Why does it sometimes take so long for a case to go before the grand jury?
Tennessee has 31 separate judicial districts that vary in size from single county districts such as Knox County (the 6th District); Davidson County (the 20thDistrict) and Shelby County (the 30th District) to larger geographic districts that contain several lesser populated counties such as our district (the 9th District) that contains four counties. This makes our district one where our only Criminal Court, as well as our chancellor and circuit court judge, have to truly ‘ride the circuit’, meaning they take turns rotating around the four counties for month long terms. Thus, our four grand juries meet three times each year in each county when Judge E. Eugene Eblen, our Criminal Court Judge, is ‘holding court’ for the term.
The grand jury in our district meets as follows: Loudon County April, August and December
Meigs County March, July and November
Morgan County January, May and September
Roane County February, June and October
Therefore, if a case in General Sessions Court in Loudon County gets bound over to the grand jury in late December it will not be presented to the grand jury until April. Sometimes, depending on the number of cases‘in the queue’ for grand jury and whether our office has all of the necessary lab reports, witness statements, and evidence from the prosecuting officer, a case may have to skip a grand jury until that officer has the case prepared to present.
NOTE TO PUBLIC – If you are ever called for jury duty, hope that you get called to sit on the ‘grand jury’ as opposed to one of the panels for ‘petit jury’ that are on standby to possibly be chosen to hear a single case. The grand jury is composed of twelve members and one foreman that meet in private to review all of the cases that are to be indicted each term and this usually only lasts one to two days. You hear the short version of every case so you learn a lot about law enforcement and the judicial system in a short period of time. If you are on one of the petit jury panels you may or may not ever get selected through the’ voir dire’process to hear an actual trial. While both opportunities are educational, service on the grand jury seems to be more interesting from the comments and feedback that we receive.