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Indictment

bill, jury and grand

INDICTMENT. In its Latinized form this word is Indictamentum, which is probably from " indicare," to indicate or exhibit. An indictment is defined by Blackstone to be "a written accusation of one or more persons, of a crime or a misdemeanor, preferred to and pre sented upon oath by a grand jury." [Amy.] The accusation is at the suit, that is, in the name and on the behalf of the crown. The grand jury are in structed in the articles of their inquiry by a charge from the presiding judge, and then withdraw to sit and receive bills of accusation, which are presented to them in the name of the crown, but at the suit of any private person. An indictment is not properly so called till it has been found to be a true bill by the grand jury : when presented to the grand jury it is properly called a bill. The decision of the grand jury is not a verdict upon the guilt of the accused, but merely the expression of their opinion that from the case made by the prosecutor the matter is fit to be pre sented to the common jury, and therefore in conducting the inquiry the evidence in support of the accusation only is heard.

If the grand jury think the accusation groundless, they indorse upon the bill " not a true bill," or " not found ;" if the contrary, " a true bill ;" and in finding a true bill twelve at least of the grand jury must concur. Antiently the words "ig noramus" and " billa vera" were used fox the like purposes. When a bill is found to be a true bill, the trial of the accused takes place in the usual form ; and when the bill is found not to be true, or, as it is frequently called, " ignored," the ac cused is discharged, but a new bill may be preferred against him before the same or another grand jury. Sometimes, when the bill is ignored on account of some slip or error, the judge will direct the accused to be kept in custody. in order to prevent him from escaping from justice. An in dictment may be exhibited at any time after an offence is committed, except in those cases where a time is limited by sta tute. (4 Blackstone, Com.)