State ex rel. Pinson v. Maynard

In State ex rel. Pinson v. Maynard, 181 W. Va. 662, 383 S.E.2d 844 (1989), the Court provided a brief history, function, and purpose of the grand jury in West Virginia: The institution of the grand jury is deeply rooted in Anglo-American history. For centuries in England the grand jury served both as an accuser of people suspected of criminal wrongdoing and a protector of citizens from arbitrary governmental action. The grand jury continues this dual role to the present day, balancing the determination of probable cause that an offense has been committed against the duty to protect innocent citizens from unfounded criminal prosecution. Historically, the grand jury has been the sword of the government as well as the shield of the people, and this Court has on many occasions emphasized the importance of preserving this duality. For the indictments of a grand jury to be valid, the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution requires they be returned by a legally constituted and unbiased grand jury. (Id., 181 W.Va. at 665, 383 S.E.2d at 847.)