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... From its origin at the Assize of Clarendon under Henry II in twelfth century England, the grand jury has been justly celebrated as a shield for the common citizen against unfair criminal accusations by those in power. By barring any indictment for a crime unless the charge was first approved by an independent body of impartial citizens, the grand jury interposed itself as a solid barrier of protection against unjust and unfounded prosecutions by the Crown.
Over the centuries, the grand jury grew into an outstanding landmark of English jurisprudence, a symbol of the law's concern for the individual's basic liberty. As such, it was one of the first and most important safeguards transported to the new American colonies. Indeed, it was in Massachusetts, in 1634, where the grand jury was first instituted in the new world, and in the century that followed, almost every other colony followed suit.
In those early years, the right to a grand jury was an important shield for American patriots in the pre-revolutionary period, a bulwark against the oppressive actions of George Ill and his colonial governors. Because of this tradition, as well as to protect the citizens of the states of our young Republic from encroachments on their liberty by the newly created Federal Government, the Founding Fathers enshrined the grand jury in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, where it has endured ever since as an honored symbol of our own American legal tradition and a keystone of our Bill of Rights.
Today, however, the symbol is tarnished, the tradition dishonored. Over the past four years under the present Administration (ed. note: Richard Nixon's), we have witnessed the birth of a new breed of political animal-the kangaroo grand jury-spawned in a dark corner of the Department of Justice, nourished by an Administration bent on twisting law enforcement to serve its own political ends, a dangerous modern form of Star Chamber secret inquisition that is trampling the rights of American citizens from coast to coast...
I am here this morning primarily because I believe the Department of Justice is now engaged in a gross continuing abuse of the grand jury process in Fort Worth, Texas.
The case of the Fort Worth Five is just the tip of the grand jury iceberg, but it has much to teach us about the insidious practices of the Department of Justice in several aspects of this area. As such, it merits the close scrutiny it will receive today and in the future from this Subcommittee.
There is no substantial dispute as to the facts of the Fort Worth case.
In June of 1972, five Irish Americans-Kenneth Tierney, Thomas Laffey, Matthias Reilly, Paschal Morahan and Daniel Crawford-all from the New York City area, were subpoenaed to Forth Worth, Texas, to appear before a Federal grand jury investigating the possible shipment of arms from this country to Northern Ireland. At the time, seven other New York residents, including four high officials of the Irish Northern Aid Society, an active Irish-American group headquartered in New York City, were also called to testify, but their subpoenas were withdrawn. The Fort Worth Five-Tierney, Laffey, Reilly, Morahan and Crawford-all refused to answer the questions for the grand jury, on the ground that the investigation was politically inspired and violated a number of their basic legal rights.
After receiving grants of so-called "use' immunity, the Fort Worth Five continued to refuse to testify, and were immediately jailed for civil contempt. Last September, after three months in prison, the men were granted bail by Justice William O. Douglas, pending action by the Supreme Court on the legal challenges they had raised. On January 22 of this year, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, and on January 29 the men were again jailed in Texas on the contempt citation, where they now remain.
So far, they have spent a total of four months in prison, yet they stand charged with no crime, convicted of no offense. Unless the De partment of Justice relents, or Congress or the courts intervene, their imprisonment may well continue throughout the life of the current grand jury, which expires on November 2. And, on November 3 as the Department of Justice has shown it is fully capable of doing within the existing law, a new grand jury may be convened in Texas. They may be subpoenaed and held in contempt again, and the imprisonment of the Fort Worth Five may go on this way forever.
Gun-running is a serious charge, and at the outset, I want to emphasize that in no sense do I condone any form of such activity. As !
have stated many times in the past and as I repeat today, I firmly condemn the activities of extremists on both sides in Northern Ireland. I have made these views clear both to the Prime Minister of Great Britain and to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland. And I have also made clear to each of them, as well as to Attorney General Kleindienst that I give my full support to all legitimate activities, grand jury investigations and other actions by law enforcement authorities in both Britain and the United States to shut off the flow of any arms-or any funds for arms-from this country to Northern Ireland...
But I fully believe that the Department of Justice has the obligation to obey the law in conducting any investigation it undertakes...
I believe that the actions of the Justice Department in Fort Worth in the present case can be weighed and found severely wanting. Look at the record. Are these the actions of a Department of Justice that has a decent respect for the rights of its citizens? Are these five men being treated fairly under the Constitution and Bill of Rights? Or are they the innocent victims of a new and frightening form of secret inquisition?
-Kenneth Tierney, 45, is a registered nurse and physical therapist at Columbia-Presbyterian hospital in New York City. He lives in Yonkers with his wife and four young children. He has never been to Texas. In a sworn affadavit, he states that his only connection with Texas is that he once wrote a letter to President Lyndon Johnson.
--Thomas Laffey, 34, is a real estate salesman who lives in Williston Park, New York, with his wife and three young children. He has never been to Texas or had any connection with Texas.
-Matthias Reilly, 37, is a Manhattan bus driver who lives in Blauvelt, New York with his wife and three young children. He has never been to Texas or had any connection with Texas.
--Paschal Morahan, 26, is a carpenter who lives in the Bronx. He has never had any connection with Texas.
-Daniel Crawford is a housepainter who lives in Manhattan. He has never had any connection with Texas.
There they are-five Irish Americans from New York City, none of them having any connection with Texas. Yet, in the spring of 1972, these five individuals were subpoenaed before a grand jury and imprisoned in Fort Worth, far from their friends and homes and families and jobs, in circumstances imposing special hardship and privation, not only on the men themselves, but also on their families. Indeed,
for some of the families, the only alternative to welfare has been the financial assistance for rent and food provided by Irish American community groups in New York City concerned about their plight...
To me, the present case demonstrates three clear aspects of grand jury abuse, for each of which the Department of Justice stands itself indicted.
The first abuse is the venue in Fort Worth. What possible justification exists for separating these men from their homes and families and friends and iobs in New York, and hauling them 1,400 miles to Texas. to anpear before an alien grand jury and a hostile prosecutor?...
The only suggested link of which I am aware is the rumor that the Department has been informed by the Government of Great Britain that the Irish Republican Army in Ulster has in some fashion attempted to purchase arms in Texas, and that, knowing nothing more, the Department decided to launch a deep sea fishing expedition in Texas to see what they could learn from the leaders of the Irish Northern Aid Society in New York. Yet, for reasons known only to itself, the Department withdrew the subpoenas to Fort Worth for the only men who know anything about the Northern Aid Society. Instead, they chose only to pursue the five hard working New York Irishmen who are now in prison, men who have no official connection at all to the Irish Northern Aid Society and who have no connection at all to Texas.
Simply put, I believe the Department is holding the wrong men in Texas and won't admit it. The Department prefers to let innocent citizens endure the pain of jail, rather than confess that its prosecutors have blundered.
There is not one shred of fact in any of the known aspects of this grand jury proceeding to suggest any possible connection between Texas and these five Irish Americans, or between Texas and any other aspect of this grand jury investigation.
We do know one thing, however. A Federal grand jury in the Southern District of New York, in the very area in which these men reside, has been conducting a separate investigation of the shipment of arms to Northern Ireland from the United States. A number of indictments have already been returned in that investigation, one as recently as February of this year. Why couldn't the Fort Worth Five have been subpoenaed to testify before that grand jury in New York