An Explanation of a Grand Jury

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This was written for The Broad Street Bully, a blog and podcast my friend Drew and I started based off of our mutual interest in the Philadelphia Flyers. See it on]

If you’ve never taken a criminal justice class, or don’t watch reruns of Law & Order on television, then you may not understand how grand jury proceedings work. For me, it’s a little of the first option, but a lot of the second option. I can sit there and watch McCoy work his magic on a defendant to get the jury to vote his way all day. Some people argue that Law & Order: SVU is better but I find the whole process highly unrealistic on SVU. They’re always interrogating people without their attorneys present. And the people are always just giving themselves up. Like, it doesn’t work like that.  Come on!

But, anyway, back to my main point.

There’s been a lot of talk of the grand jury proceedings in the Patrick Kane case. But what is a grand jury and how do they work? A grand jury is crucial to the criminal process, even though the grand jury never ascribes guilt or innocence.   Instead, a grand jury works with a prosecutor so the prosecutor can determine if they have enough evidence to proceed with charging someone with a crime.

Grand jury proceedings are very informal. There is no judge present and, for the most part, the prosecutor is the only attorney present. The prosecutor explains the laws to the jury and then works with them to gather evidence and listen to testimony from subpoenaed individuals. Grand juries have broad the ability to see and hear anything they want to. This breaks from the normal court rules, where exhibits and additional testimony has to adhere to strict rules before it can be admitted as evidence.

For that reason, grand jury proceedings are kept strictly confidential. This is done to encourage any witnesses the prosecution plans on using to speak freely and truthfully. By not stifling the witness, the prosecutor gets the most honest information that can help the grand jury make an adequate ruling on if a case should go to trial. The strict confidence also protects the defendant in the event that these proceedings result in a case not going to trial. In Patrick Kane’s case, if the grand jury votes not to indict, then all information presented to the grand jury in the case against him is kept private. This prevents people from besmirching Patrick Kane if it’s determined that there’s not enough evidence to put together a convincing court case.

Grand juries have the ability to indict with only a supermajority. A supermajority is defined as 2/3 or 3/4 of the jury being in agreement (the exact ratio depends on the jurisdiction). Even if a grand jury votes not to indict a defendant, a prosecutor can still move forward with pressing charges. However, the results of the grand jury are usually an accurate tool to predicting the results of a trial. If a grand jury votes to indict, then the trial will begin almost immediately. If they vote to not indict, the prosecutor has to prove to the judge that they have more than enough evidence to proceed.

Patrick Kane had his grand jury proceedings placed on hold last week. This led everyone to assume that Patrick Kane’s attorney and the Plaintiff’s attorney were working on some kind of settlement and extra time was requested. But, in a new article published on, Kane’s attorney, Paul Cambria, told the Chicago Tribune that the grand jury trial was not delayed because of his request. Cambria also said the proceedings would resume soon.

As September 18th draws closer, the Blackhawks will be opening their camp with a question mark over Patrick Kane’s head. Unless a decision is passed by the grand jury before the start of the camp, the Blackhawks face the tough decision on the status of Patrick Kane and his role on the Blackhawks this season.


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