Prosecutor praises new grand jury

LOUISA COUNTY, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- One of the prosecutors involved in a new multijurisdiction grand jury in Central Virginia says the tool will be used in a variety of serious crimes and gives jurors more power than a standard grand jury.

"[They] can subpoena records, they can bring evidence in, they ask questions just like the prosecutor," said Louisa County Commonwealth's Attorney Rustry McGuire.

Louisa is partnered with five other counties, Albemarle, Culpeper, Fluvanna, Madison and Spotsylvania in the multijurisdiction grand jury. It will draw jurors from all the counties and meet in Albemarle County Circuit Court.

Unlike a regular grand jury, which meets every other month to issue indictments in a single jurisdiction, the multijurisdiction grand jury may meet many times over months for the same case. It can bring charges in any of the jurisdictions represented. It can also share information with jurisdictions that are not represented.

McGuire said the new grand jury will only handle serious crimes including those involving fraud, drug distribution, gangs and murder.

"It gives the chance for the grand jury to hear from the witnesses, evaluate t heir credibility, seek documents before making a decision whether to proceed on a charge," he said.

McGuire said an invitation to join the multijurisdiction grand jury was issued to all Commonwealth's Attorneys in Central Virginia, but not all accepted.

Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman said he declined.

"We are comfortable and think for our purposes we have been well served by the mix of tools available to law enforcement to get at the issues of narcotics trafficking, violence in connection with that, and special investigations where the need has arisen," he said.

Chapman said those tools include the JADE Task Force, the willingness to ask for the empaneling of a special grand jury in certain cases, and the ability to utilize the federal grand jury of the U.S. Attorney's Office.

McGuire said the new multijurisdiction grand jury, which required approval by the Virginia Supreme Court, was spearheaded by Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Tracci.

Both Tracci and McGuire had experience in the federal court system where investigative grand juries are standard.

"In our system, we really don't get that sort of investigative nature," he said. "So we look forward to that opportunity to make the community safer through the multijurisdictional grand jury."

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