Grand jurors orientation documents

The oath that you have just taken explains the natures of the duties (imposed upon you) which you have to undertake in your present capacity. You are thus invited to make diligent inquiry of all such things as may be [undecipherable] to you in charge and it becomes my duty in the performance of my office to inform you of the various subjects of this inquiry. I shall not undertake to go into an enumeration and definition of every particular offence of which you have cognizance. I should unnecessarily tax your patience by so doing and uselessly direct your attention to particular parts of the law that are never violated or infringed. I shall therefore merely mention those offences that are of the most frequent occurrence or that are most liable to be committed.

Your jurisdiction includes any infraction of the criminal law the punishment of which does not extend to the life, limb, or member of the offended, such as assaults, batteries, affrays, unlawful assemblies, false imprisonment, nuisances, extortions and Negligence in public officers, malicious mischief, and all acts of notoriously evil example. Petit-larceny is also indictable in this court and is the only one of the higher order of offences of which you have jurisdiction. Our statutes make it indictable to Retail without a license. It says that: no one shall be permitted to retail without him proving a good moral character before the court and paying a tax and receiving a license from the sheriff nor for a longer period than twelve months. It is the duty of the sheriff to furnish you with a list of all licensed retailors within the last twelve months. Peddling without a license, Fornication and adultery, Gambling, Public Roads, unlawful Fences, Trading with slaves, hiring their time [undecipherable] negroes, Free negro immigrants, Public prison. I have mentioned the principal offences, the offences of which you have cognizance and which are most frequently or most liable to be committed. Your jurisdiction however includes every infraction of the criminal law the punishment of which does not extend to the life, limb, or member and which has been committed within the [undecipherable] of this county within two years from the time it comes to you Knowledge. None of these offences you will discover are of such a character that whoever committed them becomes publicly notorious and it is merely the case

that the crime escapes the vigilance of the Grand Jury. There are many of these, however and those unfortunately of the most evil and injurious tendencies that are not so openly committed where the offender seeks privacy or thanks to the secrecy of those present and thus evades the punishment imposed by the law. It is a natural (question) to ask how are you to fulfill that part of your oath which binds you to make diligent inquiry into all those matters and things that are delivered to you in charge. It is sometimes believed and I fear is too frequently acted upon that all the Grand Jury have to do is to sit together and act upon those cases that are set before them at the instance of some informer and present such offences as some of their members may have accidentally seen. They often expect that the prosecuting officer will hunt up cases for them to act upon and thus relieve them from the burden of this labor. Those opinions are erroneous. The law does not require a prosecuting officer to do this and when he does he infringes upon the duties of the grand jury, steps beyond his proper discharge of his office and makes himself a public informer a worthy object of scorn and contempt. It is proper for you to consider how you are to make this diligent inquiry which your oath requires. Are you to permit - under the solemn obligation of your oath - an offence to go unpunished that you have good reason to believe has been committed because you did not happen to see it and no witness happens to give you information of the fact? Are you to suffer an offender whose criminal conduct you are perfectly satisfied of to violate the law with impunity because you did not happen to witness the offence? The law gives you the power to have witnesses summoned to testify before you and there are few offences under this power that can escape the vigilance and search investigation of a grand jury bound by the solemn obligation of an oath to make diligent inquiry of all violations of the criminal law.

The various offences which you are required to take cognizance of as the Grand Inquest of this county are such as exit by the common law and such as are enacted by the statute laws. Those that exist at common law are,

Assaults & Batteries; where one man strikes another in a rude and violent manner or attempts to strike him within striking distance or with an intent to do him bodily hurt, aiders and abettors.

Affrays; where two or more men fight by mutual consent in some public place or where a man arms himself with dangerous and unusual weapons so as to cause a natural terror among the people.

Unlawful Assemblies; where three or more persons do assemble themselves together to do an unlawful act and part without doing it or making any motion towards it.

Routs; where three or more persons do assemble themselves together to do an unlawful [act] upon a common quarrel and make some advances towards it.

Riots; where three or more persons actually do an unlawful act of violence either with or without a common cause or general or even do a lawful act in a violent and tumultuous manner.

You will perceive from the definition of these last three offences that it requires at least three persons to be engaged or constitute either of them though a larger number may be concerned.

Felonious imprisonment; where a man is forcibly detained or confined in the common jail or in a private house or even in the public street or highway without any authority in the person who does the act.

Libels; which signify in their most extensive sense writings pictures or the like of an immoral or illegal tendency but in the common understanding any malicious information of a person and especially a magistrate made public by either printing writing signs or pictures in order to provoke him to wrath or expose to public hatred contempt and ridicule.

Common Nuisances: which are such troublesome and inconvenient offences as among the community in general and not merely some particular person.

Negligence of public officers; intrusted with the administration of justice; which is where they omit - or refuse to perform those public duties which the law requires and commands.

Extortion; which is where a public officer unlawfully takes under color of his office from any man any money or valuable thing that is not due to him; or before it is due; or more than is due.

Petit Larceny; which is feloniously taking and carrying away the personal goods of another of twelve pence value or less.

Malicious Mischief or Damage; which is injuring the property of another out of spite of wanton cruelty or from a feeling of revenge.

Forcible Entry and detainer;

Embracery; and generally all offences of a notoriously evil example are indictable.

The offences which are created by our statewide law are,

Retailing without license spiritous liquor of less than a quart in measure.

Peddling with license goods wares and merchandize not of the growth or manufacture of this state, books charts & maps excepted.

Fraudulent voting at elections; which is where a man votes who is under the age of twenty one or who has not a twelve

month residence in the state or votes where he has no residence or votes n the senate without having a freehold estate of fifty acres of land for six months previous to the election.

Fornication and Adultery; where a man takes a woman into his house or a woman a man and they have a child or children without parting or an entire separation or when they bed and cohabit together.

Altering or defacing the brand or mark of cattle, hogs, and sheep or mismarking or branding them when unmarked and not branded with an intent to defraud any other person.

Overseers of roads who fail to keep their roads in that condition as prescribed by law. The law requires that all public roads should be twenty feet wide and clear of stumps and running for the width of sixteen feet in the centre and where it is necessary to make or repair causeways they should be fourteen feet and earth necessary for the same shall be taken from each side equally so as to form a drain on each side of said causeway and all bridges through swamps and over small creeks and runs shall be sixteen feet wide. Overseers are also required to have posts set up at the forks of all roads within their several districts with arms pointing the way of each and every road with directions to the most public places to which they lead, and the distance to such places marked thereon and where the county court so directs shall make or cause to be made and kept in repair good and sufficient footways across all swamps and runs of water and to keep hand rails on each side of all hollow bridges and to have their roads mile marked.

Trading with slaves for any articles they may happen for sale without a written permission from their owner or employer or selling them or buying of them anything on the Sabbath day or between sunset and sunrise even with such a permission or selling them spiritous liquours powder shot lead gun-cotton fire arms swords dirks or other side arms unless the same is for their owner or employer. And if a slave should be seen in any storehouse warehouse tippling shop or other venue for trading . . . .

Teaching slaves to read & write & selling them books and pamphlets.

Owners of slaves, permitting them to go as free negroes.

Slaves hiring their own time to be presented.

Free negroes carrying arms without a license from the county court obtained within twelve months.

Orphan children without a guardian to be presented.

Unlawful offences

Grand jurors orientation documents
Handwritten instructions for grand jury members including a list of offenses grand jurors must consider likely created during the 1850s. The offenses are separated by county and state statutes and include everything from assault and battery to teaching the enslaved to read and write. The instructions were likely authored by Edward C. Yellowley (1821-1885), a Greenville, N.C. lawyer when he was either clerk of the Superior Court or solicitor of the county court. Holographs.
Original Format
20.1cm x 31.6cm
Local Identifier
Location of Original
East Carolina Manuscript Collection
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