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The Baltimore Sun
January 7, 2016

How grand juries lost their teeth
By Jack Reilly

In 1946, federal grand juries finally lost the last of their teeth when the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure were adopted. Rules 6 and 7 expressly denied grand juries any further powers of unrestrained investigation and of independent declarations of findings. Any conclusions a grand jury might wish to present could henceforth be issued only with the blessings of a judge or prosecutor. It has been said that any prosecutor in front of a grand jury can easily obtain an indictment against a doughnut. There is usually only one witness, a government witness, who will present hearsay evidence of what other witnesses might say. An indictment can be concluded in less than four minutes. According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, of 785 federal grand juries convened in 1991, grand juries voted against a criminal indictment in only 16 of 25,943 matters presented to them a rate of 99.9 percent agreement with prosecutors. It seems quite possible that these 16 instances, in which grand juries failed to indict, may simply have been cases in which prosecutors did not wish to see an indictment go forward.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
Copyright 2016
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