We often hear the phrase "the case is before the Grand Jury" or, for example, "Barry Bonds was subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury.' What the heck is a grand jury and why, in 2011, do we care? The Grand Jury clause is the first clause of the Fifth Amendment. Let us give some contemplation to this. The authors of the Bill of Rights (which contains the Fifth Amendment) were very concerned about a person being put on trial at the whim of an impartial magistrate (i.e., a judge that has a bias).
The modern precursor to the grand jury was adopted in 12th century by King John. King Henry II of England began to use grand juries before King John to expand the power of royal courts by using twelve men from every hundred to "inform" on the local citizenry. This is actually interesting because it removed the religious or baron aspects of the judicial process. Grand juries were spawned out of the processor to our Constitution--The Magna Carta.
Eventually, the grand jury process evolved into a body that involved a group of individuals (or knights) who served as a buffer between prosecution and the defendant. The English grand jury would investigate crimes and present indictments for that person's prosecution. Thus, English common law created a two step process that must be met in order to deprive someone of his or her life. That is, the grand jury must present an indictment and a petit jury (regular jury) must determine the innocence or guilt of the person that stands accused of a crime.
This process was well rooted by the time Northern America began to be colonized by Europeans. It was slow going for grand juries in the colonies, but by the time the American Revolution came around they were in full effect.
Stay tuned as we discuss the use of grand jury in the modern criminal judicial process. Contact a
Plano criminal defense lawyer today.