Grand jury is a type of jury that determines whether there is enough evidence for a trial, in common law. Usually the grand juries carry out this duty ether by examining evidence presented by a prosecutor and issuing indictments or by investigating alleged crimes and issuing presentments. A grand jury is usually larger than the petit jury used during a trial. The size of grand jury depends on the jurisdiction and varies between twenty-three and twelve.
If a grand jury is working at the case the jurors are summoned to serve for a certain period of time, the period sometimes lasts many months, but usually the jurors need to attempt the sessions only a few days a month. As for indictment the jurors not have to agree unanimously to issue an indictment, but usually the law of the state requires a vote of two-thirds or three-quarters of the jurors to indict. In most cases the prosecutors work very close with the grand jury. They use the grand jury’s broad investigative power to compel witnesses to appear and answer questions or submit documents, records, and other evidence. The evidence is after that is examined by the jury and prosecutors and they decide if there is enough evidence to issue an indictment against one or more persons. All the procedures of the grand jury are secret and in most states it is considered a crime to reveal information about these proceedings. No media, public and the investigated person are allowed to be present at the hearings. The goal of grand jury is to encourage the witnesses to speak freely without fear of possible consequences (like threats). In most states if people are called to testify before grand jury, they are not allowed to have their lawyers with them in the grand jury room. The grand jury makes its findings without hearing both sides of the case, so thats why the lawyers dont play any role in these proceedings. The judge is also not present at these hearings, so the only side present during the work of grand jury is the prosecutor.
Today grand juries exist only in some of the states in the U.S. This type of jury was used for a very long time in countries with the common law system. Still England abandoned grand juries in 1933 and replaced it with a committal procedure. All the Australian states use the same scheme, except for the State of Victoria that maintains provisions for a grand jury in the Crimes Act 1958. Grand juries in this state are used to bring other persons to court seeking them to be committed for trial on indictable offenses. New Zealand abolished the grand jury in 1961. In Canada these juries were abolished in 1970s. In most countries including Canada the grand juries are replaced by preliminary hearings. Preliminary hearing is a stage when the judge hears evidence concerning the alleged offenses and decides if the prosecutor can proceed or the arrested person must be set free.