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Zicarelli v. The New Jersey State Commission of Investigation

Vagueness Of The Statute

Next, the Court addressed Zicarelli's contention that the term "responsive" in the commission's grant of immunity was unconstitutionally vague and would allow the commission to decide which of Zicarelli's answers would be subject to immunity. The Court rejected this claim:

The term "responsive" in ordinary English usage has a well-recognized meaning. It is not, as appellant argues, "so vague that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning and differ as to its application" . . . The responsiveness limitation is not a trap for the unwary; rather it is a barrier to those who would intentionally tender information not sought in an effort to frustrate and prevent criminal prosecution.

Finally, the Court dismissed Zicarelli's claim that he could not be compelled to testify because his testimony would expose him to prosecution under foreign law:

[W]e agree with the conclusion of the Supreme Court of New Jersey that appellant was never in real danger of being compelled to disclose information that might incriminate him under foreign law. Even if appellant has international Cosa Nostra responsibilities, he could have answered this question truthfully without disclosing them. Should he have found it necessary to qualify his answer by confining it to domestic responsibilities in order to avoid incrimination under foreign law, he could have done so. To have divulged international responsibilities would have been to volunteer information not sought, and apparently not relevant to the Commission's investigation. We think that in the circumstances of the questioning this was clear to appellant and his counsel.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972Zicarelli v. The New Jersey State Commission of Investigation - Significance, The Supreme Court Ruling, The Issue Of Immunity, Vagueness Of The Statute