California crim. pro. question

Can a California grand jury witness be told not to discuss the case?

Facts (not, in this case, hypothetical):

1. A California D.A.’s office is conducting a grand jury investigation into the conduct of a candidate in next month’s elections.

2. The candidate is of the same political party as the D.A.

3. Several percipient witnesses &#8212 not targets, subjects, or persons of interest, but innocent people who merely happen to have relevant information &#8212 have been subpoenaed before the grand jury.

4. According to some of those witnesses, the Assistant D.A. working the case has told them that they are forbidden to discuss their grand jury testimony publicly, and that doing so will subject them to criminal penalties.


Could the A.D.A.’s reported assertion possibly be true?

Update Well, that was quick. My friend the California prosecutor says “yes.” California grand jury secrecy (unlike Federal grand jury secrecy under Rule 6) extends to witnesses as well as the grand jurors and prosecutors. They are forbidden to discuss the questions they were asked, the answers they gave, or the composition of the grand jury.

That leads to a second inquiry, which my friend couldn’t answer off the top of his head. Does the secrecy rule apply to the fact of the subpoena and the contents of any preliminary discussions with investigators or prosecutors? That is, can a grand jury witness, after testifying, say in public “I was called by an investigator for the D.A.’s office and asked questions X and Y about candidate Z. I was then given a subpoena, and I can’t say any more”?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

One thought on “California crim. pro. question”

  1. An interesting related question:
    Can they say in public what they said to the grand jury as long as they don't say that they said it to the grand jury?
    That is, can they discuss the underlying facts as long as they don't say those facts are the subject of a grand jury investigation?

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