Former Cleveland Browns quarterback, Johnny Manziel, is rumored to have been indicted by a grand jury for assaulting his girlfriend back in January. His girlfriend, Colleen Crowley, alleged that he hit her so hard it burst her eardrum. Grand juries usually hear felony level allegations, but the prosecution decided to take Manziel’s case to the grand jury. While it is not entirely clear, it is possible the prosecution could have presented a case for a felony indictment, but the jury only indicted Manziel for a misdemeanor after hearing the evidence.
In Colorado, a grand jury hears evidence presented by the prosecution. During a grand jury proceeding, there is no judge and no defense. This is the reason it is said a grand jury can indict a ham sandwich. After hearing the evidence, the grand jury decides which charges, if any, the defendant will be charged with committing. Grand jury indictment is not required in Colorado. Prosecutors have the ability and the right to assess a case and bring charges on their own without the grand jury’s assistance.
Grand jury proceedings are conducted in secret and the testimony and evidence presented during the proceedings remains secret unless and until a person is indicted. Once a person is indicted, transcripts of the proceedings are made available. Even if the grand jury indicts a person, there are steps along the way that allow the indicted person to challenge the decision. For example, the defendant can request a judge to review the transcripts to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to support the charges and, of course, the defendant has the right to go to trial.
Once Manziel is indicted, he will likely be arrested and required to post a bond. In Manziel’s case, the prosecution may have decided to present his case to the grand jury due to his celebrity status and his previous run ins with the law.