Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

UNITED STATES v. KNOWLES

January 2, 1957

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Mary KNOWLES, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HOLTZOFF

The defendant, Mary Knowles, is under indictment on a charge of contempt of Congress. The specific accusation is that she unlawfully refused to answer certain pertinent questions when testifying as a witness before a Subcommittee created by the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate, to investigate the administration of the Internal Security Act, 50 U.S.C.A. § 781 et seq. and other internal security laws. The questions in issue related to alleged contacts and connections between the witness and the Communist party and Communist-front organizations.

The matter is now before the Court on the defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment on the ground that fourteen of the twenty-three members of the grand jury that returned the indictment were employees either of the government of the United States or of the government of the District of Columbia and, therefore, are claimed to have been biased and prejudiced against the defendant, and by reason of alleged fear are said to have been unable to exercise independent judgment. In the alternative, the defendant requests a preliminary hearing at which evidence may be adduced in support of the motion. It is urged in behalf of the defendant that all Government employees are subject to investigation under Executive Order No. 10450, 5 U.S.C.A. § 631 note, relating to national security, and the defendant's counsel speculate that a grand juror who is a Government employee may fear that he may possibly be subjected to investigation under this Executive Order if he voted against returning an indictment.

 The qualifications of grand jurors are fixed by law. *fn1" They relate to such matters as citizenship, residence, age, health, character, and ability to read, write, speak and understand the English language. The accused may attack the legal qualifications of a grand juror, either by challenging an individual juror on the ground that the jury is not legally qualified, or by motion to dismiss the indictment because of a lack of legal qualifications of an individual juror. *fn2"

 Challenges for bias, or for any cause other than lack of legal qualifications, are unknown as concerns grand jurors. No provision is made for peremptory challenges of grand jurors and no such challenges are permitted. Likewise no voir dire examination exists in respect to grand jurors. In other words, the status of a member of a grand jury may not be questioned except for lack of legal qualifications.

 The basic theory of the functions of a grand jury, does not require that grand jurors should be impartial and unbiased. In this respect, their position is entirely different from that of petit jurors. The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States expressly provides that the trial jury in a criminal case must be 'impartial'. No such requirement in respect to grand juries is found in the Fifth Amendment, which contains the guaranty against prosecutions for infamous crimes unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury. It is hardly necessary to be reminded that each of these Amendments was adopted at the same time as a part of the group consisting of the first ten Amendments. A grand jury does not pass on the guilt or innocence of the defendant, but merely determines whether he should be brought to trial. It is purely an accusatory body. This view can be demonstrated by the fact that a grand jury may undertake an investigation on its own initiative, or at the behest of one of its members. *fn3" In such event, the grand juror who instigated the proceeding that may result in an indictment, obviously can hardly be deemed to be impartial, but he is not disqualified for that reason.

 These conclusions are fully supported by the weight of authority.

 Judge Learned Hand has observed that grand juries 'are the voice of the community accusing its members, and the only protection from such accusation is in the conscience of that tribunal', In re Kittle, C.C., 180 F. 946, 947.

 Judge Fee in United States v. Smyth, D.C., 104 F.Supp. 283, 301, made the following observations on this point:

 'The grand juror is not to be subjected to inquisition into his motives. He is not to be subjected to examination into what he did while serving on the grand jury. The court should not make such inquiries and has the power to punish as a contempt any such attempt by anyone, whether the grand jury be discharged or not.

 'The grand jurors have never been subject to question, criminal prosecution or civil liability for any motive which impelled indictment. Even if one or more were actuated by active malice, this would constitute ground neither for liability nor for quashing the indictment.'

 It was said in United States v. Belvin, C.C., 46 F. 381, 384, that:

 'Grand jurors are not sworn on their voir dire to say whether they have formed or expressed an opinion of the guilt or innocence of a person charged with crime. On the contrary, the court charges each of them to bring to the attention of the grand jury all offenses of which he may have any personal knowledge. The grand jury does not try; it merely accuses with a view to trial.'

 State courts have expressed similar views. In Coblentz v. State, 164 Md. 558, 570, 166 A. 45, 50, 88 A.L.R. 886, the court in referring to grand jurors, made the following statement:

 '* * * we find no ground for imposing a requirement that they must be unprejudiced as the objection demands. On the contrary, such a requirement would seem inconsistent with their freedom to accuse upon their own knowledge, for persons who come with knowledge sufficient to serve as a basis of indictment are likely to come with the conclusion and prejudice to which that knowledge leads. They must act upon their own convictions, after ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.