WILKES-BARRE — A pool of potential jurors nearly 200-strong will populate the Luzerne County Courthouse Friday for seating of a county investigative grand jury.
Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis last month filed paperwork to summon the grand jury, a “first-of-its-kind” panel designed to pursue results in criminal cases hung up by witnesses hesitant to talk to investigators or face potential defendants in a courtroom, she said.
Salavantis told the Times Leader in May that the seating of the grand jury would provide “another avenue to help us investigate these crimes happening in our county,” largely by granting anonymity to witnesses fearful of retaliation.
Salavantis on Thursday declined to discuss specific details of the selection process in great detail due to the secretive nature of the grand jury, but said court administrators had mailed out numerous summonses instructing county residents to appear Friday and Monday.
Those who received a summons can expect an experience similar to the county Court of Common Pleas’ jury selection process, she said. If selected to the 38-person panel, including alternates, should expect to serve no more than two days per month over an 18-month term. It is unknown where the grand jury would convene.
Cases that could go before the grand jury have been identified and are being discussed with law enforcement, Salavantis said.
“We don’t know exactly what cases will be going through (to the grand jury) so you can’t be as specific,” Salavantis said.
Separate from the courts, grand juries are legal bodies empowered to hear evidence as presented by prosecutors, typically to determine whether it has enough merit or provides enough reasonable cause to bring criminal charges against a defendant. Proceedings are generally closed to the public, with only necessary parties and court personnel present.
Luzerne County Judge Fred A. Pierantoni III will supervise the grand jury, and will work alongside the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office.