Federal prosecutors on Monday took the rare step of agreeing to the release of historic grand jury testimony — the nearly 60-year-old statements of witnesses in Ethel and Julius Rosenberg’s espionage case.
If a U.S. District Court judge agrees to the government’s offer, it would mean the first public airing of the statements of 35 case witnesses who have either died or agreed to let out their secret testimony. The non-profit National Security Archive and others in January petitioned for all the records, including the testimony of 10 more witnesses who are still alive.
The Rosenbergs, convicted of spying for the Soviet Union, were executed in 1953 at Sing Sing prison in New York.
Georgetown Law Professor David C. Vladeck told The New York Times it is the first time he can remember, after his numerous attempts in different cases, that the government has agreed to release old grand jury records.
“The government has always, prior to this filing, taken the position that there is no precedent, historical or otherwise, that would merit a release,” Vladeck told The Times. In its paperwork filed Monday, the government agreed that the unusual historical value of the Rosenberg case justified a break from standard grand jury secrecy, according to The Associated Press.
A hearing on the documents’ release is scheduled for July 22.