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Grand Jury Inquisition

Grand Jury Inquisition image
Parent Issue
Day
25
Month
June
Year
1971
OCR Text

About ten in the morning there waf. a knock on the door. I asked who was there and a voice on the other side said "Dew. " "I don't know anybody named Dew, I said. "This is Dew. Is Jim there ?" And I said it again, "I don't know anybody named Dew. " Then they said this is the pólice, open up. I was kind cf half-asleep, and I didn't have any clothes on so I sort of stalled around íor a few minutes and got some clothes on and tried to wake up. Then I opened the door without unhooking the chain. There were four FBI agents standing there. I asked them if they had a warrant. They said no, they had a subpoena. There's this whole ritual about the subpoena and how it's got to touch you. ft can't come in the mail. ft's got to make physical contact with your body. So he reached out and brushed my hand and gave it to me and then I was officially subpoenaed before the Federal grand jury of New York. - Jim Ratherford. Similar scènes have been occuring all over Amerika recently as the government, unable to find the underground revolutionaries on their Ten Most Wanted List (which has now expanded to 16 people) and frustrated in their attempts to put people away (like Ericka Huggins, Bobby Seale and the Panther 13 in NY) through the traditional machinery of jury trials, begins to utilize a new tactic in their fight to maintain the empire-the Grand Jury inquisition. The grand juries meet behind closed doors. The press, public and even witnesses' lawyers are forbidden to attend the proceedings. And if a witness is granted "limited use immunity, " (under a little noticed 1970 law), refusal to answer every question to the satisfaction of the government can result in the jail term for the lif e of the grand jury, often more than a year. Within the last few weeks, three new grand juries have begun sitting in Washington, New York and Detroit, in an attempt to indict people who worked on the Mayday demonstrations in Washington this spring for the bombing of the U. S. Capitol. The Weather underground has admitted responsibility for that act and says it plans to prove the innocense of those currently being subpoened at the appropriate time. Leslie Bacon, who worked in Washington to put together the killer May lst festival of life, was the first to be picked up in the new drive. Under bad legal advice from a Seattle, Washington lawyer, Leslie answered the government's questions, thinking that since she had nothing to do with the bombing she had nothing to hide from the prosecutors. Soon after her testimony people who's names she mentioned f ound themselves subpoenad to testify on the bombing and their link to Leslie (who is now out on bail, charged with contempt after she realized her mistake and stopped talking). The people she mentioned are now faced with the choice af (if they're granted imtnunity and are then ordered to testify) answering questions that may get people indicted for conspiracy or other thought-crime charges, or going to jail for contempt of court. Ken Kelley and Terry Taube, both former members of the White Panther Party and residents of 1520 Hill St. who worked on the Mayday demonstrations last spring, have been subpaened to appear bef ore a grand jury in Detroit, along with Larry Canada and his exwif e Kathy, of Nashville, Indiana (they put together the free organic f ood service that fed people during Mayday), Colin Neiberger of Boston and Michael Tola of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. On Tuesday the six presented to Judge Cornelia Kennedy a motion to quash the subpaenas on the grounds that some of the information leading to their issuance carne from unauthorized wiretaps made by the government. The Judge ruled that there was no precedent for this kind of "anticipatory hearing" and that the issue of the legality of the evidence should be presented to the court after the testimony before the grand jury, if the people are in f act ordered to jail. The Judge ■ ed the testimony until nest Tuesday, giving lawyers for Ken, Terry and the others time to appeal her ruling to a higher court in Cincinnatti. Ken, Terry and the others have vowed not to cooperate with the Grand Jury and answer their questions, because of the illegal and unconstitutional nature of the whole affair. 1 is very possible that they will be going to jail for indef inite terms in the near future, without a trial by jury under a very questionable law which clearly violates the fifth amïndment, if the appeals court turns down their motion and the proceedings do get started. What folluws is an interview with people's attorney Buck Davis of the National Lawyers Guild, who is representing those subpaened in Detroit and is working on the national level to coordínate the defense against the governments latest maneuverings. The versation took place outside the Federal building in Detroit during a court recess. SUN-Why is the government turning to the Grand Jury system in prosecuting dissenters ? Buck-WeU it's pretty clear that this Grand Jury is the institution of a new government tactic to try to use illegally obtained information to subpoeana before it all the persons whose names it can get by that manner, and f orce them to face the choice of whether or not they are going to refuse to cooperate or whether or not they are going to give entirely legal statements and describe entirely legal activity but vet which involve a number of their friends and politica! associates. And then their friends and politica! associates will likewise be subpoeaned just as Ken Kelly was subpeaned f rom the testimony of Leslie Bacon. At some point it has to stop, because if they can continue to do that, ü they can indiscriminately subpoena everybody at each stage of the proceedings acting f rom a further illegal base, they will eventually be able to subpoena basically everyone in this country who opposes the governmental policy. And they'll be able to face them with the choice of either talking about themselves and their friends and laying the basis f or those kind of bogus conspiracy charges which have been brought say against John Sinclair, or refusing to cooperate and allowing the government to put them in jail f or contempt. U's a beautif ui tactic. The government is obviously at lts wits end at its inability to achieve convictions under the jury system and has decided to use this particular mothod towards their illegal ends. Is there any precedent for this kind of activity in American history, using a grand jury in this way ? Buck-Well grand juries in a number of different places have been used in a number of abominable ways. Like in the case of Ronald Geden. Her e they indicted 15 Black Panthers, on no evidence, by the use oí the Grand Jury, and acquitted Ronald Gedder with seven eyewitnesses to his act of murder, simply because he's a cop. We have to understand that the grand jury no longer stands as a wall between people and the arbitrary processes of the government but in fact has become an extensión oí the pólice department and the prosecutors office. SUN-How are the grand juries constituted, where do they get people for this activity and what kind of people do they tend to be. Buck-They are selected using the same list oí name used for regular juries. And we've attacked the legality of that in this district in John Sinclair's case, in that those lists systematically exclude young people. Is there an opportunity to question prospective grand jury members bef ort a case to determine their prejudices and screen biased jurors ? Buck-No. Counsel for witnesses have no part in the proceedings, can't be in the room, can't see the grand jurors, can't question them, can't in fact do anything, there's not even a judge in there, just the prosecutor and the grand jury.