Grand Jury Resister Released From Jail
Three Weeks After Refusing to Testify
September 22 , 2004
 

On Thursday (8/26), a federal grand jury presently convened in Seattle sent yet another political dissident to jail. This time, the dissident—and now federal prisoner— is Gina Lynn, a long-time animal activist from Southern California. Gina was jailed on contempt charges after refusing to answer questions based on her constitutional rights under the First and Fifth Amendments.

Members of the Seattle-based grand jury exhibited a shocking lack of understanding of the importance of these constitutionally protected rights. One juror even went so far as to challenge Gina to explain her reasoning for refusing to answer on the basis of the First Amendment. Gina quietly explained how the First Amendment protects free speech and privacy as well as freedom of association, but the thick-headed juror simply responded that Gina is “completely misinformed."

While jailed Gina refused to eat in protest of this denial of her basic constitutional rights. Stated Gina, "It has never been my intention to cooperate with this political witch hunt, and I remain firm in my principled resistance to these secretive probes. Their aim is to disrupt and destroy political movements such as ours. I will not be a willing participant." Gina also issued a statement from Jail September 3rd.

On Friday, September 17th on her 23rd day of imprisonment Gina was granted a hearing before Judge Zilly to determine if there was sufficient grounds to continue to keep her in jail. Since the sole point of imprisoning someone with this sort of civil contempt charge is to compel them to talk the question was whether the judge could be convinced that holding Gina longer would not get her to testify.

Prior to the hearing supporters from around the world sent in letters to the judge letting him know that there was no way Gina would be convinced to cooperate, and protests were held outside of the jail and courthouse on a weekly basis. There was also steady media interest from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and television coverage by King 5 news. In fact, an attorney from the Seattle P-I successfully argued in court that Gina's hearing should be open to the public thus allowing media and supporters to be present during the hearing.

At the hearing U.S. Attorney Friedman tried to argue that (1) Judge Zilly did not have jurisdiction to consider releasing Gina because her defense had appealed her jailing to the Ninth Circuit, (2) that releasing Gina would set a bad example, demonstrating that one didn't have to remain in jail long after refusing to testify to a grand jury, and (3) that three weeks in jail was simply not long enough to know whether Gina could be compelled to talk.

Judge Zilly dismissed the first argument as ridiculous and agreed with Gina's attorney Peter Camiel that the second argument was without any legal basis, which just left the question of whether three weeks of jailing could be sufficient to tell whether Gina would ever cooperate. After listening to arguments from both the U.S. Attorney and Peter Camiel, Judge Zilly concluded that there was enough evidence to convince him that Gina would never agree to cooperate - specifically citing the 30-40 letters he'd received making this argument, the fact that Gina had been refusing food as factors, and her indication througout the case that she wouldn't cooperate as key factors in his decision.

The grand jury system, long since abolished in most democratic nations, denies individuals their most fundamental civil rights and poses a grave threat to the constitutional rights of every American. The grand jury is the antithesis of all that is democratic and has no place in a free society. Within grand jury proceedings, individuals are denied the presence of legal counsel and can even be denied the right to Fifth Amendment protections from self-incrimination. As such, simply asserting one's right to remain silent can and all too often does result in indefinite imprisonment.

Additional Reading on Grand Juries:

» Craig Rosebraugh's Grand Jury Experiences
» Gina Lynn's Prior Grand Jury Experience
» Lindsay Parme's Grand Jury Experience
» How to Fight Grand Jury Harassment
» Grand Juries: Tools of Government Repression
» The Improper Use of the Federal Grand Jury