criminal court records
Grand Jury Indictments
In some cases a county district attorney will seek to have a person indicted by a grand jury, instead of just filing a criminal complaint.
A grand jury is a group of private citizens selected by the courts, similar to the jury selection process in trials.
But in this case the grand jury meets in secret to hear evidence and witnesses presented by a district attorney and decide whether someone should be charged with a crime.
This is often referred to as a prosecutor drawing up a "bill" that contains the charges the prosecutor seeks to have filed against a person. The district attorney will present evidence and testimony to support the allegations to the grand jury.
If the grand jury decides to indict the accused, that is often referred to as the grand jury returning a "true bill."
Sample Grand Jury Indictment:
- Howard County, Maryland, indictment of Linda Tripp (for recording her phone conversations with Monica Lewinsky; the charges later were dismissed) - Smoking Gun website
Grand Jury Transcripts
In California, a transcript of the grand jury proceedings, including the testimony of witnesses called by the grand jury, should be filed with the court clerk and given to the defendant within 10 days of an indictment. Ten days after the transcript is delivered to the defendant it becomes open to the public (unless a judge grants an order sealing the transcript, usually because it could undermine the defendant's right to a fair trial).
These rules for public release of grand jury transcripts only apply to cases involving state law in California, not federal grand jury indictments.
Otherwise, the criminal court process and the court records created as a result of a grand jury indictment are similar to what happens in cases in which a criminal complaint was filed by the district attorney.
Sample Grand Jury Transcript:
- Michael Jackson molestation case (Jackson was acquitted) - excerpts of some transcripts - Smoking Gun website
Civil Grand Juries
Another type of county grand jury is called a civil grand jury. This is a panel of citizens appointed by county superior court judges to perform a watchdog role, such as investigating whether a local government agency is doing an effective job of delivering services to the public.
Civil grand juries are completely separate from criminal grand juries and do not have the power to indict people or charge anyone with a crime. Civil grand juries instead issue public reports on their findings.