Q: What are grand juries?
A: A grand jury is a group of 21 people who are selected to serve a six month term. Each county has its own grand jury. In the 7th Circuit, we have four counties, so we have four grand juries.

They are created statutorily, and are responsible primarily for issuing indictments on first degree murder charges. In Florida, it is required to have an indictment by a grand jury to bring a first degree murder charge. 

Q: What do grand juries do?
A: They hear evidence to determine if probable cause exists to bring an indictment, which is a formal charge. They also perform investigations and can make indictments in other cases, although primarily they are called for first degree murder cases. Sometimes it is useful for a prosecutor to present a case to the grand jury to get the perspective of 21 residents of a community. They are a very useful tool in our criminal justice system. 

But it’s important to note that the grand jury has no say and cannot consider the death penalty. All they are responsible for is to determine if probable cause exists to charge someone with first degree murder. They don’t make any other determination.

Q: How are grand juries selected?
A: The State Attorney’s Office selects the grand jury and convenes them when necessary. Similar to selecting a juror for a jury trial, jurors are selected from citizens who have Florida ID. (The Florida Supreme Court changed this requirement from voter registration several years ago in an effort to be representative of the entire community.) For St. Johns County, grand jurors must be residents of St. Johns County and answer some questions from the judge relating to their ability to be fair and impartial and available to serve. We have two six-month terms per year: October to April and April to October. Potential grand jurors would receive a summons in the mail. 

Q: How often do the grand jurors serve?
A: They convene as needed during their six month term. The grand jurors in St. Johns County are not called too often; this is good news because it means there are not too many first degree murder charges. In our circuit, Volusia County is the busiest.

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