Grand Jury: Impaneled, Investigation, and Indictment
You probably read in the news that a special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, impaneled a grand jury as part of an investigation into interference by a foreign power (Russia) in the US elections and whether members of Trump’s administration and family violated the law. You probably also read that the grand jury might indict people suspected of crimes.
When a grand jury is impaneled, it just means that the grand jury is formed. The special prosecutor, Mr. Mueller, formed the grand jury to assist in his investigation. Grand jury proceedings are not public.
The grand jury helps a prosecutor acquire evidence. By issuing subpoenas, the grand jury can help the prosecutor obtain documents. In addition, the grand jury can compel witnesses to testify.
Grand juries determine whether there is enough evidence to charge someone with a crime. If there is enough evidence to charge someone with a crime, a majority or 2/3 of the grand jury members will “indict” the accused person. In practice, this means that the grand jury foreperson will sign a document listing the charges against the accused person which can be presented to a court.
Grand juries are called grand juries because they are larger than petit juries. Petit juries have up to 12 people.
- Petit juries determine whether a defendant is guilty in a criminal trial. Grand juries determine whether there is enough evidence to charge someone with a crime.
- Before charging a defendant with a serious federal crime, the Constitution guarantees a person the right to a grand jury. Not all states use the grand jury system.