How to Pick a Grand Jury Pursuant to HB 2150
By Judge Alfonso Charles
rand juries were a hot button issue during the 84
Legislative session this past spring. Numerous bills
were introduced concerning grand juries. These bills
included provisions from professional grand jurors, to
what cases the grand jury could hear, to the formation
of the grand jury.
One of the most important and controversial bills that passed
during the session was HB 2150 by Representative Alvarado.
This high profile bill amends Chapter 19 of the Code of Criminal
Procedure concerning the formation and composition of the grand
jury. This act establishes new requirements for a grand jury and
abolishes the use of the grand jury commissioner or “key man”
system. The new law requires that all grand juries be summoned
and empaneled using the same system as petit juries. While some
of the proposed amendments to these bills provided for some
leeway, there are no exceptions to this new statute.
Under the new law, the court must summon between 20 and 125 prospective jurors for the panel.
Further, the grand jury panel must be “fair cross section of the population area served by the court.”
Since the court must empanel the jurors in the same manner as a petit jury, the court would be
justified in selecting a panel from a central jury pool or summoning a separate panel for a grand jury.
establishes the questions to be asked of each prospective grand juror. It now adds
a question concerning a conviction for misdemeanor theft, to bring this section in accord with the
qualifications under section 19.08.
In addition, the bill amends Article 19.31
and expands the grounds for challenging a potential
grand juror. Such new grounds include, but are not limited to:
1. The grand juror is insane;
2. Medical conditions;
3. The grand juror is a witness or a target in the investigation (must be made
reviewed in camera by the court);
4. The grand juror served on the petit jury of the offense or conduct this grand jury is investigating;
5. The grand juror has a bias or prejudice against or for the defendant or the person the grand
jury is investigating; or
6. The grand juror has a bias or prejudice against any phase of law upon which the state is
entitled to rely for an indictment.
sets out how the grand jury is to be impaneled. Once the court has at least 16
qualified panel members and there is not a challenge to the array or a panel member, the court
“shall select twelve fair and impartial persons to serve as grand jurors and four additional persons
to serve as alternate grand jurors. The grand jurors and the alternate grand jurors shall be
fair cross section of the population of the area served by the court
There have been numerous disputes and suggestions by judges and stakeholders on how the
court should select and impanel the grand jurors. Some judges are concerned about “hand picking”
a grand jury. Others are concerned about how to insure fair cross sections of the community. Senator
John Whitmire, the main Senate proponent for these changes, wrote a letter in response to some