By Amy E. Feldman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) –New York Justice Sol Wachtler once said that grand juries were so likely to file criminal indictments, he could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. And yet, in several high profile cases including those in Ferguson, and Staten Island, grand juries did not indict police officers who shot people. So what is a grand jury anyway, and why do they have power to decide who gets arrested?READ MORE: Philadelphia Weather: Tornado Watch Issued For Parts Of Pennsylvania, Delaware And New Jersey As Gusty Thunderstorms Head Towards Region
A grand jury is a group of people who, like regular jurors, get called and sit for jury duty. But unlike regular jurors who hear cases where people have been charged with a crime, a grand jury is there to decide if charges should be brought in the first place. And that is – or should be – a low standard.READ MORE: FDA Head: Baby Formula Factory Could Reopen By Next Week
They don’t have to decide if someone is guilty. Only if there’s probable cause to believe he might have committed a crime.
And, while it’s usually the police who decide whether to arrest someone, in cases where the person who may be arrested is a police officer, it’s the practice to send those cases to a grand jury so the police aren’t filing – or failing to file – a charge against one of their own.MORE NEWS: 24-Year-Old Jabril Ali Wanted After Allegedly Shooting Tow Truck Driver After Vehicle Was Repossessed In Chester
That’s why they leave that up to the grand jury to decide, whose decision may or may not seem kosher to outside observers.