Grand Jury Definition

Explore the grand jury definition, purpose, process, and significance in the criminal justice system. Learn how grand juries determine probable cause and protect citizens’ rights.


Grand juries play a crucial role in the criminal justice system, but many people are unfamiliar with what they actually do. In this article, we will delve into the grand jury definition, their purpose, process, and significance.

What is a Grand Jury?

A grand jury is a group of citizens who are summoned to determine whether there is enough evidence for a criminal case to proceed to trial. Unlike a trial jury, which decides guilt or innocence, a grand jury decides whether there is probable cause to indict a defendant.

How Does a Grand Jury Work?

During grand jury proceedings, prosecutors present evidence, witness testimony, and legal instructions to the jurors. The jurors then deliberate in secret to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to charge the defendant with a crime.

Significance of Grand Juries

Grand juries serve as a check on prosecutorial power and protect citizens from baseless or politically motivated prosecutions. They also help ensure that cases with weak evidence do not proceed to trial, saving time and resources.

Examples and Case Studies

  • In the case of Eric Garner, a grand jury declined to indict the police officer involved in Garner’s death, sparking national outrage and calls for justice reform.
  • In the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, special counsel Robert Mueller convened a grand jury to gather evidence and secure indictments against individuals involved.

Statistics on Grand Juries

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 160,000 cases were presented to grand juries in 2019, resulting in indictments in 82% of cases.


Grand juries play a critical role in the criminal justice system, ensuring that only cases with sufficient evidence proceed to trial. Understanding their purpose and process is essential for promoting transparency and accountability in legal proceedings.

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