Constitutional Law – Grand Jury Under the Fifth Amendment Indictments Not Subject to Attack on Evidentiary Ground

Defendant was indicted by a grand jury on four counts of willfully evading federal income taxes due for the years 1946, 1947, 1948 and 1949. His motion before trial to dismiss the indictment on the ground that he was firmly convinced that there could have been no legal or competent evidence before the grand jury was denied by the trial court. At the conclusion of the government’s case, and again just before the case went to the jury, counsel for the defendant moved to dismiss the indictment on the ground that only hearsay evidence offered by three revenue agents had been presented to the grand jury. The court denied the motions, and defendant was convicted on three of the four counts of the indictment. On appeal the Second Circuit affirmed on two of the counts, holding that hearsay evidence alone is enough to support a grand jury indictment. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to answer the single question: “May a defendant be required to stand trial and a conviction be sustained where only hearsay evidence was presented to the grand jury which indicted him?” Held, an indictment returned by a legally constituted and unbiased grand jury is not open to challenge on the ground that it is not supported by adequate or competent evidence. Costello v. United States, 350 U.S. 359 (1956).