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Note: The comments and questions on this page came from people who visited this website. Please feel free to send your comments and questions to Professor Brenner (brenner@udayton.edu). She will respond privately, and may ask permission to post your message on this page. No one's e-mail will be used without first obtaining their permission, and names and e-mail addresses are removed before a comment is posted. Starting in 2002, the responses posted to the site indicate which of us replied: The initials SWB mean Professor Brenner wrote the response; the initials LES mean Professor Shaw wrote the response. We are also putting the year down, to indicate when the response was posted. If no initials appear, Professor Brenner wrote the response.

 

A Canadian perspective:

As a Canadian, I am not that familiar with the inner workings of the Grand Jury; however, having said that, I am astonished at what I have seen of the Grand Jury, and some of its jurors this past week [e.g., September 14-21], and the impact the unprecedented release of Grand Jury findings and documentation to the world at large, will have on the credibility of the United States Judicial System as a whole. Throughout the scathing attacks on the President of the United States by the Starr inquiry, Starr often cautioned those brought before the inquisition of the Grand Jury, that their testimony (under the force of subpoena) was to remain confidential. It is my understanding that those who were subpoenaed for the Clinton Inquiry still cannot reveal their testimony without being cited for contempt? Is this true?

Response: Secrecy does not bind a witness; witnesses are free to talk about their own experiences before the grand jury. Secrecy only binds the other participants--the prosecutors, grand jurors and a court reporter, if one was used to record the proceedings. If any of these participants reveals what occurred, they face prosecution for criminal contempt.

Last night I watched a TV showing two jurors of the Grand Jury being interviewed and clearly stating that President Clinton should be impeached and will be impeached and they will be voting for impeachment. They made these statements even though they neither read nor viewed the voluminous documentation amassed by Starr. My question: How can Grand Jury jurors make such public statements and still maintain the credibility of a Judicial Inquiry?

Response: Are you sure they were jurors? If they are talking about voting for impeachment, they must have been Members of the House of Representatives (or maybe Senators, as the Senate tries impeachment charges if the House brings them). Grand jurors vote, if at all (they did not in this case) to indict, not impeach.

If these people were members of Congress, they're not bound by grand jury secrecy, and impeachment is not a judicial inquiry. As to how they can say such things and purpose to be impartial, I can't answer that, except to say that in my opinion the whole thing is so political, so permeated by partisan politics, that I think there's no chance for impartiality.

The United States has on many occasions sanctioned other nations because of their track record on human rights, on the one hand, while flaunting the inalienable rights of Americans on the other. I believe the basic human rights of the President of the United States have been trampled on by Starr, and also by the Jurors of the Grand Jury. My question: How are we as non-Americans to view the apparent double standard of the American Judiciary system when the Americans sanction the citizens of other nations for violating human rights, and then they openly trample on the human rights and dignity of their own President?

Response: I don't have a good answer for you. Those who defend the way the federal grand jury system currently works would say that the President, and anyone investigated by a grand jury, are given all the necessary rights, since the grand jury neither decides on impeachment nor convicts of a crime. . . . at most, it simply brings an indictment or issues a report on impeachment. Personally, I think answers like that beg the questions, in that they ignore the tremendous prejudicial effects being indicted or being names in a report recommending impeachment has, not to mention the emotional trauma and expense involved in defending against such charges (as well as hiring lawyers to deal with the grand jury proceeding).

I can say that I think the Starr proceeding was atypical, that it crossed the line of what would be allowed in a conventional grand jury inquiry in a variety of ways. That, however, raises its own questions, as I'm sure you'll ask why that was allowed to happen, and again I don't have a good answer, except to point to the tremendous political undercurrents that have been driving this thing.

Please review my above questions within the context of the purposes, roles and legal responsibilities of Grand Juries and Grand Jurors. The current legal circus that is playing out in the media does not serve the best interests of the United States.

Response: Having discussed this with a number of foreign reporters, I quite agree.

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