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What is a grand jury?
A grand jury is a group of 12 citizens that consider whether indictments should be returned in felony cases. The grand jury meets weekly in Fort Bend County. Grand jurors are summonsed the same way that potential jurors are summonsed to hear trials in the courts.  Both groups are randomly selected by a computer from the voter registration and driver's license rolls.  A district court judge reviews the legally established qualifications of those summonsed and selects 12 grand jurors and four alternate jurors.  I have no input in the selection process. Grand jury proceedings are not open to the public, and witnesses take an oath of secrecy before testifying. If the grand jury believes that there is sufficient evidence to prove that a person has committed a felony, it votes to issue what is called a “true bill,” or indictment. At least nine grand jurors must vote in favor of an indictment, or the case is “no-billed,” which terminates the case. My assistants help the grand jury in hearing evidence, but the actual consideration of cases is secret and only the grand jurors are present when voting is in progress.
What does it mean if the defendant is found not guilty?

A jury or judge must decide the case based upon legally admissible evidence. You may think that a “not guilty” verdict is wrong. Remember that the defendant must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A “not guilty” verdict does not mean that the defendant is “innocent.”

In Texas jury trials, the determination that the defendant is “guilty” or “not guilty” must be unanimous. If the verdict is not unanimous, the jury is "hung" and the defendant may be tried again.

What do I do at trial?
As a witness, you have an important part in the trial. The truthfulness of your testimony, the manner in which you give it, and the appearance you make while on the witness stand and in the courtroom are all factors which may be weighed by the jury or judge in deciding the case. You will be questioned by the prosecutor first, and then you will be “cross-examined” by the defense attorney. During cross-examination, you may sometimes feel that your personal motives for testifying are under attack, but the process is not meant to demean you, or to be a personal attack upon you.
What should I do when a crime happens?

First, call the police or sheriff’s office and make a full report. In most cases, a law enforcement officer will meet with you in person to obtain important details and will inform you of all your rights as a crime victim. The officer will also provide you with the phone numbers of the law enforcement agency’s crime victim liaison and of my victim assistance coordinator.

After the office completes his or her investigation of the crime, he or she will present the facts to my office, and then to a judge in order to obtain an arrest warrant. If you know where the suspect is, tell the police. Do not try to arrest or detain the person yourself.

What happens to the accused?
Soon after arrest by a peace officer, the suspect is taken before a judge who informs the defendant of the reason that he or she has been arrested and of his or her legal rights. The judge must also set a reasonable amount of bail. Unless the defendant can post bail in the amount set by the judge, he or she remains in custody to await further action in the case.
What is the purpose of bail?
Bail is allowed in virtually all cases, including felonies. Its sole purpose is to guarantee that the defendant will appear in court for later proceedings. In setting the amount, the judge is required to consider the seriousness of the offense charged, the defendant’s ability to raise money to pay bail, the defendant’s ties to the community, his prior criminal record if any, and your safety and the safety of your family. Bail may not be set so high as to punish a defendant by keeping him or her in jail pending trial.
Who is my lawyer?
As a victim of crime, your interests are represented in the criminal case by the District Attorney’s office. The District Attorney has a competent staff of felony, misdemeanor, juvenile, and appellate lawyers who will prosecute the defendant. We represent you and the interest of all Fort Bend County citizens.
How does my case get to the Fort Bend County District Attorney's Office?
If a suspect has already been arrested, or if the police or sheriff’s office are seeking his/her arrest, the police or sheriff’s office will turn the case over to my office for a review. The case is reviewed by an assistant district attorney who determines whether there is sufficient evidence to prove that an offense was committed, and whether there is sufficient evidence to prove that the person accused committed the crime. Certain other legal questions may also be explored at this time, such as whether an arrest without a warrant was legally justified, whether certain evidence essential to the case was legally obtained, and whether additional investigation is required. Although some cases are refused for prosecution at this stage, most are eventually filed.
What if someone threatens me to drop charges?
Such a person is obstructing justice and may be guilty of a felony offense called “Retaliation.” Call the law enforcement agency which investigated the case originally or contact the assistant district attorney who is handling the case in my office or the victim assistance coordinator.
How is a case processed in the district attorney's office?
After a case is reviewed, we begin preparation of a file. This file will contain information provided by the law enforcement agency investigating your case, as well as other information developed by our staff. If the case is a felony offense, it is sent to the grand jury for consideration and is presented by an experienced assistant district attorney on my staff. The period between filing of the case in our office and submission to the grand jury will vary because of many factors, but will generally be from one to four weeks. After the grand jury presentation, the case is assigned to an assistant district attorney. If the case is a misdemeanor case, it is reviewed and if accepted, is filed with the County Clerk. Misdemeanor cases are not required to be presented to a grand jury.
What happens to a felony case after a grand jury true bills it, or after a misdemeanor case is accepted by your office?
The case will be randomly assigned to a court. At regularly scheduled times, which are established by court order, the defendant will have to appear in the court to take up legal matters. They include formally charging the defendant, telling the court whether the defendant will enter a guilty plea, or whether the defendant requests a trial by judge or jury. Before trial, legal issues may be raised in the form of pre-trial motions, and resolved by the court’s rulings.
What are some possible delays?
In Fort Bend County, the courts not only hear the criminal cases but also civil cases. In County Courts-at-Law, the Judges must also handle juvenile and probate cases. Considering the fact that over twenty-five hundred felony and seven thousand misdemeanor cases are filed each year, a small backlog of cases can occur. These cases are moved as quickly as possible by the courts and my office, but may not be reached for trial 6 to 24 months.
Why do some cases get dismissed?
If the assistant district attorney handling a case determines that there is not sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction, he may file a motion with the judge asking that the case be dismissed. This action is taken only after the case has been completely investigated, and normally after the police have exhausted all avenues for obtaining additional evidence. Even after probable cause has been initially established, a key witness may no longer be available, a defense motion suppressing critical evidence may be granted, or new evidence casting doubt on a defendant’s guilt may come to light.
What is a plea bargain? Will my case be plea bargained?

The term “plea bargain” is often misleading to the public since it seems to imply that the defendant has received a light sentence. It is my office’s goal to negotiate a punishment which you find acceptable. The vast majority of criminal cases are resolved by a plea bargain, which is, like in a civil case, a negotiated settlement. A plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecutor, the defendant, and the defendant’s attorney that the State will recommend a specific punishment if the defendant will enter a plea of guilty.

In exchanged for a guaranteed punishment against the defendant, the defendant gives up all of the Constitutional Rights pertaining to criminal law that all citizens have. When plea bargains are reached, victims and other witnesses are not required to come to court to testify, and the large numbers of unresolved cases can be reduced. In arriving at a proper punishment through a plea bargain, the facts of the case, and prior criminal record, if any, of the defendant will be considered.

As part of the plea bargaining process, your victim impact statement, if completed and returned to my office, will play an important role. The victim impact statement provided by the victim, guardian of the victim, or close relative of a deceased victim will be considered by the attorney representing the state in entering in the plea bargain agreement. The judge, before accepting the plea bargain, is required under Section 26.13 (e) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure to ask: whether a victim impact statement has been returned to the attorney. If a statement has been returned, the judge must ask for a copy of the statement.

What is a victim impact statement?
Texas law gives you the right to complete a victim impact statement. In this statement you can explain to the judge how the crime affected you and your family physically, emotionally, and financially. The statement is your voice when the defendant is sentenced, whether he enters a plea bargain agreement or is convicted at trial. You may write your own statement on a form from the victim assistance coordinator of my office. Do not send the statement directly to the judge; instead, return it to the prosecutor or victim assistance coordinator. Although Texas law applies these rights only to victims of violent crime, my office policy is that we welcome this information from every crime victim.
What is a victim assistance coordinator?

Our office is proud of our victim assistance coordinator. She works full-time to assist crime victims and their families, as well as other civilian witnesses, with the sometimes difficult activities associated with participation in the criminal justice process. The victim assistance coordinator has an assistant and two secretaries. They are your “go to” people when frustration and questions occur. The coordinator is particularly helpful in cases involving your children who have been victimized and in sexual assault cases where victims often feel unusually violated.

The coordinator also assists with arranging counseling, applying for crime victim compensation benefits, and pretrial interviews in preparation for actual trial of a case. The coordinator provides continuing information to victims and witnesses regarding case status and scheduling.

What if a case is not resolved by a plea bargain?
Sometimes, the punishment offered to a defendant in a plea bargain is more than a defendant is willing to accept. In that case, my prosecutors ask the judge to set the case for a full jury or judge trial. Preparations for the full trial are begun by my prosecutor assigned to the case. The prosecutor and witnesses meet to review the details of the case and go over the questions which are likely to be asked at trial.
How are witnesses called for trial?
Witnesses are notified by subpoena and/or letter specifying where and when to appear, and what, if anything, to bring with them to court. Witnesses usually receive their subpoenas more than a week prior or trial.
What should I wear to court?
Dress neatly and conservatively when making an appearance in court. Your manner of dress can have an impact upon the jurors listening to your testimony and deciding disputed facts. You may wish to bring a sweater since many courtrooms are often cold.
What if a defense attorney contacts me about the case?
The attorney representing the defendant is performing a legal duty when he investigates the case. You may discuss the case with the defense attorney. However, you are not required to do so, and you may decline to talk to him or her. If you decide to discuss the case with the defense attorney, it is perfectly acceptable for you to request that a prosecuting attorney be present.
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