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Grand jury selection is luck of the draw

How are grand jury members chosen? How can I serve on a grand jury?

— Elaine P., Medford

Grand jury members have a different task, Elaine, but are selected the same way as trial juries. Jurors are selected from a jury pool, which for circuit court cases is created from a combination of voter registrations, driver's licenses and ID cards issued by the state Department of Driver and Motor Vehicles.

We got our information from someone who should know: Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert. She notes that there is no way for you to volunteer for grand jury duty — it happens when your name is randomly drawn.

Oregon has seven jurors on a grand jury, and the court typically selects some alternatives in case a grand juror cannot fulfill the term. Unlike jurors for trials, grand jurors serve for nine weeks. Heckert notes that Jackson County has three grand juries hearing cases each week, so a juror would be selected to serve on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday grand jury.

After hearing the evidence, if at least five of the seven jurors agree to indict a person, that's called a “true bill.” If they hear the evidence and decide not to indict, they return a “not true bill."

The Oregon statute also requires the grand jury to do an inquiry at least once a year into the condition and management of every correctional facility and youth correctional facility in the county. So once a year, the court convenes a correctional grand jury to tour the three Jackson County facilities — Jackson County Jail, Detention in the Juvenile Building and Transition Center — and write a report. The reports from past years can be viewed on the district attorney’s website.

Federal court grand juries consist of 23 grand jurors, with 16 needed for a quorum. The grand juror’s term is 18 months in federal court, with grand juries convening in Medford, Eugene and Portland. The grand jury in Medford meets monthly. In order to indict someone, 12 jurors must agree. The grand jury is selected from the federal jury pool, which, according to information posted by Oregon's U.S. District Court, comes from voter registration lists.

So there you go, Elaine, it's a bit like winning the lottery, although the value of the prize might be debatable.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.