Commonwealth Attorney G.L. Ovey said that the Trigg County Grand Jury will hear the cases of seven Cadiz men and one juvenile suspect during the panel’s August 11 session.
Devon Morris, 19; Nicholas King, 19; Christopher Futrell, 19; Michael “Chase” Oakley, 20; Marcus Mayes, 20; an unidentified juvenile suspect, 17; Horace Street, 18; and Dhayna Cavanaugh 20. Face charges related to the alleged Memorial Day Weekend rape of a 16-year-old Cadiz girl. Police charged Morris, King, Futrell, Oakley, Mayes and the juvenile with one count each of Rape in the First Degree and Sodomy in the First Degree. Cavanaugh and Street were each charged with one count of First Degree Rape.
Ovey declined to discuss specific details of the case, citing the ongoing investigation. He did describe the grand jury process that the eight suspects will face.
“What the grand jury does is determine if there is probable cause to continue with a jury trial in the context of a crime committed based on allegations of a citizen or law enforcement,” he said.
According to Ovey, for a case to proceed to trial, nine of 12 grand jurors must vote that probable cause exists to try the case, without determining the guilt or innocence of a suspect or suspects. He said this differs from a trial jury that must vote unanimously to convict a defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. “The grand jury is called an investigative body because they only determine if there is probable cause to proceed, not the guilt or innocence of a suspect.”
“These proceedings are not open to the public. The only people allowed in the deliberations are grand jury members, the Commonwealth’s Attorney and designated assistants and a stenographer,” said Ovey. “The steno doesn’t do stenography so much anymore, but is tasked with recording the proceedings to provide a copy to a defendant if he or she is charged.”
Ovey said that traditionally, defendants and legal counsel are not permitted to attend grand jury proceedings. He said that as guilt or innocence are not determined; defendants do not have a right to face their accuser, but are given that constitutional guarantee at a jury trial. “There is one context in which a defendant would be allowed to appear before the grand jury. A defendant or his or her representative would need to write a request to appear before the jury. If I receive this request, it is my obligation to notify the grand jury who decides whether or not to honor the request.”
According to Ovey, the jury meets without a judge present. Unable to determine the fate of a suspect, he said that rules of evidence do not apply with a grand jury. The Commonwealth Attorney added that grand jury members might ask questions of witnesses, consider the prior criminal history of a suspect and consider hearsay evidence- none that is not admissible in a jury trial. “It will examine the investigative tools and technology used to gather evidence. The jury is encouraged to ask questions and no member should feel uncomfortable about asking them.”
More on the grand jury's function and history is available in this article, printed in full, in The Cadiz Record.