The Good Wife
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Cary's Corner A Grand Old Time

Posted on Jan 29, 2012 10:00pm

­Grand juries are a prosecutor's best friend. Prosecutors in Illinois have the option to present initial evidence against a person through either a preliminary hearing or before a grand jury. Naturally, the specifics of the case and the desired outcomes determine this decision. In a preliminary hearing, both prosecutors and defense attorneys present their case, and a judge determines the probable cause. In a grand jury hearing, no judge and no defense attorney are present. The prosecutor presents the evidence directly to the members of the grand jury. Grand juries are a good option if we want to avoid cross-examination, a jaded judge, or an open hearing. For instance, a grand jury might be sought in a case where the victim is very old or young and therefore particularly vulnerable. It might be traumatic for the victim to testify, or we might have concerns that the victim could inadvertently weaken the case by testifying. If we have a heater case, with a lot of press scrutiny, we would likely ask for a grand jury. It ensures us better odds of a trial in a case we need to win, and we can take advantage of the closed hearing and prevent a media circus. But there are times when we would definitely seek a preliminary hearing. One example is if we need to prosecute, but the evidence is weak and we'd like to see the case dropped. That way, the accused's defense attorney will be able to attack the limited evidence and the case will likely be kicked. If the crime is a specialized crime, with its own division in the SA's office, an ASA from that specialized division will present the case to the grand jury. Murder, arson, financial crimes, organized crime, narcotics, sex crimes – each of these crimes has its own division within the SA's office. Other common crimes which do not have a specific division within the SA's office would be presented to the grand jury by one of the ASAs of the three-person Grand Jury Unit. These ASAs handle the grand juries for cases of robbery, burglary, theft, aggravated battery, and the like. Of course, in the case of a special prosecution such as the one to which I am currently assigned, the SA's office removes itself entirely, and the special prosecutor – in this case, Wendy Scott-Carr – presents the evidence to the grand jury. When Peter named Wendy as his special prosecutor, he was trying to be scrupulously clean. As a result, however, in the matter of the investigation into my old firm and its partners, my power as Deputy State's Attorney is limited. I don't like the view from the sidelines much, and I've tried, unsuccessfully, to keep the investigation on track and not a targeted witch-hunt. I've had my differences with my old boss, but I've always respected him as a canny, aggressive lawyer. But I fear a special prosecutor and grand jury may prove too much for even Will Gardner to overcome...