority?

The grand jury plays an important role in the criminal process — but not one that involves a finding of guilt or punishment of a party. Instead, after the presentation of the prosecution’s case, the grand jury decides whether to bring an indictment against a potential defendant.

At least 16 out of 23 grand jurors must be present for a vote in federal court, but a unanimous decision is not required. At least 12 members must concur to indict a defendant under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

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Grand juries typically consist of 12 members in Louisiana, and they typically sit for a period of around 12-18 months. In Louisiana, grand juries have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents, hear testimony under oath, and take other investigative steps as needed.

At least nine members of the grand jury must concur in returning “a true bill” or “not a true bill” in state court.

After receiving the true bill — the signed decision by the grand jury foreperson — the prosecutor can skip the preliminary hearing and proceed directly to trial.

If a grand jury chooses not to indict, a prosecutor may still bring the defendant to trial if they think there is a strong enough case.

Recovery help

Our family home took a big hit during last week’s tornado. Are there any local agencies offering help?

Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said those in need of assistance can contact United Way of Southwest Louisiana by dialing 211.

Those who wish to assist or donate to homeowners affected by the tornado can contact United Way, as well.  “One of the greatest attributes of this community is how we come together in the aftermath of disaster, and I know that this community will do the same. I expect people to come together to help their neighbors,” Hunter said.

Informer is written by Crystal Stevenson, American Press executive editor. To ask a question, call 494-4098 and leave voice mail, or email