Legal Drama: The Grand Jury
Posted by Jon Littman on October 11, 2010 in Innovation, Storytelling

TRIALS ARE NATURAL STORIES. There are heroes and villains and dramatic resolution. You are either found innocent or guilty. But what about a grand jury?
They grant prosecutors and investigators extraordinary powers to subpoena and to potentially intimidate witnesses. So far in the Lance Armstrong case, former teammates, a chiropractor, a sports physiologist, and Tour de France champion Greg LeMond are among those who have received subpoenas. Once a witness enters a grand jury room he or she is totally alone. There are few rules about what constitutes evidence, ironic perhaps when you consider this is a case about breaking the rules of a sport. No lawyer is allowed inside. The deck is stacked. One or more prosecutors fire questions as long as they wish. Investigators or legal aids may be on hand to assist. A court reporter records every word. You, the witness, are alone in the jury box. Don’t imagine the assigned 23 grand jurors (16 is the minimum required) are impartial referees. The first step is often to weave a narrative that shapes what grand jurors think — and do. Here’s my piece in the Huffington Post.