Individuals targeted by federal grand jury inquires often ask this question. Do they have the right to have access to materials submitted to the grand jury? Criminal suspects have four options for obtaining grand jury materials disclosure. Criminal Federal Attorneys at Norman Spencer represent clients at all stages of the federal criminal process, from grand jury investigations to trials.
First, a defendant is entitled to transcripts of his or her own evidence under Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Second, a defendant is entitled to transcripts of prosecution witnesses who testify at trial under the Jencks Act. Third, they can get the information if they show a basis for dismissing the indictment because of a matter that happened before the grand jury. Finally, a defendant can request disclosure which allows a court to order grand jury matters to be disclosed “preliminarily to or in connection with a judicial proceeding.”
Defendants Rights to Grand Jury Materials
By far, the Jencks Act clause, which is the second of these, is the most contentious. Defendants are entitled to the pretrial “statements” of prosecution witnesses who testify at trial under the Jencks Act. Grand jury testimony, on the other hand, was not included in the scope of claims when it was first enacted. As a result, defendants were required to obtain transparency by other means. The defendants in Dennis v. the United States requested that the grand jury testimony of four witnesses be made public as each completed a direct investigation. The trial court dismissed each motion on the grounds that the defendants had not shown a specific need because the transcripts were unlikely to contain “‘anything of impeachable significance’ “. The sentences were overturned by the Supreme Court. The court reaffirmed the value of grand jury confidentiality as well as the requirement that any litigant, including criminal defendants, must show specific needs.
However, the Court went on to say that in this situation, such a need had been shown. First, the court considered a number of factors that, while not exclusive to criminal proceedings, all led to disclosure. The “growing realization that disclosure, rather than suppression, of relevant materials, ordinarily promotes the proper administration of criminal justice,” particularly where “the value of maintaining the confidentiality of the grand jury minutes is minimal” because the grand jury investigation has concluded. Finally, the court stated that granting government access to the transcript as a matter of nature while denying all access to criminal defendants is fundamentally unfair: “It is scarcely justifiable for the prosecution to have exclusive access to a storehouse of relevant facts in our adversary framework for deciding guilt or innocence.
Using Discretion with Disclosure
Aside from these broad factors, the court found that there were some circumstances in the case that warranted disclosure. For example, the testimony in question was given fifteen years prior to the current trial; the testimony of the four witnesses was the heart of the government’s case; all of the testimony was uncorroborated; one witness was an alleged accomplice and another a paid government informer; and finally, one of the witnesses testified that he had been mistaken about certain dates in a previous statement; and finally, one of the witnesses testified that he had been mistaken about certain dates in a prior statement. With all of these considerations in favor of transparency and no need for continued confidentiality, the court determined that the trial court’s denial of disclosure was an abuse of discretion. The court then turned to the question of the district court’s authority over the transcript to be published.
Despite allowing the trial court to redact extraneous material and issue protective orders, the court dismissed the idea that a judge might examine the transcripts in-camera, decide if they contained something beneficial to the defense, and refuse disclosure except though a specific need had been shown. It is necessary to note, however, that the prosecution is not obligated to turn over Jencks Act information to the defendant until the direct questioning of the witness is completed; the Act does not cover the disclosure of any other material at any other time.
Discuss Your Rights to View Grand Jury Materials
On a showing that grounds exist to dismiss the indictment because of a matter before the grand jury, a court may order disclosure of grand jury information to the defendant under Rule 6. However, the Supreme Court’s narrowing of the grounds for obtaining dismissal of indictments in Costello v. United States and the cases after it has severely limited the use of this clause. In essence, these cases hold that an indictment cannot be dismissed based on the amount or nature of the evidence submitted to the grand jury. Instead, these motions must cover any part of the grand jury procedure that can still be used to dismiss an indictment. In addition, defendants requiring disclosure under Rule 6(e)(3)(C)(ii) have traditionally been needed to show a specific need. As a result, general claims that the transcripts are needed to prepare a motion to dismiss, or to include proof of prosecutorial wrongdoing, or conclusory charges of misconduct, are inadequate to allow disclosure.
If you have been charged with a federal crime, call our federal criminal attorneys at Norman Spencer Law Group today to discuss your case.