Some of What I learned from Grand Jury Duty

justice.jpgIn no particular order, these are a few of the lessons I learned from my two months of grand jury service.

  • It’s very important to establish the specific locale of the offense being considered, and there is a specific form.  Prosecutor:  “And that took place/is located in the City of Albany, County of Albany, State of New York?” Witness: “Yes.”
  • The field test for the presence of cocaine consists of a plastic pouch containing three ampules.  Detective:  A sample of the suspected substance is placed in the pouch, and the ampules are broken from left to right in the following way.  The first ampule is broken and the pouch is agitated for 30 seconds looking for the liquid to turn pink.  The second ampule is then broken and the pouch is again agitated for 30 seconds looking for the liquid to turn blue.  At this point, the third ampule is broken and pouch agitated, and if cocaine is present the contents will offer a result of pink-over-blue. (There is a quite similar process for testing suspected marijuana, the colors are different – gray and purple.)
  • The law has not kept up in the favor of the people in the area of internet crimes and downloadable materials.  It is extraordinarily difficult for the people who investigate these sorts of crimes to explain “how they know” in terms non- or barely-tech literate folks can understand.
  • The Grand Jury room in the Albany County Justice Center needs a large presentation screen for viewing video and photographic evidence.  The present system is to have up to 25 people using the same laptop screen (obviously requiring more time for everyone to view properly).  Hint, use one of the several flat screen TVs from the “jurors lounge” which aren’t allowed to be used for anything else (like watching TV) because trial jurors are around.
  • Law enforcement witnesses who repeatedly appear before the grand jury have the “officer tell the grand jurors about your responsibilities and experience” speech down to an art; those who don’t, well, don’t.  They all do better with specific questions rather than open ended ones.
  • Even though there is wireless internet in the building, grand jurors can’t use it even during extended periods of inactivity.
  • Presenting the right witnesses keeps the grand jurors from having to see some horrific photographic and video evidence.
  • Forensic detective work is not like CSI in any way, especially the time frame.  The prosecutors’ job is very much like what is depicted in Law & Order, except for the time frame.
  • Being in the wrong place at the wrong time is a chargeable crime.  It’s called “accessorial conduct.”
  • Lying always shows.
  • The definitions of burglary, larceny, robbery, arson, manslaughter, criminal possession (of anything), criminal mischief, assault, forgery, and many other crimes are very clear.  Especially upon repetition… repetition… repetition.
  • The “so-called Miranda warnings” can be read from a card, from a form, from the computer screen, or recited from memory.  If they are recited from memory, they will be recited to the grand jury by the officer who gave them.  If they are read, they will be signed and initialed.
  • All statements seem to include “I can (or can not) read and write English” from the person giving the statement.
  • Confessions can not be used to convict (in our case, indict) a person unless there is independent corroborating evidence.
  • Copies of documents entered into evidence appear to require being “kept in the ordinary course of business,” and must be “the same or substantially the same as the original document.”  Every report, document, and photo was similarly qualified.
  • If you are in a place with some illegal substance, stolen property, or a weapon of any kind, and are physically able to use, hold, or move it, you are said to be in “constructive control” of that item.  That’s a bad thing.
  • Pizzeria 54 is a fun lunch spot in downtown Albany.
  • Oh, and one last thing… when it comes to throwing 23 citizens in a room to decide if cases have merit to go on to a trial, it takes all kinds!


  1. Jury Experiences - May 2, 2008

    […] Read the rest… […]

I want to hear your thoughts!

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your Email address will be kept private.