District attorney to seat another grand jury

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— Fourteenth Judicial District Attorney Brett Barkey again wants another tool at his disposal to investigate tough cases.

Potential members of the grand jury likely already have received their summonses in the mail. From that pool, Barkey in May will select the 12 members and four alternates who will serve a year-long term.

Barkey on Tuesday briefed the Routt County Board of Commissioners about the grand jury during an update on happenings at the District Attorney’s Office.

“It’s an excellent tool for some of the cases that are coming,” Barkey said.

This will be the second time Barkey has seated a grand jury. He said no cases were brought to the grand jury this past year, but he anticipated using the jury this year.

Grand juries aid prosecutors by helping them investigate cases. They have the ability to subpoena documents as well as witnesses to testify in advance of a trial. Grand juries meet in secret and have the ability to indict people if they find probable cause that a crime was committed. They also can signal to prosecutors the strength of a particular case.

“For us, it’s a great opportunity to run the other side’s case,” Barkey said.

Traditionally, the Routt County District Attorney’s Office has done its own investigations and filed its own charges.

The jurors will be selected from Routt, Moffat and Grand counties, which make up the 14th Judicial District.

After Barkey seated the first grand jury in March 2013, Routt County Public Defender Sheryl Uhlmann wrote in a letter that grand juries can be powerful tools, “but just as with all powerful tools, grand juries are subject to abuse.”

Uhlmann’s letter outlined the rights that people have, specifically for those who receive a subpoena to testify before the grand jury.

“Even if properly subpoenaed, a person required to testify before the grand jury is entitled to the assistance of counsel during the time they are being questioned and, if they cannot afford counsel, is entitled to have the court appoint a lawyer for them without cost,” Uhlmann wrote. “Finally, a person also may refuse to answer questions for ‘just cause’ (for example, physician/patient privilege or spousal privilege) and always has the right to remain silent and to refuse to answer questions that may incriminate them.”

Routt County commissioners questioned Barkey about the costs associated with having a grand jury. Barkey said hiring a person to transcribe the proceedings is one of the biggest costs that can run thousands of dollars, but it recently became clear that his office does not have to pick up the tab. Those costs now are covered by the Colorado State Judicial Branch, Barkey said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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