Did the foreman of the grand jury in the Tom DeLay case just commit a violation of the grand jury secrecy provision? Quote from Dallas Morning News: "Mr. Earle has stacks and stacks of papers -- evidence of telephone calls from Mr. DeLay and everybody. As far as we're concerned they presented us with enough evidence and witnesses that we felt we were on the right track. I would not have put my name on that indictment unless I felt we had ample probable cause." He went on to talk about a specific statement that DeLay had provided for presentation to the grand jury and detailed it's contents. Are we to the point in this business where the grand jury foreman is now fair game for comment about the evidence presented to the grand jury? No matter how you feel about the DeLay indictment, this is a fundamental attack on grand jury secrecy and a blatant violation of the CCP that should not be ignored.
Art. 20.02.    Proceedings secret
(a) The proceedings of the grand jury shall be secret.
(b) A grand juror, bailiff, interpreter, stenographer or person operating an electronic recording device, or person preparing a
typewritten transcription of a stenographic or electronic recording who discloses anything transpiring before the grand jury, regardless of whether the thing transpiring is recorded, in the
course of the official duties of the grand jury shall be liable to a fine as for contempt of the court, not exceeding five hundred
dollars, imprisonment not exceeding thirty days, or both such fine and imprisonment.
Forget the grand juror -- can we go after the media members that aid, abet, solicit, encourage, and facilitate the lawbreaking?
Here's the gist of some of what the foreman said to the press:
Grand juror: DeLay evidence is there
'Stacks of papers' support indictment, foreman says; U.S. Rep. says there's no case
Sunday, October 2, 2005
By CHRISTY HOPPE / The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN - Grand jurors were presented a load of evidence, including testimony and phone records, that led them to believe Rep. Tom DeLay should be tried on a conspiracy charge, the leader of the Travis County grand jury that indicted the congressman said Friday.
"It was not one of those sugarcoated deals that we handed to [District Attorney] Ronnie Earle," William M. Gibson said.
He added: "Mr. Earle has stacks and stacks of papers - evidence of telephone calls from Mr. DeLay and everybody."
* * *
But Mr. Gibson said there's enough to suggest to the contrary.
"As far as we're concerned, they presented us enough evidence and witnesses that we felt we were on the right track," he said. "I would not have put my name on that grand jury indictment unless I felt we had ample probable cause."
So ... crime, or no crime?
Whoa! If they have "stacks and stacks of papers" and "telephone calls" from Tom DeLay, it sounds like Ronnie Earle has it in the bag.
Shannon - It looks like the literal language of the statute "a person operating a recording device... who discloses..." would fit any media person who records the GJ foreman's statements then "discloses" them. I have to assume that at least some of the media uses recording devices. While this may not have been the precise intent of the statute, it looks like it could be applied this way to support a charge against the media.
The statute says that a grand juror who discloses anything transpiring before the grand jury, whether recorded or not, is in violation of the secrecy requirement. The statute is a little hard to read because it attempts to be inclusive in order to cover any person that might be in there to transcribe or record the proceedings. BUT the bottom line is that a grand juror is absolutely bound by the secrecy requirement. I cannot imagine a more blatant violation than disclosing the information to a reporter. That insures that the secrecy violation will be multiplied exponentially by publication of the matters that were to remain secret. If this is a new tactic in high profile cases, if grand jurors are now going to be giving press interviews, then we might as well abolish the mandatory grand jury in Texas. Do we now conduct our grand jury proceedings with a view toward what the foreman will tell the press? If this is ignored, will the press routinely begin to seek out grand jurors for comment? Where's the judge who impaneled this grand jury? Incidentally, here's a very good example of why the press should not have a reporter's privilege.
This defendant's rights have been violated by a district attorney's office. Where's the uproar? Where's the call for a special inquiry?
NOTE: Clearly, (Or perhaps not so clearly as someone asked me for clarification offline) I'm kidding. The ACLU doesn't do those sorts of things.
[This message was edited by Philip D Ray on 10-03-05 at .]
What if the Grand Jury term has expired? Would the Court that empanelled the Grand Jury still be able to hold the Grand Juror in contempt? It seems the Court would loose the power to hold one in contempt where the Court no longer had any authority over the person. What do ya'll think. Just a thought!
He also stated on KLBJ radio that the vote for true bill was unanimous.
How about Texas adopts a bi-partisan ombudsman's office to investigate and prosecute incumbent politicians? Wouldn't this position eliminate some of the distracting sideshows that come with a local DA's office doing the work?
The local paper decided it would be a good idea to print the grand jurors' names in the paper. Think these people are going to get harassed? Whether you agree or disagree with the current situation, it's a wonder any citizens agree to participate in our justice system anymore ...
Grand jurors have voted mostly Democrat
A profile of grand jury
By Claire Osborn
Tuesday, October 4, 2005
More than half of the members of the Travis County grand jury that indicted former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay last week have voted in the past as Democrats, according to public records.
The Houston-area Republican was indicted Wednesday on charges that he conspired to violate election laws barring the use of corporate money in Texas campaigns. He has called the indictments a partisan sham perpetrated by Democratic District Attorney Ronnie Earle.
It was actually the 12 grand jurors, though, who voted to indict DeLay after reviewing evidence presented by Earle. A review of public records suggests they are a fairly diverse -- though overwhelmingly Democratic -- group.
The grand jurors' names were obtained by the Austin American-Statesman during the summer, before the grand jury list was sealed by District Judge Mike Lynch.
Seven members have voted in Democratic primaries on and off in elections since 1992, according to county voting records. One has consistently voted Republican, one has switched between the two parties' primaries, and two members have not voted in primaries.
One member of the grand jury was apparently replaced, and the replacement's identity couldn't be confirmed Monday.
According to records from the secretary of state's office, Travis County voted overwhelmingly Democratic in the 2004 primary. Records show that 63,964 people voted in the 2004 Democratic primary and that 28,159 voted in the Republican primary.
Six of the 11 known DeLay grand jury members were men. At least two were African American, according to court records, and two of the members had Hispanic surnames. They came from all over Travis County, according to their most recently listed addresses, including Richard J. Garner, 34, of Southwest Austin, Marjorie V. Ferrell, 72, of South Austin, Veronica L. Dixon, 58, of North Austin and Robert Milne, 57, of Northwest Hills.
Other members included Don Xavier Rios, 36, of the Wells Branch area; Sylvia Loera, 52, of Southwest Austin and Albert Prewitt, 61, of South Austin. The last four confirmed members were Kimberly Rollins, 38, of Pflugerville; William Gibson, 76, of Northeast Austin, who was the jury's foreman and has spoken publicly since the indictments; and Robert Lee, 44, and Nancy Quick, 71, whose addresses were unclear.
Garner, Ferrell, Dixon, Milne, Quick, Rollins and Gibson have voted Democratic in past elections, according to records. Rios has voted Republican. Prewitt has voted as both a Democrat and as a Republican. Loera and Lee have not voted in primaries.
Public records also showed the occupations of some of the jurors. Rios is a deputy for the Travis County sheriff's office, Rollins works for the state comptroller's office, and Prewitt is listed as the president of the Austin chapter of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. Ferrell is listed as an officer in the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association in Texas.
Gibson has said in interviews that he is a former sheriff's deputy and a former investigator for what is now the Texas Department of Insurance, and Lee is the president of his own real estate company in Austin.
The process of choosing the grand jury members in Travis County starts with a district judge, who chooses five grand jury commissioners.
The commissioners are sometimes former members of a grand jury or are active in their communities as members of churches or civic clubs, said District Judge Jon Wisser. Each of the grand jury commissioners then picks four people. Jury summons are then sent to 20 people, and the first 12 who are willing to serve are picked, Wisser said.
Grand jury terms can last from three months to six months.
Shannon, this is a travesty that MUST be corrected in the next session. I have never imagined that the media would print the names and addresses of grand jury members. What happens now when the nutbags come out (and they will) and start to make death threats and harassing phone calls to these people. This is the most irresponsible act I have ever seen a journalist commit. What happened to the unwritten rule that we don't identify jurors? Is there no journalistic integrity at all any more if the story is big enough?
CCP Art. 19.42.
Personal Information About Grand Jurors
(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), information collected by the court, court personnel, or prosecuting attorney during the
grand jury selection process about a person who serves as a grand juror, including the person's home address, home telephone number, social security number, driver's license number, and other personal information, is confidential and may not be disclosed by the court, court personnel, or prosecuting attorney.
(b) On a showing of good cause, the court shall permit disclosure of the information sought to a party to the proceeding.
Note that the person's NAME is not included in the information not to be disclosed. And with the name and Google, the rest of the information really isn't that hard to get. And of course the foreman signs the indictments, so his or her name is out there for all to see (or publish).
Just because they know the information does not mean it should be published. There has long been an unwritten rule that names of sexual assault victims, for example, are not published even though there is nothing in the law that prevents it. It isn't difficult to discover personal information about anyone these days; does that mean it is open season on jurors? I think I know the answer to that ... nothing is sacred to the press if the story is big enough. And this one is.
I agree - just because the info is available absolutely does not mean that it should be published. Maybe we do need to push for including the names of GJ members in the information that is not subject to disclosure. Then again, maybe that means the selection / impaneling process would have to be closed to the public, since the clerk calls the names of the members of the array. I think we need to be careful that we don't end up with "secret" grand juries. Certainly in a rural jurisdiction it is not difficult to learn when the court is empaneling a GJ, and to go sit in the courtroom and hear the names called. It boils down to the media using some sense - which is not likely if the story is big enough.
Now, hold onto that rope before you hurt someone. We are in America, and we do handle prosecutions publicly.
Although under some circumstances the pressure of public oversight can be difficult to endure, I don't like the idea of secret grand juries any better. A properly formed and educated grand jury should know that their identity could become public, at least as far as their names.
Public oversight generally provides the sunshine that keeps everyone on the straight and narrow. And that applies even in the grand jury world.
Certainly, the work of the grand jury, its deliberations and the testimony received should be guarded carefully. But I'm not as certain that we need to shield the public from the names of the very people doing such work.
Agreed. The "threat" of public disclosure (or is that exposure?) should tend to keep the oft-mentioned (but rarely seen) "runaway grand jury" at bay. Grand jurors should be as accountable as the rest of us who are involved in the system. Keeping all things, including identities, secret is an invitation to abuse.
No one, at least not me, said anything about keeping their identities secret. I do have a problem with a press that publicizes those names and addresses. Again, I am not suggesting that the press does not have the right to do so. It would be a 1st amendment problem to try to restrain the press from publishing what is public information. I'm not advocating that. I'm merely suggesting ... no, I'm shouting ... that they should have the common decency not to do so unless the juror makes a public figure out of him or herself like the foreman in the DeLay case did. This, of course, is a different issue than the point that orginally started this thread.
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