Law Clerk Sat In On Grand Jury

MOUNDSVILLE – Marshall County Prosecutor Jeff Cramer said concerns about this month’s grand jury can be “quite easily remediated” if challenges are made by defendants and their attorneys.

During the grand jury session March 12, indictments against 23 individuals were handed down with their cases set to be handled by Marshall County Chief Circuit Judge Mark A. Karl. Prior to the grand jury session, Cramer was asked by Karl if his law clerk could observe its proceedings.

“I agreed with (Karl) that it may be a valuable learning opportunity” for the clerk, Cramer said.

Cramer said Wednesday that the clerk observed the grand jury proceedings from the back of the courtroom, including the reading of the proposed indictments. He stressed that the clerk was not present while the grand jury deliberated and did not speak to the jurors at any point.

After the grand jury decided on the 23 indictments and finished proceedings, however, Cramer said he realized the clerk’s presence could be an issue that could be challenged by the defendants. He said he immediately contacted the attorneys for each of the defendants “out of a sense of fairness” and let them know about the clerk’s presence.

During docket day proceedings Tuesday, the defendants were presented with their indictments, and Cramer said at this point the cases will proceed as usual. However, if a defendant were to challenge their indictment based on the clerk’s presence, it could be handled by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

“The issue is one which is quite easily remediated,” Cramer said. “Cases which are not resolved prior to the July term of the grand jury will simply be re-presented to the grand jury, and these indictments will be superceded by indictments without the issue.”

Additionally, Cramer said he would not call a special grand jury to hear the cases, which would not cause an additional expense. He said defendants also would have the right to have their cases considered by way of an information, in which the charges are heard directly by the court.

“It is an issue which I’m sure the defense attorneys will discuss with their respective clients,” Cramer said. “They will have to decide whether to challenge the validity of the indictments based upon the issue, or they may choose to proceed under these indictments to work toward a resolution or trial of the matter.”

Cramer said despite the snag, the cases will not be prosecuted any differently by his office. Karl could not be reached for comment Wednesday.