SC Needs Grand Jury Reform Now

Once upon a time, grand juries served a noble purpose. They allowed regular people – rather than highly educated prosecutors and other elites – to decide whether someone should be charged with a crime and tried in court.

Unfortunately, South Carolina’s grand jury process has become an expensive, taxpayer-funded waste of time. Grand juries don’t really “decide” anything anymore; rather, they just rubber stamp whatever charges the prosecutor wants to file…

What Does A Grand Jury Do In SC?

SC grand juries are made up of 18 people who hear a very brief summary of alleged crimes – in many cases, literally taking one or two minutes for an officer or investigator to read – and decide whether the defendant should be tried. If 12 of them vote to “true bill” the indictment, the case goes to court.

So why do SC grand juries in some jurisdictions hand down an indictment 99.99 percent of the time?

It’s not that the everyday citizens who serve on grand juries necessarily want to rubber stamp prosecutors’ decisions.

They just don’t have much of a choice since they hear only one side of the story. Grand juries sit and listen to an official read a list of accusations against a defendant who is not present. They hear nothing from the defense, eyewitnesses, or anyone else who has first-hand knowledge of the case.

So, What Purpose Do Grand Juries Serve?

Well, prosecutors can use them to revive charges even after judges say there isn’t enough evidence to go to trial.

Before their case is taken before the grand jury, many defendants appear at a preliminary hearing to determine if there is probable cause. At the hearing, the defense gets to cross-examine an officer who is directly involved in the case, and the judge hears both sides of the story. Sometimes, the judge will find that there is no probable cause, dismiss the case, and that should be the end of it.

But it’s not always. The prosecutor can then take the case to the grand jury – who, remember, will hear only the prosecution’s side of the story – and secure an indictment.

One result of this antiquated system is that many innocent people get caught up in unnecessary trials that hurt their reputations and drain their bank accounts. Some even go to prison…

Can We Join the Rest of the World, Please?

Americans love to believe that we are the most advanced, most just, most free, and most intelligent people in the world, on the cutting edge of technology, business, and criminal justice.

Are we?

Dozens of countries have abandoned the grand jury system – only the United States and Liberia still use it. Even in the US, almost half the states have stopped using grand juries. Even England, where the grand jury originated, no longer uses it.

It’s time SC either joins them or completely overhauls the system to make it fair and just.

It makes little sense for taxpayers to fund a secret process that serves no purpose other than to be a rubber stamp for prosecutors. It makes even less sense for SC residents to pay for a system that takes power out of the hands of judges and instead gives it to prosecutors and police.

H/T Coastal Law Blog

Criminal Defense Lawyer in Columbia, SC

Criminal defense attorney Lacey Thompson limits her practice to criminal defense cases – by practicing solely criminal defense, she better serves her clients with experience and knowledge that you just can’t get by handling car wrecks or divorce cases.

If you’ve been charged with a crime, don’t wait. Call now at 843-444-6122 or contact her through’s contact page to discuss your case.

One Response to “SC Needs Grand Jury Reform Now

  • So what would need to be done to eliminate our grand jury system here in SC?

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