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Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2014

County convenes grand jury

Sunday, August 1, 2004

(Photo)
Scott County has convened its first grand jury since the early 1970s.
BENTON - For the first time in over a decade, a grand jury has been convened in Scott County.

"The grand jury has been picked," confirmed Scott County Prosecutor Paul Boyd. "It was finally put in place Wednesday."

The last time a grand jury was formed in Scott County was around 1992 or 1993, according to Boyd.

Those sworn in for this grand jury will serve for the entire June term, which ends Dec. 31.

"The grand jury is a body of citizens selected by the court to conduct two functions under Missouri law," Boyd said. "First, the jury hears evidence and determines whether there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed and whether a specific defendant may have committed the crime. Secondly, the jury has the duty to inspect government buildings and report on their conditions."

While the grand jury will fulfill both functions while convened, it was formed mostly for the court functions, Boyd said.

"They are very useful to the prosecutor in ongoing drug investigations," he said.

In the summer of 2000, a grand jury was formed in Mississippi County, Mississippi County Prosecutor Jennifer B. Raffety recalled: "It was very successful."

Raffety said nearly all of the indictments put together during the grand jury's four months resulted in convictions.

"I presented to the grand jury 40 drug cases with the assistance of the SEMO Drug Task Force, and five cases of various sex crimes involving child victims," she said.

Raffety agreed that grand juries are a great tool for the prosecution. "I would prefer to have a grand jury convened in Mississppi County all the time," she said.

Having a grand jury in place both simplifies and shortens the prosecution process, Raffety said.

She agreed with Boyd that grand juries are particularly useful for drug cases as confidential informants and undercover law enforcement officers "can remain unknown for a longer period of time - without the grand jury, they have to testify in open court during the preliminary, and they can't be used undercover anymore."

"And with witnesses who have been victims, it is often less traumatic for them to testify about the crimes done to them before a grand jury than in open court, Raffety added.

As grand juries must be paid when they meet and reimbursed mileage for travel, Raffety said she believes it is a cost issue preventing more frequent use of grand juries.