VPD review finds old case, increases workload for grand jurors|[5/1/05]

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 2, 2005

A review of investigations by the Vicksburg Police Department has resulted in an unusually large number of cases to be presented to grand jurors.

The second of four annual Warren County grand jury terms is to begin Monday, and evidence in 116 cases is to be heard by the panel that is selected, District Attorney Gil Martin said. In contrast, 68 cases were heard by the last grand jury convened, in January.

Eighty of the cases being introduced this week, or about 70 percent, have been investigated by the VPD. The total is about twice the normal number submitted by the VPD and includes many cases that are relatively old, Police Chief Tommy Moffett said.

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“We reviewed our cases,” Moffett said. “We had some that we didn’t take to the last grand jury that needed to go.”

Moffett added that the review will also probably result in more than the usual number of cases’ being presented to the county’s next scheduled grand jury, in July.

“They’ve gone back and gotten us the files and we’re happy to have them,” Martin said. “Some had to be presented or dismissed.”

Charges in the cases to be presented include about 30 involving the possession, sale, possession with intent to distribute or manufacture of cocaine, marijuana, crystal methamphetamine or heroin; about 27 involving burglary or grand larceny; about 15 involving fraud, forgery, embezzlement, false pretense, identity theft or money-laundering; five each involving aggravated assault and a third or subsequent offense of driving under the influence of alcohol; four involving a third or subsequent offense of shoplifting; and fewer than five involving rape, statutory rape, sexual battery, shooting at a vehicle and possession of a weapon after a felony conviction.

Because of the volume of cases, the grand jury is expected to take until Friday to complete its work, Martin said. Between 18 and about 21 grand jurors are selected from among those who are asked to report to the courthouse. The potential jurors are selected randomly from the county’s voter roll.

Grand jurors hear evidence in criminal cases and decide in each whether enough evidence exists for it to proceed to trial and, if so, on which charge or charges. They may return indictments against defendants on a specific charge or charges or decline to indict.

Grand jurors are also charged with investigating and reporting on matters of public interest and their sessions generally include tours of public buildings and presentations from public officials.

The grand jury is to be presided over by Judge Frank Vollor and is expected to complete its session by Friday afternoon.

The criminal cases not presented by the VPD are to be presented by the Warren County Sheriff’s Department, with 14 cases; the worthless check unit of the district attorney’s office, with 13; the Mississippi Highway Patrol, with five; the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, with two; and the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, with two.