Q&A: Grand juries

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From the North Vernon Sun and North Vernon Plain Dealer:

Q: Do you have any guidance on covering a grand jury? I know everything is secret, so what can we report? 

A: First off, you won’t get any records concerning the grand jury until it’s done. Then you can only get the report with its listing of indictments, if any.

You can’t attend the grand jury proceedings and shouldn’t expect any comments from the circuit court judge and prosecutor.

If you have someone hanging around outside the courtroom, the reporter can talk to any witnesses that enter or leave the grand jury proceedings.

A witness can talk about what they said but shouldn’t comment on what anyone else in the room said.

In other words, there’s not a lot of information available from a grand jury.

If you do have information about the grand jury proceedings, you can print it if you’re comfortable with it being true.

If someone is leaking information to you and you print it, worst-case scenario would be the prosecutor delivering a subpoena to you for records to determine who conducted the leak.

Reporter’s privilege laws prohibit a court from compelling you to testify about a source of news. (It doesn’t have to be a confidential source.)

So whether the prosecutor would even make the attempt depends on how angry he or she might be.

Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.

 

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