BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - In the wake of a grand jury's decision not to indict a New York police officer with the death of Eric Gardner involving the use of a chock hold has many Americans questioning the workings of the justice system, particularly the grand jury.
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore explained how a grand jury works and why it is such an important part of the criminal justice system.
According to Moore, in some ways, a grand jury is like any other jury. It is made up of 12 people who are selected randomly. However, a grand jury does not decide if someone is guilty or innocent. Instead, the jurors decide whether or not there is enough evidence to go forward with a trial.
Moore also said it's Louisiana Law for life or death cases to have a grand jury involved, so the decision to charge someone won't be left to the prosecutor.
"Maybe you're not really sure as the DA whether or not to charge someone and you want to leave it in the hands of the citizens," Moore said. "You present that evidence to a grand jury."
He added prosecutors from his office present evidence to the grand jury and answer questions from the jurors. Nine of the 12 jurors must vote to indict. Another way a grand jury is different from a trial jury is its proceedings are not made public in most cases.
Moore said every state is different and how things are done in Louisiana may not be the case in New York or Missouri. However, with all that has happened, he believes there will be a change to the criminal justice system.
"I think police legitimacy and what we call procedural legitimacy are big topics and I think that you're going to see that nationwide. The theory is if people understand and respect the law, they are going to obey it. So, you want to be more transparent and [as] open as you can to let people understand what you're doing, because often times, they don't know what we're doing," Moore explained.
Although grand jury proceedings are secret due to intense public scrutiny with both cases, prosecutors got permission from judges to release parts of the proceedings.