Iowa Law Professor Explains a Grand Jury Proceeding

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DES MOINES, Iowa  —  We don’t know exactly what was discussed in the grand jury proceeding in Breonna Taylor’s death. A Drake Law Professor said we likely never will because it is much more secretive and informal than a regular trial.

“There’s no judge there, there’s no defense lawyer there. There’s just a prosecutor calling witnesses and presenting evidence, and the jurors can talk among themselves they can ask questions of the prosecutor,” Drake University Law School Professor of Law David McCord said.

McCord said a grand jury is a group of 16 to 21 jurors that are drawn from the same juror pool as regular juries. These grand jurors do not decide whether the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but simply whether there is probable cause for the case to proceed.

He said, as a practical matter, the prosecutor will draft up the charges and the grand jury will vote whether to accept them or not. He said Iowa may use a grand jury in a criminal law case, but not very often.

“Grand juries are very rare in Iowa, they’re permitted under Iowa law, but they’re very rare. Our system is generally the prosecutor files an information, followed up by what’s called a minute of testimony,” McCord said.

McCord said a police officer shooting would be one of the only circumstances that would lead to a grand jury in Iowa.

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