Opening the Grand Jury
by Jon Roland, 2002 July 13
The undue influence that prosecutors and judges have come to exercise over
grand jurors is well-known. The problem is, what can citizens do about it. This
is to suggest a few things that can be done.
The most direct way is to get to members of the grand jury, especially the
foreperson, and induce it to become a "runaway" grand jury, which
asserts its power to operate independently of judge and prosecutor, opens
itself to citizen complaints, and hires its own investigators.
The difficulty in doing this is that in most jurisdictions the grand jury is
stacked with cronies of the judge or prosecutor, rather than randomly selected.
Clearly, if the grand jury is corrupted in this way, options are limited.
Assuming there is some chance of inducing a runaway grand jury, one can try
1 - Get the names and home addresses of the grand jurors. Send
literature and complaints directly to the members, both at home and through the
announced official address. Your complaints and literature won't get through
the official screening, of course, but if the members realize their mail is
being censored, they might resent that and respond by opening up. But do the
sending anonymously, as you can expect prosecution for "jury
tampering" even though such communications do not qualify, especially if
they are attempts to introduce new cases.
2 - Target everyone who visits the courthouse with literature and
complaints, either by leafletting their vehicles (which risks arrest), or by
tracing the vehicle license plates and sending to those addresses.
3 - Publish literature and complaints in other ways, in newspapers of
record, on bulletin boards, at public meetings, any way you can, demanding the
attention of the grand jury.
If these efforts don't work, there are always the standards:
4 - In states that have grand jury petitions, like Oklahoma,
you may try getting a special grand jury that way. (But in the Oklahoma City
bombing case, the grand jury that was empaneled was manipulated by the
prosecutor anyway.) The petition should itself demand a special prosecutor,
preferably named in the petition. Offer a witness on how a grand jury is
supposed to operate. Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark is often
available for this purpose.
5 - Even if there is no formal petition right for a special grand jury, try
a petition drive anyway, if only for its publicity value.
6 - In jurisdictions where judges are elected, make it an issue in the
campaign. Get judicial candidates to promise to open the grand jury process and
make other reforms.
7 - You might try filing for writs of mandamus to open the grand jury. They
will probably not work, but when they are rejected, appeal the rejections, and
bury the courts in paper on the issue.
8 - Conduct street demonstrations, especially around the courthouse and the
offices of the media. Flood the media with press releases, letters to the
editor, etc. Conduct "guerrilla theater" events that attract
9 - Educate the public at every opportunity. Run for office and make it an
issue in your campaign. Speak at public events. Push for educational materials
on the subject in the public schools, even in textbooks. Contact opinion
leaders and decisionmakers.
10 - Finally, be well prepared in everything you do, especially in the
literature and complaints you distribute or file. Everything should be done to
top professional standards. Get a good lawyer to help you, although he will
probably need to do so anonymously, and will probably need to be from outside
your jurisdiction or even your state. Don't be misled by the "patriot
myth" material that is so common. Everything you do has to stand up to
vicious scrutiny. Even a single instance of mispunctuation can be seized upon
to destroy your credibility. When you appear in person, dress and groom
yourself well. Speak like a well- educated professional. Retain your composure
and civility at all times.