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 has 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.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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