A Virginia judge ordered Chelsea Manning taken into custody for failing to testify before a grand jury

We agree that the grand jury system is not the ideal system it was designed to be

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Chelsea Manning

A Virginia judge ordered Chelsea Manning taken into custody for failing to testify before a grand jury. If she decided to testify the court would release her. Otherwise, Manning will be locked up until the grand jury has completed their work on the case.

Manning has previously served prison time when she was found guilty in 2013 for charges including espionage for turning over secret and classified documents to Wikileaks. At the time Manning was a US intelligence analyst. Her sentence was later commuted  by President Obama.

Manning said she shared everything she knows during her court-martial. “I will not comply with this, or any other grand jury,” Manning said in a statement.

OUR FREE OPINION

We find Manning’s decision not to testify before the grand jury puzzling. She has said that the grand jury system is objectionable and not a fair system. We agree that the grand jury process is not the ideal system it was designed to be. For example, grand jurors meet in private with the prosecutor who controls the proceedings. Defense lawyers are not permitted to be in the room. The framers of the constitution incorporated the right of a grand jury into the fifth amendment—the intent was to place some distance between an over-powering government and a suspect. That is not the way it works today—it is more of a rubber-stamp formality. It has been said that a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich.

So there is some merit to Manning’s concerns, but she is not making a meaningful challenge to the process by not testifying. She will accomplish nothing and likely remain in jail.

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