Pitch’s Legal Challenge
Taking On A Legal Problem
Even after his book went to press in 2016, Pitch knew he was still missing key pieces of the Moore’s Ford story, in particular, the statements made inside the Grand Jury Room in December 1946.
He realized that only this direct testimony taken under oath would have real evidentiary value in completing the historical record about the Moore’s Ford murders. He also knew there were stringent protections for grand jury secrecy under Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 6(e), (enacted earlier in 1946). Pitch realized that he’d never see the grand jury transcripts without expert legal counsel to navigate Rule 6(e)’s gauntlet of exceptions, exclusions, and relevant case law.
The Authority Of The Grand Jury
The grand jury is the most powerful investigative agency in the federal criminal justice system.
During the investigative phase the grand jury serves many of the same functions as federal police agencies, such as the FBI, but the Grand Jury holds additional powers that are not shared by the other investigative agencies.
When individuals have information that may be relevant to an investigation, the federal grand jury can request their cooperation. These individuals may lawfully refuse police interviews. However, any individual can be subpoenaed to appear and testify under oath before a grand jury.
The Sanctity Of Grand Jury Secrecy
The history of grand jury secrecy and the interests underlying the secrecy rules reflect a consistent theme: They are exclusively intended for use in the investigation and prosecution of crimes.
Any disclosure of grand jury material for a purpose other than direct criminal law enforcement requires a court order. It must be demonstrated that there is a particularized and compelling need for such disclosure.
Exceptions thus far have been very limited in scope. The exceptions have also been consistent in their use of judicial supervision to ensure that disclosures are limited to circumstances that present a specific need that outweighs the need for secrecy.