FRANKFORT, Ky. (October 7, 2020) – Attorney General Daniel Cameron today filed a motion in Jefferson Circuit Court to uphold the law and well-established legal precedent in the Commonwealth that proceedings and testimony before a grand jury remain secret. The motion was filed in the case of Anonymous Grand Juror #1 v. Commonwealth of Kentucky.
The motion argues that the proceedings and testimony before a Grand Jury are required by law to remain secret. The motion also points out that the anonymous grand juror does not seek to limit the scope of his or her disclosures. This type of broad and unchecked disclosure could jeopardize not only witnesses and other grand jurors but also set a dangerous legal precedent for future grand juries.
“As I’ve stated prior, I have no concerns with a grand juror sharing their thoughts or opinions about me and my office’s involvement in the matter involving the death of Ms. Breonna Taylor,” said Attorney General Cameron. “However, I have concerns with a grand juror seeking to make anonymous and unlimited disclosures about the grand jury proceedings. The grand jury process is secretive for a reason, to protect the safety and anonymity of all the grand jurors, witnesses, and innocent persons involved in the proceedings. Allowing this disclosure would irreversibly alter Kentucky’s legal system by making it difficult for prosecutors and the public to have confidence in the secrecy of the grand jury process going forward.”
In United States v. Procter & Gamble Co., the United States Supreme Court identified several important reasons for secrecy in the grand jury process, including “(1) [t]o prevent the escape of those whose indictment may be contemplated; (2) to insure the utmost freedom to the grand jury in its deliberations, and to prevent persons subject to indictment or their friends from importuning the grand jurors; (3) to prevent subornation of perjury or tampering with the witnesses who may testify before grand jury and later appear at the trial of those indicted by it; (4) to encourage free and untrammeled disclosures by persons who have information with respect to the commission of crimes; (5) to protect innocent accused who is exonerated from disclosure of the fact that he has been under investigation, and from the expense of standing trial where there was no probability of guilt.”
The Attorney General’s motion notes that the case filed by Anonymous Grand Juror #1 is similar to a case filed by a grand juror following a 2014 police-involved shooting resulting in the death of Mr. Michael Brown. That case, Doe v. McCulloch, was initiated by a member of the St. Louis County grand jury in the case. The court rejected the grand juror’s request to “completely invalidat[e] Missouri’s grand jury secrecy laws as applied to her[.]”
In addition to Attorney General Cameron’s motion, the Kentucky Commonwealth’s Attorneys' Association released a statement today about the question of grand jury secrecy and the ability of a former grand juror to discuss proceedings before and by the grand jury.
In the statement, available here, the association noted that “individual dissatisfaction with a grand jury proceeding, or with another grand juror, or with the prosecutor’s comments or legal interpretation are not compelling reasons to set aside the rules of grand jury secrecy.”
To view a copy of Attorney General Cameron’s motion, click here.