County in regional grand jury

Published 3:10 pm Thursday, August 24, 2017

Prince Edward County is a participating locality of a recently-formed multijurisdictional grand jury based in Powhatan County, Attorney General Mark R. Herring said Monday.

Megan Clark

According to a press release from Herring’s office, other counties participating include Amelia, Goochland and Powhatan.

Officials in the release cited the multijurisdictional grand jury was an investigative body of 7-11 citizens from the participating counties charged by the Supreme Court of Virginia to investigate and consider bills of indictment involving crimes originating in and between participating jurisdictions and throughout Virginia, which could prove helpful in situations involving gang violence, child exploitation, human trafficking, drug dealing and other crimes that cross county lines.

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“The purpose of Prince Edward joining a multijurisdictional grand jury is to enhance our investigative abilities through this unique tool for some of our more complex cases,” said Prince Edward County Commonwealth’s Attorney Megan Clark.

“The grand jury is empowered to subpoena witnesses and documents, hear evidence and determine the existence of probable cause for offense including, but not limited to: gang offenses, all drug offenses, computer crimes, murder, abduction, embezzlement, extortion, identity theft and credit card fraud, gambling offenses, bribery, felony obstruction of justice and felony cruelty to animals,” officials said in the release.

Clark said the multijurisdictional grand jury and the regular Prince Edward County Grand Jury are separate and distinct from each other.

“A regular grand jury can only determine whether probable cause exists to issue a true bill,” Clark said.

She said a regular grand jury is not an investigative body.

“The multijurisdictional grand jury serves the role of an investigative body and can also have indictments issued,” Clark said.

Offering an example, she said the multijurisdictional grand jury can interview witnesses and get transcripts of their sworn statements.

“At this point, of the crimes that the multijurisdictional grand jury can statutorily handle, I believe drug offenses will be our main focus,” Clark said. “Also, as a point of clarification, certain sexual assaults are also included in the types of cases a multijurisdictional grand jury can statutorily handle.”

She said the multijurisdictional grand jury will not hear all cases that include allegations of the crimes it is allowed to investigate. 

“As such, the vast majority of our cases will still go through our routine investigative process and regular grand jury,” Clark said.

Clark said if there is a specific case her office wants to investigate through the multijurisdictional grand jury, prosecutors who are sworn to present cases to the multijurisdictional grand jury are responsible for all questioning of witnesses and presenting all necessary evidence to the jurors.

“All of this office’s prosecutors will be sworn in and any law enforcement officer presenting a case to the grand jurors must be sworn in,” Clark said, referring to the Prince Edward Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.