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Disparity Between the Number of Grand Jury Sessions Convened and the Number of Defendants Indicted

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 87 Issue: 4 Dated: January-February 2004 Pages: 178-186
Patrick Walker
Date Published
January 2004
9 pages
This article discusses grand jury sessions and the number of defendants indicted as a result.
Twenty-five years of Federal grand jury data show that the number of grand jury sessions convened during a given year are not a good indicator of how many individuals will have the charges against them considered by the grand jurors during those sessions. The types of crimes for which Federal prosecutors seek indictments and the provisions of the Speedy Trial Act of 1974 are the primary determinants of how many individuals will be considered for indictment. The number of special grand juries convened and policy initiatives by the Department of Justice, such as those regarding use of the grand jury process, affect the number of indictments per session, but these factors have been only temporary occurrences. The composition of the Federal criminal caseload and the Speedy Trial Act have had the greatest impact on the grand jury system and will continue to do so in the future. The Speedy Trial Act is even more important than the composition of the caseload because it affects all 94 district courts, regardless of any changes in the types of prosecutions brought before the grand jury. The tendency of Federal grand jury activity to contract or remain unchanged during periods of growth in Federal felony prosecutions is important to planning for future Federal judiciary resource needs. The district courts can manage increasing numbers of felony defendants without requiring greater numbers of grand jurors. This awareness can prevent the overestimation of future juror costs.