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grand juries & aeta suck. scott and carrie rock

December 14, 2009

Below is a letter I wrote to prosecutors and judges in support of Scott DeMuth after he and Carrie Feldman were jailed for refusing to testify to a grand jury. I do not post my letter for Scott because I feel his case is more important than Carrie’s, his just has the added aspect of academic freedom attached and I know some of my readers are academics.

I am not writing a long post about AETA or grand juries since I think many of my readers are well aware of what they are, but for those that aren’t I am hoping this letter will pique your interest in learning more about grand juries and the Animal Enterprise Terrorist Act. If, however, there is general interest in having lady Vegina give you a school girl type summary essay on these topics just leave a post and let me know because I am happy to post one.

I am also very much hoping that this letter will make you interested in Scott and Carrie’s situation. You can follow their cases, sign petitions for them and write Carrie letters while she is in jail. Below the letter are links to all things AETA, grand jury, Scott and Carrie.

Letter In Support of Scott DeMuth

I am writing this letter in support of Scott DeMuth, who was jailed following his refusal to testify in a grand jury hearing and his refusal to reveal the identities of people he has interviewed for his doctoral research.  He has also been charged under the Animal Enterprise Terrorist Act (AETA). I urge you to drop all charges against Mr. DeMuth. As individuals who are sworn to uphold the law and the constitution you must drop all charges for multiple reasons: grand juries are abhorrent infringements on basic civil liberties, scholar-subject confidentiality is of the utmost importance for the continued production of scholarly knowledge, the AETA is an unjust law that violates the most basic of First Amendment rights and, most importantly, Scott DeMuth has done nothing wrong.

Mr. DeMuth made the only moral, ethical and responsible decision that he could in the face of the grand jury—he protected those to whom he had promised confidentiality. As a sociologist, he followed his profession’s code of ethics:

Section 11.01:
Sociologists have an obligation to protect confidential information and not allow information gained in confidence from being used in ways that would unfairly compromise research participants, students, employees, clients, or others.

Section 11.06:
Sociologists do not disclose confidential, personally identifiable information concerning their research participants, other recipients of their service, which is obtained during the course of their work.

–The American Sociological Association’s Code of Ethics

Not only did Mr. DeMuth make the only ethical decision allowed him as a sociologist, he made the only ethical decision he could as an American. Grand Juries have become fishing expeditions; the way they have been used against animal rights and earth liberation activists is the modern-day equivalent of the Salem Witch Trials. As someone who studies and understands these movements, as well as U.S. Native American Movements, Mr. DeMuth understood that his persecution is part of a massive assault aimed at quieting dissent.  He had no moral or ethical choice open to him but to remain silent and protect his subjects’ confidentiality.

Though those who favor grand juries argue they are required under the Fifth Amendment, they actually take away Fifth Amendment rights to protect one’s own interests and to be tried fairly in a court of law.  To testify in a process that flies in the face of democracy would be tantamount to treason. Mr. DeMuth’s actions are wholly American and he should not be prosecuted for refusing to testify to the grand jury.

Neither should Mr. DeMuth be tried under the Animal Enterprise Terrorist Act. The AETA violates First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and has allowed for Mr. DeMuth to be unfairly targeted for his ties to the animal rights movement.  The AETA is overbroad and has no function other than to stifle protest and protect business interests. Labeling Mr. DeMuth a terrorist and charging him under this law is a fear-mongering tactic that violates our justice system, depletes a necessary sense of academic freedom, quells citizens’ rights to free speech and insults actual victims of terrorism.

Persecuting Mr. DeMuth to quiet a movement will not work. It will destroy this man’s life and the only possible good to come of it will be that this injustice will alert the academic community to that which the animal rights community is already aware—the abhorrent abuse of power that comes with both grand juries and the AETA. Mr. DeMuth has proven that he is a brave and principled man who will not betray the confidence of his allies or research participants at any price; prosecuting him will serve only to injure an individual who has been nothing but honorable.

I urge you to drop all charges against Scott DeMuth. He has done nothing but be a good sociologist, a good American and a good person.

More Info:

Here is a quick read about Grand Juries

Here is a citation for a long (but good) read about Grand Juries:  Leipold, A.D. (1994-1995) “Why Grand Juries Do Not (and Cannot) Protect the Accused.” Cornell Law Review 80: p. 260.

Great information about AETA (and why it sucks)

Follow Scott and Carrie’s case

Statement from Scott, following his release for contempt (he is still awaiting trial under AETA)

Interview with Carrie following her refusal to testify to the grand jury

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2009 6:50 pm

    What an impressive letter. It was clearly well thought out and you had great evidence to back up your points.

    Too many people let their emotions get in the way of making a coherent argument but clearly you don’t have that problem!

    • December 16, 2009 7:14 pm

      I think the real problem (and the reason Scott and Carrie are in jail to being with) is that too many people let $$$ get in the way of thinking coherently!

      And thanks for the compliment. This is about the 15th draft. The first dozen involved a lot of name-calling 😉

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