Recent Travis County grand juries indict 96 percent of cases

Kevin Schwaller - AUSTIN (KXAN) -- After the indictments of two top Texas officials, former Governor Rick Perry and Attorney General Ken Paxton, a snapshot of local grand jury results shows the juries often move forward with charges after hearing evidence.

In Texas, felony cases must go in front of a grand jury to formally charge a suspect. A KXAN News analysis of three recently convened grand juries shows indictment rates can top 90 percent.

Travis County Assistant District Attorney Gary Cobb says the job of a grand jury is to decide whether there is sufficient probable cause to charge a person with a crime.

"Unlike an actual trial, generally it's just one side that's presenting the evidence to the grand jury," said Cobb.

He says the grand jury generally hears the prosecution's side. However, he says the grand jury can request that others come in. Before a case heads to grand jury, prosecutors can also decide whether there is enough evidence to bring the case in front of the body.

Travis County records show, most cases that make it to the grand jury stage result in indictments. Three grand juries convened in Travis County from April through June. Records show they heard more than 2,500 cases. More than 96 percent of them resulted in indictments. Still, the grand juries returned no bills in nearly 100 cases.

"The standard for getting indicted is relatively low when you compare that to the standard for someone being convicted of the offense," said Cobb. "Probable cause is a fairly low standard."

A grand jury has 12 members. Nine of them must find probable cause to return an indictment.

"They don't decide if someone is guilty or not guilty," said Cobb. "They simply decide if there's enough evidence presented to proceed forward with the case," said Cobb.

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