After the Manhattan grand jury indicted former President Donald Trump, it’s worth looking at the mechanics of what’s going on in the legal system, and how the procedures that apply to everyone apply to Trump.
We caught up with Elie Honig, a CNN legal analyst, former federal prosecutor and author of the new book, “The Untouchables: How the Powerful Get Free,” to revisit how grand juries and indictments work. Some of our conversations over the phone are as follows:
grand jury versus trial jury
Wolf: What should we know about the difference between a grand jury and a trial jury?
Honey: grand jury decision To prosecute means to prosecute a case. A trial jury decides guilt or innocence.
A grand jury is larger, usually with 23 members, and prosecutors only need a majority of the grand jury — not a trial jury, which must vote unanimously.
A grand jury has a lower standard of proof than a trial jury. In a grand jury, you just have to prove probable cause, meaning more likely. But of course, in a trial setting, you need to show evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.
Another thing to know is that a grand jury is an almost entirely one-sided process.
Often, the only people allowed into the room are the grand jurors, prosecutors, witnesses and court reporters.
In some cases, including New York, potential defendants have limited rights to present some evidence, but defense attorneys are not allowed in the room.
The prosecution’s evidence was not cross-examined. No defense evidence was provided.
Almost every time a prosecutor seeks an indictment from a grand jury, he or she receives a grand jury indictment.
What is an indictment?
Wolf: How do you define “suing”?
Honey: this is a document Formal charges against the accused.
Three Trump Grand Juries
Wolf: We are most concerned with the three grand juries — election interference in Georgia, declassified documents at the federal level, and then the Manhattan District Attorney. How Much Difference Are There Between City, County, and Federal Grand Juries?
Honey: There are minor changes, but the fundamentals remain the same.
This is an example of a small change in New York State, but not in the federal system, that would make sense for the DOJ. Defendants do have some limited rights to be notified and have an opportunity to testify or give evidence in the defense, and we see Trump play that, and then he asks Robert Costello to testify.
This is not the case in the Federation. You do not have to give the defendant an opportunity to testify or present evidence. This is a slight change. But the basic principle is the same.