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Debate on the Abolishment of Grand Jury

The judicial system in USA has been entrusted with the role of handling criminal cases. The trial of criminal cases is always governed by judicial procedures and rules. The grand jury is one of the crucial stages during the trial of a criminal offence and it is always preceded by a preliminary hearing. The grand jury was adopted from England during the colonial period when the British occupied America. It was enforced after the fifth amendment of the American constitution. The mandate of the grand jury is therefore constitutional and it should be honored.

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Grand juries are today found in most of the federal and state courts. Grand jury is usually guided by a set of rules that it applies when dispensing justice during criminal proceedings. Various states are always allowed to set up their preliminary hearings. The grand jury mainly serves the purpose of reviewing the evidence that the prosecutor presents. If there is enough evidence, the jury can then issue an indictment. In addition to these, the jury also helps the government in conducting proper investigations in order to help the prosecutor collect enough evidence.

The effectiveness of the jury in performing the above mentioned functions has faced serious debates and some people feel that it should be abolished. I support the abolishment of the grand jury because of the following reasons. In the last phase of the nineteenth century, many states abolished some aspects of the grand jury while others completely disbanded grand jury’s jurisdictions. This is because the process was dominated by prosecutors. This domination has caused a passivity which affects the concept of the grand jury legitimacy.

Most of the grand jurors are also not competent law practitioners and they always rely on the prosecutors to help them in interpreting the law. Apart from this, there are more complicated criminal laws in the federal courts. For example, corrupt organization statute and the RACKETEER. “Even lawyers find many of these laws difficult to fathom, yet grand jurors are expected to understand them and apply them to intricate fact situations” (Worrall, 2009). This is why the grand jury’s decisions are always influenced by the prosecutor’s advice.

Many states have accepted the fact that a competent prosecutor does not necessarily have to seek the assistance of the grand jury when dealing with criminal cases. Even though a good number of states still have the grand jury as one of their judicial procedures, they only apply them when dealing with serious felonies. For example, a first degree murder can be tried by a grand jury.

The Fifth Amendment demands that all federal crimes should have a grand jury’s indictment. However, in some cases the accused individual can decide to waive this requirement by accepting the prosecutor’s charges. Therefore, in such a situation it would be meaningless for the grand jury to spend a lot of time and resources trying to find more evidence against the suspect.

The grand jury has generally registered poor performance in the past. “It has actually shifted its role of being a proactive community voice to a passive instrument of the prosecution” (Worrall, 2009). The only remedy is therefore to completely abolish it. The abolishment would probably make prosecutors more accountable for the court rulings.

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On the other hand, the supporters of the grand jury system contend that it is important and the judiciary only needs to carry out some reforms in order to make it more effective. In my view this is not a very easy task for the judiciary to achieve, hence the grand jury should simply be abolished.


Worrall, J. (2009). Criminal Procedure: From First Contact to Appeal. New York: Allyn & Bacon.

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