grand jury

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grand jury

grand jury, in law, body of persons selected to inquire into crimes committed within a certain jurisdiction. It usually comprises a greater number than the trial, or petit (also, petty) jury, having since early common law days had between 12 and 23 members. In the United States, federal grand juries have between 16 and 23 jurors. The grand jury receives complaints and accusations in criminal cases, hears evidence adduced by the state, and approves an indictment when satisfied that there is enough evidence against the accused to warrant a trial. It was not until the 17th cent. that the grand jury acquired its modern functions as a check on the discretion of prosecutors and a way of preventing unjustified and politically motivated prosecutions. Grand juries have investigative functions as well, and are sometimes impaneled to issue reports on, e.g., suspected official wrongdoing.

The rules governing grand jury proceedings are very different from those governing trials by (petit) jury. The public is not admitted to hearings, and witnesses can be compelled to testify. The procedure is inquisitorial rather than adversarial: the defense is not allowed to call witnesses, and the prosecutor is not obliged to present both sides of the case. Hearsay and other evidence that might be excluded at a jury trial may be introduced.

The use of grand juries declined in the 20th cent., in part because they were perceived as prone to either prosecutorial domination or abuse of their investigatory role. Britain abandoned them in the 1930s, and today fewer than half of U.S. states employ them. The information, a written statement issued by a prosecutor, has largely replaced the indictment. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, however, guarantees a grand jury inquiry to anyone accused in federal court of a capital “or otherwise infamous” (i.e., a felony) crime.

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grand jury

Law (esp in the US and, now rarely, in Canada) a jury of between 12 and 23 persons summoned to inquire into accusations of crime and ascertain whether the evidence is adequate to found an indictment. Abolished in Britain in 1948
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
30, a federal grand jury in Hot Springs indicted Standridge on 23 more counts.
In September 2009, a federal grand jury indicted Gwyn on charges related to the fire.
All that remained was for the prosecutors to call the president before a federal grand jury, and the jaws of the perjury trap would slam shut.
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When the dust settled, a federal grand jury in Little Rock indicted the Sweet Goods Three in 2005 for conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering because it seems they spent the money on themselves and their families rather than on new ovens.
Currently, a Federal grand jury is investigating if Edwards used money from his campaign to buy Hunter's silence.
federal grand jury indicted seven people in a case where terminally ill cancer patients were allegedly injected with a bogus cure made from the patients' own blood, reports AP (March 2, 2007).
In September, chief exec Nigel Potter and colleague Dan Bucci were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of bribing officials in an alleged attempt to get permission to expand US operations.
A US federal grand jury has indicted 110 workers for providing false information in order to obtain high-security positions at Denver International Airport.
As Mr Clinton emphasised his political agenda to them in a closed-door session, his former deputy chief of staff, Mr Harold Ickes, arrived at the courthouse where a federal grand jury is hearing evidence in the sex- and-perjury case.
On trial on two counts of perjuring himself to a federal grand jury last year is Alton Stone, a former groom at Calumet Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.

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