What to do if an agent knocks:

Peoples Lw Collective:

Grand Jury 101:

The Grand Jury system, long since abolished in most democratic nations, denies targeted individuals their most fundamental of civil rights and poses a grave threat to the constitutional rights of every American.

Legally, a Grand Jury is a type of common law jury responsible for investigating alleged crimes, examining evidence, and issuing indictments. When targeted against social movements however, Grand juries are a tool of political repression used to frighten activists, create mistrust, drive people out of the movement, and cause others to inform on friends out of fear. Grand Juries are often used as “fishing expeditions” to gather any and all information on a particular social movement.

A Grand Jury, which operates in complete secrecy, is distinguished from a petit jury, which is used during trial. Grand Juries consist of 16 to 23 jurors who are not screened for bias. They convene for periods of 18 months, with possible 6-month extensions thereafter. Normal rules of evidence do not apply to a Grand Jury investigation, and no judge is present in the Grand Jury room to ensure the rule of law is upheld.

Federal Grand Juries allow the U.S. Attorney's office to compel activists to testify without demonstrating any probable cause or reason to believe they have any relevant information about a case. Often activists are subpoenaed simply because of their political beliefs.

Subpoenaed individuals are not allowed the presence of legal counsel and are often denied the right to invoke Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. If an individual refuses to answer questions about such things as who her friends are and what activist groups she is involved with, she can be jailed for months and even years.

Grand Jury proceedings completely revolve around the prosecution (US attorney). Defense attorneys are not allowed to present evidence, question witnesses or even enter the grand jury room. The US attorney, however, is allowed to present any witnesses and evidence she desires, including hearsay testimony.

Double jeopardy does not apply to the grand jury. If an individual appears before the Grand Jury, refuses to testify and spends two years in jail for contempt, legally she can still be re-subpoenaed and the whole process can start over again.

Grand Juries are little more than modern day inquisitions. Instead of scapegoating innocent people as "witches" and "heretics," they target innocent activists as "terrorists."

We are only now beginning to realize the full extent to which Grand Juries were abused by the government throughout the 1960s in their efforts to disrupt social justice organizations of the era.

For more information, check out:

Grand Jury Fact Sheet

Just Cause Law Collective on Grand Juries

Federal Grand Jury: good information on the make-up and procedure of grand juries

Walking Through a Grand Jury: Attorney Larry Weiss walks activists through a typical grand jury proceeding

How to Crush a Grand Jury: How to combat repression by grand jury

Trial by ordeal: The Modern-Day Witch Hunt

Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure

Grand Jury Reform Group:: Various articles and information on grand juries