Many people are waiting for a grand jury to release its findings from an investigation of six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania, including Erie.

The report is expected to contain detailed information about suspected sexual abuse of children by priests and laypersons.Erie News Now wanted to know more about the role of a grand jury.

According to Erie Defense Attorney Phil Friedman, the grand jury is a branch of the prosecution. It only hears one side of the case.  Friedman said targets of criminal investigations can refuse to talk to a district attorney, or the police, but they cannot refuse to appear before the grand jury.  Once the grand jury investigation is over, the grand jury does not issue any charges, but it does issue a presentment of findings. The attorney general can use the presentment to later file charges.

"Their role is really whatever the prosecution wants them to do.  They're really a branch of the prosecution the way they operate," says Friedman.

Friedman said serving on a grand jury is difficult.  The 23 members sit for up to 18 months. They could convene as little as once a week, and as much as four days a week, according to Friedman.