There's an old saying, mostly parroted back nowadays by defense lawyers, that any DA can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. The idea being that the standards are set so low that it's hardly a significant hurdle in the criminal justice system. 12 of 18 grand jurors have to agree that there is probable cause that a crime occurred. Frankly, I've never really bought into the idea that this was an abysmally low hurdle to pass. While yes, it's true that only the prosecution gets to present witnesses and ask them questions without cross examination or the general rules of procedure and format that are required in a criminal case, there still has to be something factual to base it on. I believed that right up until I got a look at the statistics.
In the past two months, Durham County grand juries have indicted 99 percent of the cases presented to them. County records show the juries indicted 326 peopole and refused to indict three people in that period.
It really makes me wish I could see those three cases where the GJ failed to indict. How badly put together must those cases have been that it could buck the trend so strongly?
In this case, an indictment was inevitable since there was a complaining witnesses. That someone is present to assert that a crime occurred and then names the individuals they feel is responsible is basically all that's required to show probable cause. It's not a huge step in the whole checks and balances of our legal system....but then again it's not really supposed to be. The criminal trial is where we'll see all of this hashed out.