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'Fair process is essential' | Law professor breaks down grand jury process

After a grand jury decided not to indict a detective the SBI said shot Fred Cox Jr., a law expert is breaking down the job of a grand jury.

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — The Guilford County District Attorney's office said after reviewing the shooting death of Fred Cox Jr., the decision was made to send the case to a grand jury.  

Police said 18-year-old Fred Cox was shot by an off-duty, plain-clothed detective from Davidson County in November. 

On Wednesday, a grand jury decided not to bring forth charges. 

Elon law professor Steve Friedland said the job of a grand jury is to look at the case and decide whether there's enough evidence to charge the person in question.

"If the grand jury refuses to indict that’s really saying to the prosecutor we don’t think there’s enough evidence to go forward," said Friedland. 

Friedland said grand jury rules can vary from state to state, just as laws do. In North Carolina, a grand jury typically consists of 18 people. Friedland said just 12 of the 18 people on the jury are needed to support the charges of a crime. 

All of it is done under oath, in secrecy.

"To protect the jurors, the witnesses, and if the grand jury chooses to indict, the potential defendant," said Friedland. 

Friedland said it's important to note a grand jury is different than a jury you'd see seated on a trial. 

The setting and what happens on a grand jury are also very different. Friedland said the potential defense team and defendant are not in the room during the grand jury proceeding, unlike a court trial.

"Only sometimes is the prosecutor in the grand jury room and the prosecutor is not there when it comes to deliberations," he said. 

Friedland said the grand jury's decision is not always the end of the road for cases.

"If they refuse to indict, the prosecutor can look into this and see if there is additional evidence. Now, of course, there are limits. North Carolina law has limits on the process. You can look to make sure it's a fair process. and I'll say one more thing about that: fair process is essential to the criminal system," he said. 

Friedland said the grand jury is drawn at random from the voter and driver's license lists and they're asked if they can be fair and impartial before they're seated.

RELATED: Grand Jury: No charges for Davidson County detective who SBI says shot 18-year-old Fred Cox at a funeral

RELATED: ‘I’m ready to fight,’ Mother of 18-year-old killed by detective says she will file civil lawsuit following Grand Jury’s decision