Adam M Smith Explains the Concept of the Grand Jury | mumble in the jungle

Adam M Smith Explains the Concept of the Grand Jury

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The grand jury is a legal concept that is continuously in the news, with some being great proponents of it and others believing it is completely dated. According to Adam M Smith, one of the reasons why this debate is so current is because there have been numerous high profile cases in which a grand jury decided not to indict, to the shock of the general public. However, he believes that this shock is mainly due to the fact that so many people still don’t really understand what the grand jury is.

Adam M Smith on What a Grand Jury Is

Grand juries are incredibly important to the judicial system of this country. Men and women from any district in the country can be called up for jury duty. Different states have different amounts of members on their grand jury, ranging from 15 to 25. They are often chosen in June and can sit for as long as a year. That does not mean, however, that they are called to indictments on a near daily basis, rather that they can be called up at any time in the period during which they sit.

How Is a Grand Jury Used?

A grand jury’s role is to determine whether enough evidence is available against an individual to ascertain “probable cause”. That means the grand jury does not concern itself with determining guilt, as that is the role of the jury, who needs to unanimously agree that someone is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Indeed, this is the biggest difference between the two juries. Because the burden of proof is so much smaller on the grand jury, the cases are often perfunctory.

Why Do People Distrust the Grand Jury?

The biggest reason why people don’t trust the grand jury’s process is because of its secrecy. However, there are good reasons as to why they are secret:

  1. If they decide not to indict, the defendant’s reputation must be protected. Innocent until proven guilty often doesn’t wash in the eyes of the general public, unfortunately.
  2. It encourages witnesses who are afraid of retaliation to come forward.

The reality is that, when people know that they can say things in confidence, they are more likely to speak the truth. Additionally, it means that people don’t fall victim to public perception, which often is that, if they faced a trial, they must be guilty. Of course, the court does have the option of making the proceedings public and disclose what went on. It is at the court’s discretion to do this and, sometimes, they do because they want to explain to the public why they came to a certain decision. Additionally, details are sometimes released to highlight to the public that the process is fair and that all procedures, policies, and regulations were followed. This doesn’t always work, and the public outcry is significant when the consensus is to not agree with whatever decision the grand jury came to.