February 15, 2007

What is a Grand Jury Trap?

A grand jury trap is trick that can exploit state and federal grand jury proceedings to entrap someone into being charged with a crime, such as purgery, obstruction of justice, or other legal entanglement.

In principle, someone in the executive branch could appoint a prosecutor sympathetic to their cause (entrapping someone), steer the case to a sympathetic judge, and then lay the trap.

Even if the prosecutor and judge are not in on the fix, the mere potential that a fix is in is often sufficient motivation for the target person to resist testifying. In that case, the target is in contempt of the grand jury, and the judge may try to compel testimony by incarcerating the target individual.

Flight of fancy? No. Without even looking, I'm aware of three cases in which this Principal has applies. First, San Francisco independent journalist and video blogger Josh Wolf was arrested August 1, 2006, for refusing a federal grand jury’s request to turn over video he shot at a demonstration.

Second, Sami Al-Arian, formerly a tenured professor of computer science at the University of South Florida, is being held for failing to testify against other people before a grand jury. He has earlier been cleared of earlier charges against him, which were based on political activities and speech that the jury in his trial found were protected. Given the government's earlier attempts to silence him, is legitimately concerned about the potential use of grand jury entrapment against him. Thus, he has chosen the lesser of the two evils, contempt and additional time in jail.

Third, former black activists from the 1970s have faced similar concerns about grand juries convened, supposedly to gather evidence surrounding possible crimes dating back to the 1970s. Google Black Panther Jury

In short, the message is, if the federal or state government wants to make your life miserable, they have the grand jury trap as another tool in their police state toolbox.

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