Grand jury process explained as sources say feds plan to ask for indictment against 4 former officers

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Federal prosecutors plan to ask a grand jury to indict the four former Minneapolis police officers involved in the fatal arrest of George Floyd on charges of civil rights violations, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minneapolis declined to comment on the matter to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

The officers’ attorneys who did reply to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS declined to comment.

A federal grand jury size can be up to 23 randomly selected people, who are called from across Minnesota for six months of service and can then be recalled for longer.

A grand jury does not convict someone of a crime but instead is asked to determine if a person should face criminal charges.

"One thing to understand is that it’s a limited process," former federal prosecutor Mark Osler said. "The prosecutor is there, the grand jury is there, court reporter there, there’s no defense attorney and no judge, so the prosecutor really runs the show."

If a grand jury decides that the evidence presented establishes probable cause, it issues an indictment against the accused, according to the Department of Justice website, which can then lead to an arrest and a court date.

"The prosecutor will actually draft the indictment, bring it into the grand jury and ask them to sign off on it," Osler said.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS asked Osler what federal civil rights violations could possibly encompass.

"A public official under the color of law, in this case wearing the badge, who goes beyond the bounds of what’s acceptable behavior and violates the civil rights,” Osler said. “Our civil rights include not to be assaulted by a government official.”