In this blog series we discuss the roots of the grand jury system and its importance in criminal law in Colorado. In this post we talk about what a grand jury does and next time we will look at what protections an accused has with respect to grand jury investigations under Colorado law.
The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides in part that, “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury.” This constitutional provision applies only to the federal government, though many states use the grand jury system in some form or another. In Colorado, many high-profile crimes are brought before grand juries even though there is no such requirement. The grand jury, while foundational to our criminal justice system, is a mystery to most people.
A grand jury typically begins with the prosecutor introducing herself to the grand jury and explaining the process and the purpose. They then describe the charges that they will present and will discuss the ongoing investigatory nature of the grand jury. Sometimes, the prosecutor begins with a few charges against a person or entity and asks the grand jury to approve and consider additional charges as the case progresses.
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