Over the last two weeks , there has been more stories on the grand jury process due to two high profile cases. It got me thinking about the grand jury process in Tennessee . Should it be abolished ?
The grand jury was established to be another check to determine if there was sufficient probable cause to charge a citizen of a crime. There are two checks on that currently without the grand jury . First , a magistrate determines probable cause when the arrest warrant is issued. Secondly , the general sessions judge makes a determination of probable cause after a preliminary hearing.
Presenting the case to the grand jury is a unnecessary step. Once the general sessions judge finds probable cause just set the case on the docket in circuit or criminal court. No delays. In Davidson County , a case can languish for months until the case is presented to the grand jury. From my perspective the grand jury is a rubber stamp for the district attorney . It’s secret. The defense cant present it’s case . In some cases the witnesses don’t even testify.
Abolishing the grand jury would avoid direct presentments . A direct presentment is where the district attorney takes a case directly to the grand jury bypassing a arrest warrant and a preliminary hearing. It is routine in some cases for the district attorney to take a case to the grand jury. Sex crimes are the most common example. Here is an example of a grand jury report from Nashville. Maybe it’s time to take a fresh look to determine if the grand jury process is really needed.