November 6, 2013

How Prosecutors Hijacked Grand Juries

We signed seven amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court from May through September. I’m behind in telling you about these briefs, but I’ll begin correcting that today, starting with Kaley v U.S.

Here are the issues…

  • Can a grand jury be the means by which your property is seized?
  • Can the means you’d use to pay for your defense be taken from you, based on a mere indictment?

There are two things to know…

First, there are only six federal crimes under the Constitution…

  1. Counterfeiting
  2. Piracies
  3. Crimes in DC
  4. Bribery of a federal official
  5. Treason
  6. Necessary and proper provisions to enforce tax laws and postal crimes

But our brief demonstrated how Congress has expanded from this 6 to more than 10,000 federal “crimes!” Worse, many of these “crimes” require no criminal intent to establish guilt.

Second, the courts pretend that Grand Juries protect citizens. But our brief was able to list five cases where the Supreme Court itself admitted that Grand Juries no longer serve the function they once did. We also documented the following facts…

  • Federal Rules of Evidence do not apply
  • Grand juries are conducted by or for prosecutors only
  • Neither witnesses nor targets have legal representation
  • Grand jury targets, even if they make a request, may not get to testify
  • Jurors can act on tips or rumors

As a result…

  • Grand Juries have no power to prevent prosecutors from using a mere indictment as an excuse to seize property
  • And once a defendant loses his or her property, he or she may no longer have the resources to mount a defense
  • This often allows prosecutors to force defendants to make deals

So much for innocent until proven guilty!

The results speak for themselves. The conviction rate is 91.6% on federal “crimes.” 97.6% of these “convictions” were actually guilty pleas. Many of these pleas happened because the defendants could no longer resist after their assets were seized.

How did we arrive at this point? After all, the First Congress prohibited “forfeiture of estate” for any federal crime.

Step One: 1970

a) The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as RICO.

b) The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act

These two Nixon-era laws undid 180 years of legal precedent. They both devised a scheme for the seizure of assets.

Step Two: 1984

Reagan-era amendments to the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act permitted one-sided, prosecutor-requested seizure.

Asset forfeiture, once used for drugs, soon found its way to other areas. It turned out to be a revenue source for the Feds.

The Supreme Court needs to stop pretending that grand juries are sufficiently rigorous to determine whether or not an indicted party’s assets should be confiscated. Specifically, we argued in our brief that…

  • The Grand Jury system is woefully insufficient to protect the assets of the accused
  • Most federal crimes are un-Constitutional — they shouldn’t be crimes
  • Defendants need resources to defend themselves, and they deserve the ability to defend against the taking of their property

The Supreme Court heard the case October 16. You can read the entire brief, here {pdf}:

In fact, I hope you do read it. Because I think it will increase the odds that you’ll support the efforts of the Downsize DC Foundation.

Tax-deductible contributions, from people like you, make it possible for us to educate the powerful people in robes, along with an extended audience of court watchers.

Please make a generous donation, today.

Jim Babka
Downsize DC Foundation

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