skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 200580 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: A Grand Facade: How the Grand Jury Was Captured by Government
Author(s): W. Thomas Dillard; Stephen R. Johnson; Timothy Lynch
Date Published: May 13, 2003
Page Count: 18
Sponsoring Agency: Cato Institute
Washington, DC 20001-5403
NCJRS Photocopy Services
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
Sale Source: NCJRS Photocopy Services
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
United States of America

Cato Institute
1000 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001-5403
United States of America
Type: Historical Overview; Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Document
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper reviews the history of the grand jury in America, with attention to the evolution of current government prosecutorial control of grand jury proceedings and outcomes; this is followed by recommendations for righting the wrongs of grand jury practice.
Abstract: The paper concludes that when the American colonies declared their independence from England, the grand jury was an effective protection for individual citizens against the powers of government to intervene unjustifiably in the lives of individual citizens. The paper further concludes, however, that the modern grand jury not only fails to perform this function, but has become a tool for the government to use in launching and pursuing all manner of investigations into the lives of citizens. The authors maintain that Federal prosecutors now use the facade of the "grand jury process" to initiate and conduct investigations about which the grand jury has little or no knowledge and over which it has no oversight or control. The facade of the grand jury has also been used by government prosecutors to bypass the constitutional rights of citizens; for example, once a subpoena as been served on a person under the discretion of the prosecutor, without the necessity of the approval of a judge or the grand jurors, that person has no constitutional right to remain silent. Once a Federal grand jury witness makes an appearance (not to appear is a Federal crime), he/she must answer the questions that are posed by the prosecutor. Any witness who appears before the grand jury but declines to answer questions may be summarily jailed without a trial if a judge determines that a valid claim of privilege does not apply. Further, Federal prosecutors have the power to separate witnesses from their attorneys, which makes the lay witness even more vulnerable to prosecutorial threats and intimidation. The authors recommend that Congress abolish the grand jury's inquisitorial subpoena powers and reject any suggestion of "transferring" such powers to executive-branch police agents or prosecutors. Since this reform is likely to be fiercely resisted by executive-branch agencies as well as legislators, this paper also proposes some less radical changes, such as a witness' right to be accompanied by counsel, judicial review of any prosecutorial dissemination of grand jury material to the military or intelligence services, and government reimbursement for the financial cost of complying with a grand jury subpoena. 87 notes
Main Term(s): Court procedures
Index Term(s): Grand jury reform; Prosecutorial discretion; Prosecutors; Subpoenas
Note: CATO Institute "Policy Analysis," No. 476, May 13, 2003
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.