Beginning of the Grand Jury System

The present grand jury system evolved from the earlier ecclesiastical courts beginning in 1164 when King Henry II of England impaneled the first 16-man Grand Jury to remove criminal indictments from the hands of the church. In 1635, the first American Grand Jury was impaneled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. By 1638, Grand Juries were present in all the colonies. These early Grand Juries began the practice of returning presentments which were primarily against public officials and different from criminal indictments.

42 states use some form of the Grand Jury system. California is a state that allows prosecution to be initiated either by a Criminal Grand Jury indictment or by judicial preliminary hearing. California impanels County Civil Grand Juries every year to conduct civil investigations of county and city government and to hear evidence to make recommendations or to decide to return indictments.