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A trial court must normally hold a hearing, which is known as a "Kastigar hearing," for the purpose of allowing the government to demonstrate that it obtained all of the evidence it proposes to use from sources independent of the compelled testimony. A trial court may hold a Kastigar hearing pre-trial, post-trial, mid-trial, or it may employ some combination of these methods. A pre-trial hearing is the most common choice.
Congress established two committees charged with investigating the sales of weapons to Iran, the diversion of proceeds therefrom to rebels (or "Contras") fighting in Nicaragua, and the attempted cover-up of these activities (controversial events popularly known as "the Iran/Contra Affair"). Defendant Lieutenant Colonel Oliver L. North, a former member of the National Security Council ("NSC") staff, testified before the Iran/Contra congressional committees. North asserted his Fifth Amendment right not to testify before the committees, but the government compelled his testimony by a grant of use immunity pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 6002. North was subsequently indicted and tried on twelve counts arising from his role in the Iran/Contra affair. North was convicted on three counts: aiding and abetting an endeavor to obstruct Congress in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1505 and 2; destroying, altering, or removing official NSC documents in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2071; and accepting an illegal gratuity, consisting of a security system for his home, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 201(c)(1)(B). North argued that the government violated his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by using his immunized congressional testimony in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 6002.
Under the circumstances, was the defendant’s conviction on all three counts proper?
The court vacated the defendant's convictions on all three counts, holding that the district court failed to hold a full hearing to insure that the government made no use of the defendant's immunized congressional testimony. According to the court, the immunity granted under § 6002 was coextensive with the Fifth Amendment and prohibited the government from using compelled testimony in any respect, including to refresh witnesses' memories and to identify witnesses. The court averred that the district court was required to hold a Kastigar hearing to determine the content and sources of the witnesses' testimony. Accordingly, the court remanded the case to the district court for a Kastigar proceeding to insure that the government did not use defendant's immunized congressional testimony.