When a person commits a crime and is arrested by the police, they are normally brought to the District Court for arraignment upon a criminal complaint. If a decision is made to prosecute the case in Superior Court, it must first be presented to the Grand Jury for indictment, even if the defendant has already been arrested by the police and appeared before the District Court. The Grand Jury consists of 23 citizens who, during their three-month term of service, hear a variety of cases and determine whether there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. “Probable cause” means reasonable grounds to believe that a particular person committed a crime, and is a much lower standard of proof than is required to convict a defendant at trial. If a majority of the Grand Jury determines that there is “probable cause” to believe the crime has been committed, the case is indicted and transferred from the District Court to the Superior Court where the case begins again with an arraignment.
When presenting a case to the Grand Jury, an Assistant District Attorney does not have to tell the Grand Jury about all the evidence in they have case, but they must present enough information for the Grand Jury to determine there is “probable cause.” The law also requires that an Assistant District Attorney must disclose any evidence that could mitigate the charge, or exculpatory evidence that might seriously affect the Grand Jury’s decision to indict. This ethical requirement ensures that the integrity of the Grand Jury process is preserved, and that indictments are based on trustworthy and reliable evidence.