Disclosing The Mystery Of The Grand Jury- An In-depth Study


Disclosing the mystery of The Grand Jury which determines whether there is a probable cause to believe that an individual has committed a crime and should be put on trial within the intricate network of the American legal system, the grand jury stands as a unique and somewhat unexplainable institution. Often portrayed in popular culture, its role and significance extend far beyond its unique appearances. This article aims to delve deep into the essence of the grand jury, its historical development, purpose, functioning, and its impact on the justice system. By understanding the grand jury’s nuances, we can better appreciate its relevance and contemplate potential improvements in our pursuit of justice.

A grand Jury is a group of peoples empowered by law, selected to sit on a jury that decide whether the prosecutor’s evidence provides the probable cause to issue a formal charge. Its constitutes with 16 to 23 peoples and there will be a foreperson, assistant foreperson and a secretary. A Grand Jury is separate from the courts.

  1. OriginĀ and Evolution of the Grand Jury

The grand jury traces its roots back to medieval England, where it first emerged as a mechanism for local communities to present accusations against wrongdoers before the crown. Grand Juries are only retained in the united States and Liberia. Over time, this practice transformed into what we recognize as the modern grand jury. The American colonies inherited the concept, incorporating it into their legal systems, ultimately enshrining it in the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The Grand Jury was later recognised by King John in Magna Carta on demand of the nobility. The Grand Jury has been described as the “Shield and the sword” of the people

  1. Understanding the Purpose of the Grand Jury

The primary purpose of the grand jury is to act as a shield against unfounded prosecutions and to ensure that individuals are not subjected to unjust charges without sufficient evidence. By carefully reviewing the evidence presented by the prosecution, the grand jury decides whether there is probable cause to proceed with a trial. This crucial gatekeeping function helps protect the accused from malicious prosecution and unwarranted intrusion into their lives. The functions of the grand Jury is to accuse persons who may be guilty of a crime, the institution is also a shield against unfounded and oppressive prosecution. It is a means for lay citizens, representative of the community, to participate in administration of justice.

  1. The Grand Jury Process: A Closer Look

a. Selection and Composition: Grand juries are typically comprised of 16 to 23 citizens, who are selected from a pool of eligible individuals summoned for jury duty. The selection process aims to ensure impartiality and diversity within the jury.

b. Secrecy and Confidentiality: The grand jury operates under a veil of secrecy to encourage witnesses to come forward without fear of retribution. This confidentiality protects witnesses and potential defendants during the investigation, fostering an environment conducive to uncovering the truth.

c. Subpoena Power: The grand jury holds the authority to subpoena witnesses and evidence, compelling their appearance and cooperation in the investigation. This power is vital for accessing information that might otherwise remain concealed.

d. Presentation of Evidence: The prosecutor presents evidence and testimony to the grand jury, who carefully scrutinizes the material to determine its credibility and sufficiency. Unlike a trial, the grand jury’s proceedings are not adversarial; there is no cross-examination or defence representation.

e. Indictment Decision: After evaluating the evidence, the grand jury reaches a decision. If a majority finds that there is probable cause, an indictment is issued, allowing the case to proceed to trial. On the other hand, if the majority determines that the evidence is insufficient, a “no bill” decision is rendered, and the case is dismissed.

  1. Criticisms and Challenges

Despite its important role, the grand jury is not without criticisms. Some argue that the process is too prosecutor-friendly, as the defence has minimal involvement, leading to potential bias. Additionally, the grand jury’s secrecy can breed suspicion, and there have been instances of abuse of power or political influence affecting its decisions.

  1. Grand Jury vs. Preliminary Hearing

In some jurisdictions, the grand jury system has been replaced by a preliminary hearing, where a judge decides whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial. Comparing the two systems highlights their respective strengths and weaknesses, prompting ongoing debates on which method better serves the pursuit of justice.

  1. The Future of the Grand Jury

In recent years, several states have re examined the grand jury process, seeking ways to improve its effectiveness and address its shortcomings. Proposed reforms include increased transparency, the involvement of defence counsel, and alternative decision-making methods. Assessing these proposals requires careful consideration of the balance between preserving the grand jury’s essential purpose and addressing its limitations.

  1. Grand Jury and High-Profile Cases

Throughout history, the grand jury has been involved in numerous high-profile cases, influencing public opinion and shaping legal outcomes. By examining some landmark cases, such as the investigation into the Watergate scandal or the Ferguson shooting, we gain insight into how the grand jury’s decisions can impact society.

Similarly in 1998, President Clinton became the first sitting president required to testify before a grand jury as the subject of an investigation by the Office of Independent counsel.


The grand jury remains an integral part of the American justice system, despite its controversies and critiques. While it serves a vital role in protecting individuals from unjust prosecutions, there is ongoing debate surrounding its structure and functioning. As we navigate the complexities of the legal landscape, it is essential to maintain a balanced approach that upholds the grand jury’s fundamental principles while actively addressing its challenges. Only through continuous evaluation and adaptation can we ensure that this enigmatic institution fulfils its purpose in the pursuit of justice for all.

Every effort should be made to apply a consistent procedures that will maintain the integrity of evidence obtained by the Grand Jury and at the same time , assist in identifying what are “matters occurring before a Grand Jury”. This will enable a clear and proper determination of what material can and should be released to a FOIA requestor and what documents may be shared with attorneys for the government engaged in civil litigation. Similarly, whenever it is practicable to do so, prosecutors obtaining evidence in criminal investigation, should use the prescribed procedures as described in the Department’s Federal Grand Jury Practice Manual .


Leave a Comment