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National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers' Report on RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) Megatrials

NCJ Number
G B Lefcourt; E Horwitz
Date Published
18 pages
This report examines the problems inherent in joint trials of large numbers of defendants under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
The report alleges that the trials of large groups of defendants in RICO cases have become lengthy, difficult for judges to handle, and confusing to jurors, making it difficult to determine fairly an individual's guilt or innocence. Often, mass convictions result from these lengthy and confusing trials. Federal prosecutors are blamed for the excesses of the RICO trials because they have, in the name of efficiency, charged multiple conspiracies in a single indictment. Under RICO, the Government may link unrelated criminal activities provided it can be shown that those engaged in the unrelated activities agreed to further a common criminal enterprise. According to the report, some prosecutors have charged multiple conspiracies that lack the required unifying agreement. As a result, the due process and sixth amendment rights of many defendants have been ignored. Eight recommendations are suggested to remedy these problems. Recommendations propose judicial action by the courts and legislative actions by the Congress to ensure that large RICO indictments result in severences, thus enabling smaller and more closely related groups of defendants to have separate trials. 57 footnotes.