Pub. date: 2002 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412950664 | Print ISBN: 9780761922582 | Online ISBN: 9781412950664| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
George C. Thomas III
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that no person shall be tried for a serious crime “unless upon a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury.” So named because it comprises a larger number of jurors than a trial or “petit” jury, a grand jury is “a jury of inquiry … whose duty it is to receive complaints and accusations in criminal cases, hear evidence adduced on the part of the state, and find bills of indictment in cases where they are satisfied a trial ought to be had” (Black 1983: 444). Because the grand jury can refuse to issue an indictment if it does not find probable cause to believe that a particular crime has been committed, it can be viewed as a “shield” that screens against unjust prosecutions. Because the grand jury can subpoena witnesses and documents, it can also be viewed as a “sword” that ...