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Trayvon Martin case: How a grand jury works

1:32 PM, Mar 22, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- Under mounting pressure, officials announced this week that a grand jury will convene on April 10th to look into the death of Trayvon Martin and whether charges should be filed against George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot the teen.

Experts tell 10 News the grand jury will consist of no fewer than 15 and no more than 21 people. They will all be residents of Seminole County, where Martin was killed and the people will be pulled from driver's license records.

Photo Gallery: FL teen killed by neighborhood watch volunteer

Unlike a criminal trial, a judge will not preside over the case. In fact, a defense team won't even be involved in the proceedings says former federal prosecutor Stephen Crawford.

"The grand jury only hears what the prosecution wants them to hear, so there's no defense attorney, there is no defendant, they hear generally from the police officers that tell them what their investigation has determined," Crawford said.

Crawford says it is possible witnesses will be called to testify including in this case Zimmerman. But he says the 28-year-old can also decline, citing the Fifth Amendment.

Also worth noting, Crawford says grand juries have the opportunity to question witnesses directly.

"It's very interactive. They will put a witness on and then the prosecution, who is presenting the evidence, will throw it open to the grand jury and say, 'Do you have any questions?' Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't."

Grand jury meetings are closed to the public and media, and a grand jury may only meet once a month.

Finally, if a grand jury hands down an indictment, the decision is binding and the prosecution must move forward with charges. 

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