Handbook for Virginia Grand Jurors
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART I - NATURE OF THE GRAND JURY
2. Function of a Regular Grand
3. Function of a Special Grand
4. Importance of the Grand
6. The Preliminary Criminal
PART II - THE REGULAR
8. Selection, Summons,
9. Exemptions and
10. First Appearance in
12. Charge by the
13. Procedure in the Jury
c. Witness Refusal to
d. Accused as a
14. Determination to Indict or
15. Finding of
16. Special Findings, If
17. Return of
18. The Commonwealth's
20. Protection of Grand
PART III - THE SPECIAL
23. Function of a Special Grand
25. Scope of
27. The Commonwealth's
29. Special Investigative
32. Warnings Given to a
33. Counsel for the
34. Oath of
35. Examination of
36. Witness Refusal to
40. Transcript, Notes,
41. Filing of
This handbook is intended for citizens who have been selected
as members of the Grand Jury and are about to report to the court
to perform their duties. It does not purport to be a complete
statement of the law affecting the Grand Jury and its work. The
court itself is the sole authority in its charge to the Grand
Jury and in any later instructions, as to these governing
principles of law. This handbook merely attempts to give a Grand
Juror an understanding of the general nature of his functions,
with some practical suggestions as to how best he can carry them
In order that each Grand Juror may perform his or her duties
as intelligently and efficiently as possible, it is suggested
that the contents of this handbook be studied carefully before
the term of service begins. Also, this handbook should be kept
available for ready reference during the period of service.
1. NATURE OF THE GRAND JURY
There are two types of Grand Juries - Regular and Special. A
Regular Grand Jury is convened at each term of the Circuit Court
of each city and county, to attend to the usual matters needing
Grand Jury action. On infrequent occasions a court will convene a
Special Grand Jury to investigate some particular matter.
2. Function of a Regular Grand Jury
A regular Grand Jury is composed of from five to seven
citizens of a city or county, summoned by the Circuit Court of
that city or county, to consider bills of indictment and to hear
witnesses and determine whether there is probable cause to
believe that a person accused of having committed a serious crime
did commit the crime and should stand trial at a later date.
The Grand Jury does not hear both sides of the case and does
not determine the guilt or innocence of the accused person. This
is determined by a "petit (trial) jury" if and when the
accused is tried later. The Grand Jury only determines whether
there is probable cause that the accused committed the crime and
should stand trial.
3. Function of a Special Grand Jury
A Special Grand Jury is composed of from seven to eleven
citizens of a city or county, summoned by a Circuit Court to
investigate and report upon any condition which tends to promote
criminal activity in the community or by any governmental
authority, agencies, or the officials thereof.
If a majority of the regular grand jurors so request, and if
the judge finds probable cause to believe that a crime has been
committed which should be investigated by a special grand jury, a
special grand jury must be empanelled to be composed of
the grand jurors so requesting and willing and such additional
members as are necessary. If a minority so requests, a Special
Grand Jury may be empanelled.
The function and duties of a Special Grand Jury are set forth
in detail in Part III of this Handbook.
4. Importance of the Grand Jury
As Harlan Fiske Stone, late Chief Justice of the United
States Supreme Court, said:
In time of peace a citizen can perform no higher public
duty than that of Grand Jury service. No body of citizens
exercises public functions more vital to the
administration of law and order.
The Grand Jury is both
a sword and a shield of justice-a sword, because it is a
terror of criminals; a shield, because it is a protection
of the innocent against unjust prosecution. No one can be
prosecuted for a felony except on an indictment by a
Grand Jury. With its extensive powers, a Grand Jury must
be motivated by the highest sense of justice, for
otherwise it might find indictments not supported by the
evidence and thus become a source of oppression to our
citizens, or on the other hand, it might dismiss charges
against those who should be prosecuted.
The Grand Jury had its origin more than seven centuries ago,
in England, from which, in large part, this country inherited its
legal system. Many legal historians trace its origin to events in
the reign of Henry II and to one of the articles of the
Constitution of Clarendon in 1164. It was recognized in Magna
Carta granted by King John at the demand of the people in 1215.
One of its earliest functions was to protect citizens from
despotic abuse of power by the king; its other function was to
report those suspected of having committed criminal offenses.
These two functions are carried forward today in the work of
the Grand Jury, and its importance in controlling the start of
prosecutions for serious crimes is recognized in both the
Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of
6. Preliminary Criminal Process
(a) Initial Proceedings. A person suspected of having
committed a crime is usually arrested and charged in a written
accusation called a Warrant or Summons.
Crimes of a serious nature are classified as
"felonies", which are punishable by confinement in the
penitentiary. Crimes of a less serious nature are classified as
"misdemeanors", and are punishable by confinement in
jail for a period not to exceed twelve months and/or by a fine
not to exceed $1,000.
A person held on a Warrant is brought to trial
in a District Court. The trial is conducted before a judge
without a jury. (1) If the judge determines that the accused is
not guilty of any criminal offense, he or she dismisses the case.
(2) If the judge determines that the accused is guilty of a
misdemeanor only, the judge will assess the punishment. (3) If,
the judge determines that a felony may be involved, the judge
will certify (send) the case to the Circuit Court for
presentation to a Regular Grand Jury to determine whether there
is probable cause to believe that a felony has been committed by
the accused person. This procedure is used because a District
Court has no authority to try a person for a felony.
The District judge will fix the terms on which the accused may
be released on bail while waiting for action on the case in the
(b) Bills of Indictment. After a case has been
certified to the Circuit Court, the Commonwealth's Attorney will
prepare a written document called a "bill of
indictment", in which the accused is charged in a legal and
formal manner, with having committed a specified felony.
As will be described in greater detail later in this handbook,
it is this "bill of indictment" that the Regular Grand
Jury considers to determine if probable cause exists to require
that the person accused stand trial at a later date in the
(c) Misdemeanors. A Grand Jury usually
does not deal with minor crimes (misdemeanors) nor with traffic
offenses. Prosecution of these offenses usually is begun by the
police or the Commonwealth's Attorney on a Warrant or a Summons.
Indeed, were this not so, a Grand Jury would be so overloaded
with the volume of such complaints that it could not perform its
more important duties.
II. THE REGULAR GRAND JURY
A Grand Juror must have been a resident of Virginia for at
least one year and a citizen of the city or county in which he or
she is to serve for at least six months, and must be
"eighteen years of age or older, of honesty, intelligence
and good demeanor and suitable in all respects to serve" as
a Grand Juror.
8. Selection; Summons; Size
Each year the judge of the Circuit Court of each city and
county selects at least sixty and not more than one hundred and
twenty citizens from the city or county to serve as Grand Jurors
during that year.
Not more than twenty days before the beginning of the term of
court, the Clerk of the Circuit Court selects from the Grand Jury
list, not less than five nor more than seven persons to serve as
Grand Jurors for that term of court.
The Clerk directs the sheriff to summon the persons
selected to appear at the court on the first day of the
term to serve as Grand Jurors for that term.
9. Exemptions and Excuses
Any person who has legal custody of a child sixteen years of
age or younger or of a person having a mental or physical
impairment requiring continuous care during normal court hours,
must be excused from jury service upon request.
If you are exempt from jury service for either of the
foregoing reasons or, if you have some other good reason to be
excused from Grand Jury service, you should contact the judge of
the Circuit Court to which you have been summoned immediately and
in person (or if the judge is not available, contact the Clerk of
that Court). DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE DAY TO WHICH YOU HAVE BEEN
SUMMONED, because if you are excused, this may cause serious
inconvenience to the court and a delay in the administration of
justice while another Grand Juror is procured.
Your service as a Grand Juror ordinarily will require only
part of one day. In view of the high privilege of service as a
Grand Juror and of the importance of the public service rendered,
you should not ask to be excused unless it is absolutely
10. First Appearance in Court
You will report for service at the courtroom of the Circuit
Court to which you have been summoned on the date and at the hour
stated in the summons.
The Clerk of the Circuit Court will call your name and you
will take your place in the jury box (the name applied to the
area at which jury chairs are located).
The judge will appoint one of you to be Foreman (your
presiding officer). The Foreman will then be sworn in under an
oath that states your important powers and responsibilities. The
remaining members of the Grand Jury are then sworn to observe the
conditions of the same oath.
The oath taken by each Grand Juror is as follows:
- You shall diligently inquire, and true
presentment make, of all such matters as may be
given you in charge, or come to your knowledge,
touching the present service. You shall present
no person through prejudice or ill will, nor
leave any unpresented through fear or favor, but
in all your presentments you shall present the
truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the
truth. So help you God.
To "diligently inquire" means to make an honest and
earnest consideration of all the circumstances involved in the
matter, and a common sense decision based upon the facts.
Your oath requires you to be impartial (fair to both
sides)-the foundation of justice and equality.
The requirement for "truthfulness" is a pledge of
honesty in the performance of your duties.
If you follow the conditions of your Oath of Office, you will
have met your full requirement as a member of the Grand Jury, and
you will have performed your responsibilities in accordance with
12. Charge by the Court
After you have been sworn, the judge will address you
formally, and in greater detail, as to how you are to perform
your duties and responsibilities. This address is called
"The Charge to the Grand Jury." This Charge, plus any
other instructions given to you by the judge, together with your
Oath, are your controlling guides. After receiving the Charge to
the Grand Jury, you will be escorted to the Grand Jury Room,
where you will receive the bills of indictment you are to
consider, and you will hear witnesses in the cases brought to
13. Procedure in the Jury Room
(a) Quorum. A Regular Grand Jury consists of not less
than five members. At least four must concur (agree) in returning
"A True Bill" on an indictment.
Should an emergency arise necessitating the absence of a Grand
Juror, the Grand Jury should cease deliberations while this fact
is reported to the judge.
Business of the Grand Jury should be conducted only when all
members are present in the jury room. If it is necessary for a
member to be temporarily abesent, a recess should be declared by
the Foreman until the member rejoins the group.
(b) Hearing Witnesses. The bills of indictment you are
to consider will be delivered to you. It is your duty to
determine if probable cause exists to require the person accused
of a crime in a bill of indictment to stand trial. You will
determine this from the testimony of witnesses.
The names of available witnesses in a given case will appear
on the bill of indictment. These witnesses will have been sworn
by the judge to tell the truth while they are in the jury room.
You will notify the judge when you are ready to call a witness.
If any person who is not listed on the bill of indictment, or
is listed but not called to testify by the Grand Jury, wants to
testify he or she must obtain permission from the judge. Even
then, the Grand Jury may refuse to hear this testimony unless the
judge orders that it be heard.
Witnesses should be examined one at a time. There is no set
manner in which a witness is examined. One appropriate way is for
the Foreman to ask the witness to tell what he or she knows about
the charge against the accused, after which questions may be
asked of the witness by any member of the Grand Jury if
additional testimony is desired.
All questioning should not show any viewpoint on the part of
It is not necessary to call or hear every witness listed on
the bill of indictment, to approve it ("A True Bill").
It is only necessary to hear as many (one or more) as it takes to
satisfy four members of the Grand Jury that probable cause exists
to require the party accused to stand trial.
On the other hand, a bill of indictment should not be
disapproved("Not a True Bill"), unless every witness
listed on the bill of indictment, who is available has been
(c) Witness Refusal to Testify. If a witness refuses to
answer a question, the Grand Jury should not press the question
or attempt on its own to compel an answer. The reason for the
refusal by the witness may involve the technical issue of whether
the question asked violates this witness's constitutional
privilege against self-incrimination. If the jury desires to
press the matter further, the question should be written out on a
sheet of paper, a recess declared, and the matter reported to the
judge orally in open court, whereupon the judge will determine if
the witness is compelled to answer.
(d) Accused as a Witness. The accused person named in
the bill of indictment will not be listed as a witness, nor will
any witnesses favorable to him probably be listed. This is
because the Grand Jury does not determine the guilt or innocence
of the accused, but only determines whether the testimony of the
witnesses produced by the State establishes probable cause to
require the accused to stand trial.
If an accused desires to testify, he or she must obtain
permission from the judge, who will tell the accused of the
privilege against self-incrimination. And even if the judge
permits him or her to testify, the Grand Jury may refuse to hear
the testimony unless it is ordered to do so by the judge.
14. Determination to Indict or Not
As has been repeatedly stated, the Grand Jury does not sit to
determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. The function of
the Grand Jury is to determine whether there is probable cause to
require him to stand trial.
Only members of the Grand Jury are in the jury room while it
is deliberating and voting.
When the Grand Jury has heard all necessary or available
witnesses in a given case, the Foreman will ask the members to
discuss and vote on the question of whether or not "A True
Bill" should be found on the charge. Every Grand Juror may
now comment on the sufficiency of the evidence and express an
opinion on the matter.
After each member who desires to speak has been heard, the
Foreman will call for a formal vote to find out if there are the
required number of four affirmative (yes) votes.
15. Finding of Indictment
An indictment may be found "A True Bill", only upon
the affirmative vote of four or more members of the Grand Jury.
If there are enough affirmative votes in favor of finding an
indictment, the Foreman will endorse (write) the phrase "A
True Bill" on the back of the bill of indictment and sign
If there are insufficient affirmative votes, the Foreman will
endorse the phrase "Not a True Bill" and sign it.
16. Special Findings, If Any
After all the bills of indictment have been considered, the
judge will ask if any memberof the GrandJury believes that a
Special Grand Jury should be called to investigate any condition
which tends to promote criminal activity in the community or by
any governmental authority, agency or official.
This power should be used with extreme caution, because it can
be a weapon of oppression. It should not be used upon gossip or
rumor. On the other hand, if there is a rational basis to believe
that any such condition exists the Regular Grand Jury should
report its view to the judge.
17. Return of Indictment
After all of the bills of indictment have been considered and
the Grand Jury has determined if it wants to report on any
special matter, it will inform the judge that it has ended its
deliberations. It will then present its findings in open court.
This will be done by the Clerk of the court reading the names of
the accused persons and, after each name, reading the words
"A True Bill" or "Not a True Bill" as
endorsed on the indictment by the Foreman of the Grand Jury.
18. The Commonwealth's Attorney
To keep the Grand Jury free from any pressure from the State,
Virginia makes it illegal for any attorney representing the State
to appear before the Grand Jury except as a witness.
If, however, members of the Grand Jury have questions about
their duties, they may ask the Commonwealth's Attorney for
Except for these two cases, if a Commonwealth's Attorney
appears in the Grand Jury Room while the Grand Jury is there, any
indictment returned "A True Bill" by the Grand Jury is
invalid (no good). Therefore, while a Grand Jury may request the
appearance of the Commonwealth's Attorney to testify as a witness
or to explain some principle of law about the discharge of their
duties, they cannot seek his advice as to whether they should
return an indictment as "A True Bill. " If a Grand Jury
finds that it is in need of advice as to its duties but doesn't
know if it can invite the Commonwealth's Attorney into the Grand
Jury Room to explain, it should notify the judge that it desires
further instructions, and it will receive such instructions in
The law provides that "every member of a regular or
special grand jury must keep secret all proceedings which
occurred during sessions of the grand jury."
The importance of secrecy of Grand Jury proceedings is
- Secrecy protects Grand Jurors from being subjected to
pressure by persons who may be interested in the outcome
of Grand Jury action.
- Secrecy may prevent the escape of persons against whom an
indictment is under consideration.
- Secrecy encourages witnesses to speak the truth freely
before the Grand Jury.
- Secrecy as to what witnesses testified to before the
Grand Jury prevents the witnesses from being tampered
with between that time and the time they testify at the
trial of the accused.
20. Protection of Grand Jurors
The Grand Jury is an independent body answerable to no one
except the judge. No inquiry may be made to learn what a Grand
Juror said or how he or she voted. The secrecy surrounding Grand
Jury proceedings is one of the major sources of this protection.
The law gives Grand Jurors complete immunity for official acts
within their authority as Grand Jurors, regardless of the result
of an indictment found by the Grand Jury.
21. Practical Suggestions
Witnesses summoned to testify before the Grand Jury are
present frequently at personal, business or official
They sometimes come from a distance. Police officers often are
called on their "off hours. " It is important,
therefore, that the business of the Grand Jury be carried on in
an expeditious manner-not too slow but not too fast. Some cases
may require only one witness and take only a few minutes; others
will require much more attention.
The following suggestions are offered to assist you in
carrying out your duties in a fair and expeditious manner.
Pay close attention to the testimony of the witnesses. The
reputation or freedom of someone depends on what is being told.
Be courteous to the witnesses and do not cut off their
testimony unless it becomes needlessly repetitious.
Listen to the opinions of your fellow jurors, but do not be a
rubber stamp. On the other hand, do not try to monopolize the
hearing or the deliberations. Be independent, but not stubborn.
Express your opinion, but don't be dictatorial. You may try to
persuade other jurors, but do not try to force them to change
their minds. After all, they may be right and you may be wrong.
Each juror is entitled to be satisfied with the evidence
before being called upon to vote. Although your mind may be made
up, if others wish to pursue the matter further, do not try to
shut off additional testimony or deliberation.
Do not keep silent when the case is under discussion, and then
begin to talk about it after the vote is taken.
Do not discuss cases with your fellow Grand Jurors outside the
Maintain dignity in the proceedings at all times. Moderation
and reason, rather than emotion and passion, lead to justice.
The State does not compensate (pay) Grand Jurors in proportion
to the valuable service they render. There are several reasons
for this. One thing to be avoided is the so-called
"professional juror"-a person, usually unemployed, who
welcomes (and sometimes even solicits) jury duty solely for the
compensation and with little or no regard for civic
responsibility. Another thing is the cost to the taxpayer. When
one recalls that Grand Juries meet in every city and county in
the State from four to twelve times a year, it is readily seen
that a large expense could result.
While the State hopes that Grand Jurors will serve as a matter
of public pride and civic duty, it does not want Grand Jury duty
to be a financial cost to the Grand Juror. The law provides for
the compensation of Grand Jurors for each day of attendance, and
mileage allowances for travel to and from
court. The amount of this compensation is changed from time to
time by action of the General Assembly. Each Grand Juror should
report attendance and mileage to the Clerk of Court.
III. THE SPECIAL GRAND JURY
23. Function of a Special Grand Jury
As has been set out in Section 3, a Special Grand Jury is
composed of from seven to eleven citizens of a city or county,
selected by the Circuit Court and summoned to investigate any
condition which tends to promote criminal activity in the
community or by any governmental authority, agency or official.
The Special Grand Jury, composed entirely of private citizens,
is the one non-political body with legal authority to make such
While the function and powers of the Special Grand Jury and
those of the Regular Grand Jury differ, many of the observations
made earlier concerning the Regular Grand Juty are applicable to
the Special Grand Jury. Some of these are its Importance (see
Section 4); Origin (see Section 5); Qualifications (see Section
7); Oath (see Section I 1); Secrecy (see Section 19); Protection
(see Section 20); and Practical Suggestions (see Section 21).
Other similarities will be noted later herein.
25. Scope of Investigation
The responsibility of a Special Grand Jury ordinarily will be
to investigate a narrow special condition believed to exist in
the community. On the one hand, its duty is to make a full and
complete investigation and report on that condition; on the other
hand, it is not convened to go on a fishing expedition with
respect to other possible illegal conditions which may exist. If
during the course of its authorized investigation, some other
illegal condition comes to light which the Special Grand Jurors
feel needs investigation, the Special Grand Jury should call
attention to it in its report.
The investigation is to ascertain whether alleged criminal or
corrupt conditions exist under present law. The investigation is
not to determine if the law is good or bad, or if it needs to be
changed. It is possible, indeed, that as a result of the
investigation, the law may need to be changed, but that is a
legislative matter and a conclusion for the General Assembly of
Virginia to make.
There are no time limitations on an investigation by a Special
Grand Jury. The complexity of the condition being investigated
will dictate the length of time needed.
Any citizen or group of citizens may ask the Circuit Court of
a city or county to convene a Special Grand Jury. Frequently, the
Commonwealth's Attorney will make the request. Also, as noted in
Sections 3 and 18, the request may come from a Regular Grand
If the judge of the Circuit Court decides that a Special Grand
Jury should be convened, he or she will select the names of those
to serve, and they will be summoned to appear at a specified
time. What was said in Section 9 regarding Exemptions and Excuses
from Grand Jury duty is the same for Special Grand Jury service.
On the day appointed, the Judge will swear in the Special
Grand Jury and will then charge it with the subject it is to
investigate. The Judge will appoint onc of those selected to
serve as Foreman.
The Special Grand Jury is now ready to begin its work.
27. The Commonwealth's Attorney
If the Special Grand Jury was convened at the request of the
Attorney for the Commonwealth, he may be present at all times
during the investigatory stage of the proceedings. If the Special
Grand Jury was convened at the request of someone else, the
Attorney for the Commonwealth may be present only if requested by
the Special Grand Jury.
In either event, if the Attorney for the Commonwealth is
present, he or she may question witnesses only if the Special
Grand Jury requests or consents to such questioning.
The Attorney for the Commonwealth shall not be present,
however, at any time while the Special Grand Jury is discussing
or evaluating the testimony of a witness among themselves or
while the Special Grand Jury is deliberating in order to reach a
decision or prcpare its report. However, he or she may be present
during this period if legal advice is requested by the Special
Grand Jury. While giving legal advice, the Grand Jurors should
not permit the Commonwealth's Attorney to join in any
determination by them of the weight to be given to the testimony
of a witness.
The foregoing limitations are in the law to insure the
complete independence of the Special Grand Jury and to protect it
against any undue influence from an official of the Commonwealth.
28. Special Counsel
At the request of the Special Grand Jury the judge may appoint
special counsel to assist it in its work.
29. Special Investigative Personnel
The Special Grand Jury may call upon any state or local agency
or officer to assist it in its investigation. The type of
condition being investigated, will dictate the type of
investigative personnel needed. If required, the Special Grand
Jury may request the judge to provide other specialized personnel
to assist it in the investigation.
30. Court Reporter
A court reporter will record and transcribe all oral testimony
given by witnesses before the Special Grand Jury. The transcript
is for the sole use of the Special Grand Jury and its contents
must not be revealed by anyone.
In a lengthy investigation it would be difficult to
rememberexactly whatearlier witnesses said, so it is appropriate
for the Special Grand Jury to have a transcript (written record)
of all testimony available to which it may refer during iater
stages of its work.
31. Subpoena Power
The Special Grand Jury may have a summons issued ordering a
person to appear before it to testify and to produce specified
records, papers and documents for examination by the Special
Grand Jury. Any desired papers or records must be described with
reasonable accuracy in the summons. The Special Grand Jury is not
engaged in a witch hunt or a fishing expedition hoping that a
document may turn up; it must have a reasonable belief that a
particular record, paper or document does, in fact, exist.
When a summons is desired, the Special Grand Jury may notify
the Clerk of the Circuit Court, giving the Clerk the name (and
address if known) of the person to be summoned, the date and hour
set for his appearance, and if papers are desired, a description
32. Warnings Given to a Witness
Before witnesses testify they must be advised by the Special
Grand Jury Foreman that:
- the witnesses do not have to answer any questions nor
produce any evidence that would tend to incriminate them;
- the witnesses may hire their own counsel and have them
present while they testify; and
- the witnesses may be called upon later to testify in any
case that may result from the investigation and report of
the Special Grand Jury.
33. Counsel for the Witness
Witnesses appearing before a Special Grand Jury have the right
to have counsel of their own present when testifying. Such
counsel shall have the right to consult with and advise the
witness during the examination, but the counsel does not have the
right to conduct an examination of his or her own witness,
unless, the Special Grand Jury requests or permits it.
34. Oath of Witness
After the witness has been given the warnings set forth in
Section 31, the Foreman will administer the following oath to the
witness: (an affirmative answer is required)
Do you solemnly swear (or affirm) that the evidence you are
about to give before the Grand Jury is the truth, the whole
truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God"
35. Examination of Witness
If the Special Grand Jury was convened at the request of the
Commonwealth's Attorney, he or she will have a list of the
witnesses to present. It would be appropriate, therefore, for the
Special Grand Jury to invite the Commonwealth's Attorney to
examine these witnesses. After this examination, members of the
Special Grand Jury should then ask any further questions of the
witness that are appropriate.
If the Special Grand Jury was convened at the request of
someone other than the Commonwealth's Attorney, the Special Grand
Jury may still ask the Commonwealth's Attorney to be present and
conduct the examination, or the Special Grand Jury may request
the judge to designate special counsel to assist it and to
conduct the examination, or the Special Grand Jury may conduct
the examination itself without aid of counsel.
If examination of a witness leads the Special Grand Jury to
believe that the testimony of other witnesses may be desirable, a
request for a summons for such other witnesses should be made to
the Clerk of the Circuit Court as specified in Section 31 of this
Questioning of the witness should not indicate any viewpoint
on the part of the questioner.
36. Witness Refusal to Testify
If a witness refuses to answer a question, reference is
hereby made to Section 13 (c) of this Handbook for procedure
to be followcd by the Special Grand Jury.
After all witnesses have been heard, the Special Grand Jury is
now ready to deliberate and make its findings on the matter
submitted to it by the court. Only the members of the Special
Grand Jury are to be present during this stage of the proceeding,
unless at intervals the Special Grand Jury desires the temporary
presence of the Commonwealth's Attorney or Special Counsel to
advise it on some legal matter.
Again it should be emphasized that the Special Grand Jury has
been convened to investigate and report its findings on some
specific isolated condition believed to exist in the community.
Its findings and recommendations, if any, should relate
specifically to the subject committed to it. It is not involved
in a general moral crusade.
The Special Grand Jury does not return indictments charging
individuals with a crime. The Special Grand Jury may indeed find
that a person has committed a criminal offense, and if so, it is
appropriate for the Special Grand Jury to so report, with or
without a recommendation that he or she be prosecuted. In any
event, it is the duty of the Commonwealth's Attorney, after the
Report of the Special Grand Jury, to determine whether a
prosecution should begin, and if so, to present a bill of
indictment to a Regular Grand Jury.
Findings should be findings of facts which the Special Grand
Jury reasonably believes to exist. It is entirely possible that
several or many of such facts are to be considered by the Special
Grand Jury and that a vote needs to be taken on each such fact. A
majority vote in the affirmative on each such fact is necessary
to include it in the Report the Special Grand Jury will make to
While no particular procedure need be followed, one way to
proceed would be for individual members to submit to the Foreman
such findings as he or she may think appropriate, and then the
Foreman (or some member designated by him) could prepare a list
of the proposed findings, following which a vote should be taken
on each such proposed finding.
At the end of its deliberation the Special Grand Jury must
prepare a written Report of its findings, including any
recommendations it may believe appropriate. This Report, will be
the finding of the majority of the Special Grand Jury.
The Court Reporter may be used to prepare the Report.
Members who do not agree with the findings of the majority may
file a minority report on any finding with which they disagree.
When the Special Grand Jury is ready to file its Report, it
should be dated and signed by the Foreman.
40. Transcript, Notes, etc.
After the Special Grand Jury has completed its use of the
transcripts prepared for it by the Court Reporter, the Foreman
must direct the Court Reporter to tum over to him or her all of
the notes, tapes or records from which the transcripts were made.
The Foreman shall then place the transcripts, notes, tapes and
records, in a container and seal it. The date on which the Report
is filed should then be placed on the sealed container.
41. Filing of Report
When the Special Grand Jury is ready to make its Report, it
should notify the judge, and in open court hand in its Report and
the sealed container.
It is highly important that the members of the Special Grand
Jury should not reveal any of their proceedings nor any contents
of their Report. Publication of the Report itself is a matter for
See section 22.
Membership on a Grand Jury, Regular or Special, is a high
honor. Your service is of great value to your fellow citizens and
your time is devoted to one of the most worthy of causes:
It is hoped that this Handbook will make your work easier,
more understandable, and more pleasant.
Individuals with disabilities needing special accommodations
should call 804-786-6455 for assistance.
Copies of this publication may be
Office of the Executive Secretary
Supreme Court of Virginia
100 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219