An Oklahoma businessman gave statements to banks about his assets and income in connection with loan requests. A federal grand jury indicted him because the statements were meant to mislead the banks. The U.S. attorney knew the man had made the same statements in previous bankruptcy proceedings and for tax purposes, and that he kept his own books in accordance with the accounting principles upon which his statements to the banks seemed based. This could have been interpreted to mean he had no criminal intent in his dealings with the banks.
The U.S. attorney withheld that information from the grand jurors. After being indicted, the businessman asked a district court to dismiss on the grounds that previous court rulings called for prosecutors to provide a grand jury all "substantial exculpatory evidence" when seeking indictment. The district court so ruled and was upheld by the court of appeals. This
month, the Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that the U.S. attorney did not have to give grand jurors such evidence.
This sends the message to prosecutors that they may turn grand juries into even more rubber stamps than they are now. And are they ever. A Maryland prosecutor says of his and his colleagues' record with grand juries that they are "in the Ivory soap category." They get an indictment 99 and 44/100 percent of the time. A slight exaggeration, but a lawyer in another state who writes frequently about grand juries for professional journals says that in many of the rare instances where indictments are not returned it is because the prosecutors don't really want them -- police misconduct and other politically unpopular cases. So even lopsided statistics don't tell the full story.