Mission and Purpose of the Grand Jury Unit
The Grand Jury Unit of the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office is dedicated to the efficient and thorough review of all allegations of potentially indictable criminal behavior in the county. The staff understands that their work and decisions will largely determine the course that each particular case will follow through the criminal justice system. Our goal, in every case that we review, is to have every police officer, citizen, witness and victim feel satisfied that their matter was handled promptly, fairly, impartially and professionally.
The Grand Jury Unit conducts all Case Intake Screening and collects and collates all relevant information for the case files. The unit also recommends all administrative actions to be taken. The unit handles all pre-indictment dispositions of cases, such as plea negotiations and pleas to accusations, along with any diversion referrals, such as the PTI program.
Once it is determined that a case will be presented to a Grand Jury, the unit handles all case preparations and witness interviews. When the case is presented to the Grand Jury Panel, the unit handles the case presentation and all aspects of the Grand Jury operations. The unit also handles all bail motions.
Functions and Procedure of the Grand Jury Unit
The Grand Jury Legal staff is responsible for evaluation of the charges, recommendations for administrative actions, direct presentments and pre-indictment diversion referrals. They also prepare cases for grand jury presentation. In addition a Victim/Witness Counselor handles requests for withdrawal of complaints from victims and maintains statistical records. The attorneys may also enter into pre-indictment plea negotiations for selected cases and dispose of these cases through pleas to accusations. Attorneys interview witnesses and present all cases to one Grand Jury panel. Defendant's motions to dismiss indictments and pre-indictment suppression motions are briefed by staff attorneys and argued by them in court. Staff attorneys review all agency referrals for indictable charges, review requests for grand jury transcripts, and determine appropriateness of seeking superseding indictments.
The Grand Jury Coordinator schedules grand jury cases, prepares calendars and subpoenas, acts as specified contact for postponements and re-scheduling, refers approved transcript requests to the Clerk of the Grand Jury, and prepares indictments and related documents. Another staff member, a clerk typist, is responsible for the typing and distribution of all administrative dispositions and Promis Gavel data updating. The secretaries prepare briefs, motions, and other legal documents for filing, and also type correspondence, memos and other dictation from staff attorneys.
Stages of the Grand Jury Process
After docketing and computerizing the complaint, the newly created file is held in the Grand Jury Unit pending receipt of required initial information such as police reports, witness statements, hospital records, arrest history and laboratory reports. Completed files and original investigations are reviewed by the legal staff to determine if more investigation is required prior to proceeding to stage two.
The charges in the files are reviewed and recommended for one of the following dispositions; prepare for grand jury presentation, administrative dismissal, administrative remand to Municipal Court or referred for pre-trial intervention through the Criminal Case Management Office.
All of the recommendations are made based on various criteria, including the nature and admissibility of evidence, legality of search, criminal history of the defendant and feelings of the victim. Recommendations for dismissals and remands are forwarded to the County Prosecutor for his approval.
Certain criminal cases are negotiated prior to indictment. These cases receive close scrutiny, and the proposed sentence recommendations are fully discussed with any victims of the crime and/or their families. Often, these are private counsel cases wherein there is more interest in an early, reasonable solution of the matter. Absent any subsequent prosecution problems, the best plea offer for the file will be made pre-indictment. Often pre-grand jury screening will reveal appropriate candidates for P.T.I. These charges will be sent to the Criminal Case Management Office as a P.T.I. referral.
Staff attorneys prepare a synopsis of each case that will be used as an outline thereafter. They interview potential witnesses in preparation for Grand Jury presentation. The Grand Jury Coordinator prepares the Grand Jury schedule, subpoenas witnesses, and prepares necessary documents for the presentation.
The Gloucester County Grand Jury consists of one panel. The panel meets once a week for a four month term every Wednesday. Grand Jury staff attorneys provide orientation sessions for the panel at the start of it's terms. Most cases are presented by an attorney assigned to the section. Cases involving homicide, sex crimes, child abuse, domestic violence, vehicular homicide, insurance fraud or drugs are generally handled as vertical prosecutions with an assigned trial attorney to cover all grand jury stages and all trial section procedures.
After grand jury cases are presented, the staff prepares the indictments and appropriate notices. Indicted files are then sent to the Trial Section for further activity. No-billed files are sent to the records section for closing, and remanded files are prepared for referral to Municipal Court. Indictment information is prepared for media release.
The Grand Jury Unit is also responsible for handling indictments against fugitives or other inactive cases that are to be dismissed. In addition, staff members are often responsible for other matters beyond the six grand jury stages, including Bails, Pre-indictment pleas, clinic-in-law intern students and teaching at the police academy.
Assistant Prosecutor Janis Melfi
Grand Jury Chief