How Special! The Trump Controller & the Grand Jury

June 17, 2021 00:21:43
How Special! The Trump Controller & the Grand Jury
USLawEssentials Law & Language
How Special! The Trump Controller & the Grand Jury
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Show Notes

Episode 7

In this latest episode of the USLawEssentials Law & Language Podcast we continue our What’s New in Legal News series. Today Daniel introduces an article: Manhattan DA brought Trump Organization controller to testify before special grand jury: Sources

We talk about the differences between grand juries and regular juries and some of the important vocabulary words in the article.

Here is a short video on grand juries:

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Welcome to the U S law essentials law and language podcast, the legal English podcast for non-native English speakers that helps you improve your English, listening, improve your legal English vocabulary and build your knowledge of American. The honorable the Supreme court and I'm Steven Horowitz. And today's episode is part of our what's new in legal news series, where one of us picks a legal news event to talk Speaker 1 00:00:35 About today. It's Daniel's turn. So Dan what'd you pick for us today? Speaker 0 00:00:40 Well, today I've got a story from ABC news and you can see the link in our show notes and it's that the Manhattan da brought Trump organization controller to testify before a special grand jury. Speaker 1 00:00:58 Oh, I think so. There's a couple of words in there that I'm not sure of Manhattan. Da just the letters, da Speaker 0 00:01:07 Yeah. Da is short for district attorney. So the Manhattan district attorney is the prosecutor for New York city. Speaker 1 00:01:17 Uh, okay. And then it brought the Trump organization controller. Is that like a video that like a video game controller Speaker 0 00:01:27 Exactly. Now a controller and I'm not exactly sure what a controller does, but a controller is part of the accounting process of an organization. It's a very senior position. So the controller sort of supervises finances and payments and accounting functions. So Speaker 1 00:01:56 It's sort of like the top accountant in an organization. Speaker 0 00:02:00 Yeah. And I'm not sure if that's a precise way of describing it, but that's where the way I think about it, it's not the same. It's not as high up, I think as, for example, a CFO, but that is the person who supervises a lot of the accounting functions and also the payroll functions of the workers. Okay. So Speaker 1 00:02:22 Manhattan da brought Trump organization controller to testify is testified mean to take a test. Speaker 0 00:02:31 Nope. Testify would be where you raise your hand and you promise to tell the truth. And so you have to provide information after you've sworn to tell the truth to what's called a grand jury in this case, it's called a special grand jury. Okay. Speaker 1 00:02:51 So, so there's a grand jury and a special grand jury. So I guess we should probably first figure out what a grand jury or what a w a jury. I think I know what a jury is, right? Speaker 0 00:03:02 Yeah. Yeah. We, we both know what juries are. Neither one of us is an expert in criminal law. So we might not be experts in grand juries, but we know what a jury does. Right? Speaker 1 00:03:13 12 and 12 angry men, somewhat like the movies Speaker 0 00:03:16 Who decide at the end of a trial, whether the defendant is guilty or not in a, in a criminal case, a grand jury. And here, this comes from the French grand means big a grand jury has anywhere between 16 to 23 people in it. Speaker 1 00:03:40 And they do the exact same thing as a jury. It's just more people. Speaker 0 00:03:45 No, it's completely different. Um, well, not completely different, but completely different. The role of a grand jury is to determine whether or not there is enough evidence to charge someone with a crime. So being Speaker 1 00:04:07 So they decide they, so they might hear testimony from this patroller, from the Trump organization. And, uh, and then they decide whether somebody is innocent or guilty. Speaker 0 00:04:20 No, they don't determine innocence or guilt. They determine whether there's enough evidence to proceed with a criminal case against the target of the investigation. Speaker 1 00:04:38 So, so they don't. And then are they the same people who decide if the defendant is guilty or not? Speaker 0 00:04:46 No, they're not. So the grand jury is before, well, before the trial even starts. And if they decide that there's enough evidence to charge the person with a crime, they will, they will indict the person I N D I C T. And that just means that there's enough evidence to charge the defendant or accused the defendant of the crime Speaker 1 00:05:13 In indict. It sounds like what you spelled sounds like indexed, Speaker 0 00:05:18 Right. And that is frequently how I hear it pronounced in class from students. If, if English is not their first language, but it's indict, the, the C is silent. Actually. Can you think of any other words like that? Where there's a sound C Speaker 1 00:05:38 Uh, I can't right now, I've never, I'm trying to think of other words with a silent C and I, it's not, I can't think of any. Speaker 0 00:05:46 Yeah. I mean, there's a word like of lock or something, whether it's C K, but that does tells us that there's a strong case sound, but here it's just, um, it's, it's silent. So if there's an indictment, then at that point, the defendant can be charged with, with a crime. Now this is called a special grand jury, but that's only because the grand jury is meeting for a longer period of time than the grand jury normally meets. So this is a group of people who have been randomly selected, and they've probably been meeting for quite a bit of time now, and they're being shown evidence and they're approving an investigation that will determine whether or not to charge the Trump organization and maybe individuals with, with a crime. Speaker 1 00:06:44 Now, I remember a friend of mine as you're talking about this who got called for jury duty, but instead of being on a regular jury, they were put on a grand jury. And my friend said that what they did all day was the large group of them, whatever it was 16 to 23, people would sit there. And for the, for the whole day, different lawyers would come in or prosecutors would come in and present evidence. And they would decide whether there was a case or not. And then they leave and then the lawyers, the prosecutor would leave and then another prosecutor would come in or they'd bring in another case. So they just listened to, to short presentations all day, and then they were done. So, but this is a special grand jury. And you said that means it takes longer. Does that mean the people on this grand jury are just focused on this one case? Speaker 0 00:07:39 That's what it sounds like. Obviously I have no way of knowing, uh, because grand jury proceedings are secret. So the only ones who know what's going on in that room would be the people inside the room. But yeah, this, because this is a special grand jury, we can assume that they're not hearing evidence from any other case. They're only hearing evidence in connection with the Trump organization, Speaker 1 00:08:10 Because it's a very high profile and important case, I guess. Speaker 0 00:08:13 Right. And I, there's probably a lot of information that's being collected as part of this investigation. I think in the United States is now the only country in the world that has a grand jury. Speaker 1 00:08:28 Oh, really interesting. Right. Speaker 0 00:08:30 It's in the constitution. So in federal cases, when there's a serious crime, you have a constitutional right to have a grand jury decide whether there was enough evidence to accuse you of the crime. Many states don't have grand juries anymore, but New York is one state that still does have the grand jury system. And anytime there's a serious crime, a felony, there is a constitutional requirement under new York's constitution to convene a grand jury before the person is formally charged with a felon. Speaker 1 00:09:14 Oh. So if I just like, if I get arrested because I dropped some paper or some litter on the street and I get arrested, would I have a grand jury? Speaker 0 00:09:26 I think so, because that would be a misdemeanor. And so it wouldn't be a serious crime. So there would be no need to have a grand jury convened to determine whether there's enough evidence to accuse him of a felony, because probably dropping that piece of paper. Wasn't a felony. Speaker 1 00:09:45 Okay. So in this case, the Trump organization, didn't just drop some paper on the ground. There's something bigger going on. They brought in the accountant, the Manhattan da, the prosecutor brought in the, the top accountant from the Trump organization to testify. Speaker 0 00:10:02 He's a controller. So I don't want to say top accountant, but that was I, that, that is that that's one way of, uh, referring to them. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:10:10 So the map, the Manhattan da brought the Trump organization's controller this person in charge of the finances to testify. So there's something going on. So what else, what else is going on in this story? Speaker 0 00:10:23 Well, now there's just a lot of speculation about what's going to happen next because clearly the most exciting piece of news that could possibly come out of this would be that president former president Trump, himself somehow gets accused of a crime by the, by the state of New York. So that would certainly be a high profile piece of news. Speaker 1 00:10:52 Yeah. That would be very big news if that happened. Um, and it says that the especial grand jury empaneled by the Manhattan district attorney's office, what, what does it mean in panels? Speaker 0 00:11:05 I like that word in paneled because panel comes up every now and then in legal English. So in panel can be the same as formed or convened. So for example, when a jury in a trial is impaneled, that means the members of the jury have been chosen and the trial can start likewise for this grand jury. Once the members of this grand jury were selected and, and instructed to report for their grand jury duty at that point, the grand jury investigation begins. Also panel comes up sometimes when we refer to a situation where there's more than one judge. So at the appellate level, in the states, there can be a panel of three judges. So panel is a useful legal English word. Speaker 1 00:12:00 Oh yeah. And if we go to a conference, we talk about a panel or panelists or a panel of four discussion, a panel of experts, for example. Speaker 0 00:12:11 Right. And something else in this article that I liked was the use of the word warranted. If you look in the second paragraph, it says the grand jury will decide whether criminal charges are warranted against the former president and warrant comes up every now and then legal English too. Speaker 1 00:12:32 Yeah. Would you say this is whether it's criminal charges are warranted? Is that a legal English word? Is that a term of art? Speaker 0 00:12:39 I don't know. I, cause we use warrants all the time. There's a lot of different uses. Right. Right. So if something is warranted, we just say, well, it's appropriate. Right? So a punishment is warranted, but it's formal. Like you wouldn't tell your child. Okay. Um, loss of television privileges is warranted under these circumstances. That would just be a little bit too, too formal. Speaker 1 00:13:06 That would feel a little weird. Yeah. But Speaker 0 00:13:09 Also a warrant can be when there's permission from a judge to conduct a search. So you go to a judge and the judge gives the police a search warrant. Then the police have now are now authorized to conduct to conduct a search. Speaker 1 00:13:25 Uh huh. So, uh, or you could have a warranty on, uh, on something you buy, right. Uh, so if you buy a new iPhone, they might ask you if you also want to pay extra for a warranty. So it has something to do with a promise or permission or, or, or justification. That's Speaker 0 00:13:48 True. And also if you enter into a contract, there might be similar warrants where a party is going to guarantee in the contract that certain conditions or certain promises will apply for a certain period of time, such as, okay. You know, the product we're selling you such as the iPhone is going to, is going to function appropriately. Otherwise we will we'll refund your money or we'll fix it. Speaker 1 00:14:19 So, so in this sentence, um, we'll decide whether criminal charges are warranted against the former president. It seems like it's not a legal English term of art yet. It is a word that might be used a lot in, in legal language because it's kind of a more formal word and legal language tends to be more formal. Speaker 0 00:14:43 Yeah. That's exactly right. Speaker 1 00:14:45 Sort of like a sub technical vocabulary term, I guess. Speaker 0 00:14:50 That's exactly right. And I think something that's useful as you're studying legal English is to pick out just like you did. Okay. Here's a word that can be technical in technical legal English here. It's not technical, but it is formal. So how could I use this word in a different way in more casual conversation? Speaker 1 00:15:15 Yeah. And it's, it's, uh, it's not a term of art. Um, but it is a word that if you're a lawyer or a law student, you might need to know well and use a Speaker 0 00:15:26 Lot. I think that's exactly right. So we'll, we'll be hearing more about this story over the next few months, because I think, I think they're running against a deadline and we'll see whether or not there are any indictments that come out of this special grand jury. Speaker 1 00:15:44 So is there anything else about the story that, that, uh, caught your attention? I think Speaker 0 00:15:48 One other word that might be interesting in this article is the word target that you can be the target of a grand jury investigation. Speaker 1 00:16:01 Oh, are you looking at the sentence that says is there's a quote that says in any case like that, the two most important people, whether as targets or witnesses are the company's CFO and the company's controller, Alonzo told ABC news. Speaker 0 00:16:17 Exactly. So sorry, what the person's doing here is distinguishing between people who might eventually be charged by the grand jury and people who could provide evidence to the grand jury he's. And in this case, he's emphasizing that one of the two most important people in this case, the company's controller, because this is at this point, it's a financial case. One of the two most important people is being brought before this grand jury to test and Speaker 1 00:16:45 Targets. Again, seems similar to warrants, uh, in that it's, it's not a legal term of art, but it feels like something that gets used in a legal context, especially when talking about grand juries, that it's sort of feels like a legal sub technical word, I guess. So, so Dan, as we, as we finish up this episode, um, I'm sort of stepping back and thinking, so why do we have a grand jury? You, you said that we're the only country left with, with grand juries. What's the benefit of it or what's the, what's the motivation for it? Speaker 0 00:17:25 I think the purpose of a grand jury is to place a check on the executive branch before a person is charged with a crime. So the idea behind the grand a grand jury is that you have ordinary citizens randomly selected, who are able to evaluate the evidence that's being brought against someone. And the grand jury has a role in determining whether or not there's sufficient evidence to accuse someone of a crime. So it's intended to be a check on the executive branch. Speaker 1 00:18:13 So it's like a speed bump that before you can acute, before the government can accuse somebody and start a trial against somebody, uh, that involves a serious crime. First, you have to show your cards. You have to show that there's something and there's some common people who are going to hear that and say, okay, there's something Speaker 0 00:18:35 I think that's exactly right. So that's why it was put in the bill of rights and the U S constitution that people have this protection and a number of states have also put it in their own constitution so that people have this. What, what is intended as a protection before the government can formally charge someone with a crime and put them on trial. Speaker 1 00:19:03 Okay. Well, thanks, Dan. I feel like I've learned a lot more about criminal law today. Um, I don't think I'm ready to go out and become a criminal, a practicing criminal lawyer, but, uh, I do feel a little better informed. Speaker 0 00:19:18 Yeah. Frankly, I don't, I don't feel comfortable doing that, doing that either, but thanks very much, Steve toxin, uh, you know, Steve, we just said, bye. I think we need like a catch phrase or some sort of sign-off Speaker 1 00:19:37 I would say every time at the end of the episode, Speaker 0 00:19:41 Right. Something kind of catchy that people will like, Speaker 1 00:19:45 Like, um, keep working on your legal English. Speaker 0 00:19:49 Yeah. That that's, that's good, but doesn't that sound kind of like, no, it's like, what's naggy, you know, like, you know, make your bed, eat your vegetables. Speaker 1 00:19:59 Yeah. Yeah. I gotta agree with you on that. Okay. What about Speaker 0 00:20:03 I got something, I got something. How about, you know, we'll do a play on us law essentials and like, um, you're essential. Speaker 1 00:20:12 You're essential or, or be essential. Speaker 0 00:20:18 Yeah. Um, but things like, if you see, if we say be essential, then we're saying, okay, you're not essential. Speaker 1 00:20:25 Oh, you're right. You're right. What about, you know, the people are people who listened to our podcast, this podcast, I really kind of like essential lists. People who, who are U S law essentials podcast fan. So they're like essentially, so we can keep being an essential list Speaker 0 00:20:47 Philosophy. That's good. Speaker 1 00:20:50 And then former essential philosophy philosophy would be existentialist philosophy. Speaker 0 00:20:57 Oh, that's good. Um, all right. So I'm able Speaker 1 00:21:00 To be existentialists. We want them to be current essential lists and continue to essential list ongoing. Yeah. Um, what else you got? Speaker 0 00:21:12 All right. Okay. If they are essential and that is a condition that we would like them to maintain and develop perhaps perhaps essential Speaker 1 00:21:27 Stay essential. Oh yeah. Hey, everybody stay essential. Okay. Speaker 0 00:21:34 Yeah. So, um, even listening to the U S law essentials podcast and remember Steve stay essential, essential to.

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