News Release

Statement of Alan Silber, Lawyers Assistance Strike Force Committees for The Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Washington, DC­ (November 5, 2007) – Alan Silber, representing the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (VACDL) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), today issued the following statement in response to the Circuit Court’s unsealing of a misdemeanor indictment alleging that Charlottesville criminal defense lawyer Deborah C. Wyatt violated Virginia common law by informing the grand jury of her availability as a witness on behalf of her client:

“The prosecution of attorney Deborah Wyatt for zealous and competent representation of her client before a grand jury can only be described as an attempt to co-opt the grand jury as an exclusive tool of the prosecution and isolate it from the community. A Virginia grand jury is a body of the people that sits to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to go forward with a criminal charge.

“It is important to remember that the grand jury is empowered to investigate and evaluate evidence on its own initiative, independent of the Commonwealth Attorney. To make the jurors aware that some evidence exists, that the Commonwealth Attorney may choose not to present, facilitates the interests of justice. In Virginia, the grand jury does not belong to the prosecution, and the Commonwealth’s effort in this case to appropriate it must be rejected and the indictment dismissed. If the court were to find that this indictment passes constitutional muster would extinguish the noble purpose of Virginia’s statutes governing grand juries and of the grand jury’s historic role as a body of the people.

“Furthermore, if Ms. Wyatt’s conduct is deemed to be a crime under Virginia law, then legitimate efforts by criminal defense attorneys to place potentially exculpatory evidence before grand juries through sworn testimony will be chilled, and grand juries will be hindered in the performance of their historic function to shield innocent citizens from overzealous use of the criminal process by prosecutors.”

Ms. Wyatt is represented in this matter by attorney John K. Zwerling, of Alexandria, Va. His contact information is below.

Alan Silber, Esq., is a member of the VACDL and NACDL Lawyers Assistance Strike Force Committees, and joined Ms. Wyatt’s counsel in the motion to unseal the indictment. He may be reached at (973) 992-5300, or by e-mail, asilber@whbesqs.com.  

A copy of the motion to dismiss the indictment may be obtained from counsel for Ms. Wyatt, John K. Zwerling, Esq., (703) 684-8000, or by e-mail, jz@zwerling.com.   

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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.