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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 93531 Find in a Library
Title: Witness and Grand Jury Secrecy
Journal: American Journal of Criminal Law  Volume:11  Issue:2  Dated:(July 1983)  Pages:169-197
Author(s): J R Brown
Date Published: 1983
Page Count: 29
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Although Rule 6(e) and the first amendment permit grand jury witnesses to divulge the substance of their testimony outside the courtroom, the practice of imposing secrecy obligations on witnesses continues, thus increasing prosecutors' control over grand jury proceedings.
Abstract: To guarantee the secrecy of grand jury hearings, Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) prohibits most persons persent during the proceedings from disclosing what transpired inside the grand jury room; however, the proscription does not apply to witnesses. Under a plain reading of Rule 6(e), witnesses have an unfettered right to reveal the contents of their testimony to any third party. Still, a section of the U.S. Attorneys' Manual suggests a means of subjecting certain categories of witnesses to secrecy obligations. Moreover, while not restricting witnesses directly, several Federal district courts have limited the right of attorneys to contact grand jury witnesses. Further, at least one district court has actually imposed an obligation of secrecy on grand jury witnesses. By shrouding grand juries in total secrecy, targets are often unable to learn the direction of the investigation, rendering them incapable of presenting exculpatory evidence. Instead, the indictment is based on the evidence the prosecutor chooses to present to the body. Removing witnesses from the veil of secrecy to some degree lessens the control of the prosecutor by allowing targets some opportunity to learn the direction of the investigation and present exculpatory evidence. Efforts to prevent this practice can only further remove the grand jury proceedings from the original intention of protecting citizens from governmental harassment and place them entirely under the prosecutor's control. A total of 108 footnotes are provided.
Index Term(s): Criminal procedures; Federal courts; Grand juries; Witnesses
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