Adam M Smith on the Origin of the Grand Jury and Some Notable Cases Throughout History

The grand jury is something that is only truly used still in the United States and in Liberia. However, its concept is actually much, much older, which is why Adam M Smith is so interested in it. In 1166, the Assize of Clarendon Act was passed by King Henry II. He wanted to make sure the royal courts had almost supreme jurisdiction, ensuring they would rule the feudal courts. Every year, the “King’s Peace” would be enforced to ensure people understand the laws. King Henry particularly enjoy the Domesday Book by William the Conqueror, in which the concept of inquest was explained. Every time a circuit court would take place, the sheriff would receive a report on all crimes that had taken place in their area since the last one. By 1215, nobility demanded that King John recognized the grand jury in the Magna Carta, something he agreed to do.

Adam M Smith Delves into the History of Grand Juries

In 2015, the concept of grand jury was therefore 800 years old. It is listed in Article 61, which is the longest of all of the Magna Carta’s 63 articles. It is believed that the idea of the grand jury as described in the Magna Carta came from Deuteronomy 25:1, as King John was a bible scholar. Essentially, the goal was to make sure that the people were protected from an abusive government or from malicious individuals.

Adam M Smith on Some of the World’s Most Notable Grand Jury Cases

As a keen history buff, Smith is always interested in notable cases. His personal favorites include:

  • Ashley Cooper who was arrested for High Treason and placed in the Tower of London in July 1681. He pleaded habeas corpus, but because he was in the Tower, the Old Bailey did not have jurisdiction. He had to wait until November 24 before being heard in front the Court of King’s Bench. Eventually, by February 1682, the grand jury did not comply with the “True Bill” intent, issuing an ignoramus bill instead.
  • The Watergate Crisis is another particularly famous case, which featured the United States versus Richard Nixon. President Nixon was not impeached, but he did have to stand in front of the grand jury to testify as he was classed as an un-indicted, secret, co-conspirator in the case.
  • President Clinton also had to testify in front of a grand jury. This was in 1998 and in relation to a range of scandals, including the Rose Law Firm and Whitewater. The revelations made here made Congress consider impeachment.

There have been numerous interesting cases that have been heard by grand juries. Not all of them are positive. The grand jury is supposed to be there to protect the public, but as their response to the shooting of Michael Brown case by Officer Darren Wilson showed, their decisions are quite rightly criticized often as well.

Today, the grand jury is once again busy. They have had to issue subpoenas for alleged misconduct by Hillary Clinton, as well as allegations of Russian collusion during the presidential election.