At 1:00 on Monday afternoon in Jefferson District Court, Judge Sheila Collins accepted the agreement entered into between the defense attorneys for Chris Jones and the County Attorney Mike O’Connell. The agreement ended any speculation that we would learn more about the facts of the infamous case against the former starting point guard from the University of Louisville. The defense in this case agreed to waive their right to a preliminary hearing, and instead opted to allow the Grand Jury the opportunity to hear the facts of the case to determine whether or not an indictment is appropriate. The case is scheduled to go before the Grand Jury the week of April 20th.
Chris Jones, and his co-defendants remain free on the conditions of bond that were set two weeks ago when they came before the court to answer at arraignment. Shortly after the defense attorneys left the courtroom, Jones’ lawyers spoke with the media. they were again confident that their client would be exonerated in this case. They stated that the charges were filed in this matter before all of the witnesses were interviewed, and that everyone in the apartment that night will testify that Chris Jones is not guilty.
What this means for Jones and his co-defendants is this; nothing… at least not for now. The next step in this process is that the Grand Jury will convene the week of April 20th. At that time, the Commonwealth Attorney will present evidence in the case which is designed to show that probable cause exists to believe a crime has been committed, and that the defendants are the ones who committed it. (Probable cause is defined as a reasonable ground to believe that a crime has been committed and that a particular defendant committed it.
The grand jury consists of 12 grand jurors and 6 alternates. Their sole job is to determine whether or not probable cause exists for the case to go forward to Circuit Court. The Commonwealth is not required to present their “entire” case, but rather will likely have the lead investigator come before the grand jury and testify as to what the facts of the case are. The defendant in the case is not required to testify, but can request to if his attorney’s deem it appropriate. Any testimony that is offered by the defendant before the grand jury is admissible against him in later proceedings. (This is why almost no one ever testifies in their own case before the grand jury.) Also important to note, the Grand Jury proceedings are confidential, including the identity of the grand jurors.
Once at least 9 of the 12 grand jurors agree that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and that the defendant is the one responsible for the crime, an indictment is issued and the defendant is required to come before the Circuit Court. Here, he will be formally charged with the crimes from the indictment and he will be arraigned again. Most likely, the bond, and the conditions of release will remain the same, but the Circuit Court Judge will have it in their discretion to raise or lower it and alter or amend any of the terms of the pre-trial release.
Alternatively, if a Grand Jury is not able to reach a consensus, a no-true bill is returned and the case is usually dismissed. The Commonwealth has the right to bring the case back to the Grand Jury at a later time if new evidence is found, but this would be rare.
If an indictment is issued, a pre-trial conference will be scheduled. This usually occurs 4-6 weeks after the arraignment on the indictment to give the judge an idea of where the parties are in relation to the case. Discovery is usually discussed at this point and a trial date is penciled in, along with additional pre-trial conferences along the way to check status. In the event that it is necessary, either side can move the court to address issues as they arise. In Jefferson County, the current trial calendar is likely 12 months out. Meaning, we will not likely have a trial date in this matter until this time next year. It is possible that a late 2015 trial date could occur, but that would be rather expeditious given the court’s already full docket.
In short, this process is just beginning. As much as people would love for this story to hurry along, it likely will not. I have often heard it described as a 100 mile journey and we are at about mile marker 1 as of now. Stay tuned, it will definitely get interesting.
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