ATLANTA (AP) — When potential grand jurors show up at an Atlanta courthouse on Monday, they will find a television camera in the room and closed streets outside — a nod to the intense interest from the public for the investigation into whether former President Donald Trump and others unlawfully tried to pressure Georgian officials to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election in the state.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis took the unusual step of requesting a special grand jury for the inquest, and selection for that panel begins Monday.
The constitution of a grand jury – even a rare special grand jury – is a routine process with generally little public interest. But the appetite for any news about the case prompted the court to make accommodations so that at least parts of the grand jury’s selection would be released to the public. Although there are cameras in the room, they will not be allowed to show potential grand jurors.
The investigation into potential attempts to influence Georgia’s 2020 general election began early last year. Willis asked the county superior court chief judge in January to appoint a special grand jury. She wrote in a letter that her office had information indicating a “reasonable likelihood” of “possible criminal disruption” in the administration of this election.
The chief judge’s order says the special grand jury is to sit for up to a year, beginning Monday. Unlike a regular grand jury, which hears many different cases and can issue indictments, a special grand jury focuses on investigating a single subject and produces a report on its findings. The district attorney then decides whether or not to seek an indictment by a regular grand jury.
Former Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter, who convened a special grand jury about 15 years ago, said the process for appointing a special grand jury was much the same as that of an ordinary grand jury. It is made up of 16 to 23 people who are called from the county’s master juror roll.
The judge will make sure potential grand jurors are qualified — over 18, Fulton County residents and have not been convicted of a crime — and then hear from people who want to be excused for any reason or reason. other.
Unlike jury selection for a trial, where there are two teams of lawyers trying to unearth bias and prejudice, there is no defense attorney in this process because no one has yet been charged. Anyone tuning in to watch shouldn’t expect to hear potential grand jurors questioned at length about their political leanings or views on Trump.
“There’s no excuse for bias or prejudice,” Porter said. “In that case, I would suspect that if someone walked in with a MAGA hat, they would probably excuse it. But the investigation of their prejudice or prejudice is very, very limited in the selection of a grand jury.
Once the special grand jury is seated, the cameras will have to go – all grand jury proceedings are secret. But Willis said in her letter to the chief justice that one of the reasons she wants a special grand jury is to issue subpoenas to witnesses who refused to cooperate without one.
Willis confirmed his team was reviewing a January 2021 phone call in which Trump pushed Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the votes needed for him to win the state. She also said they were considering a November 2020 phone call between U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and Raffensperger, the U.S. attorney’s abrupt resignation in Atlanta on Jan. 4, 2021, and comments made during Georgia Legislative Committee hearings from December 2020 on the election.
A Trump spokesperson previously called the investigation a politically motivated “witch hunt.” Graham also denied any wrongdoing.
In a separate investigation in New York, Trump is appealing rulings executing a subpoena for his testimony and holding him in contempt of court for failing to turn over documents in a civil investigation that the US Attorney General’s Office says. State, uncovered evidence it may have misreported the value of skyscrapers and other assets for more than a decade.
Trump’s attorneys argue that Attorney General Letitia James is using the civil investigation to gather information that could then be used against the former president in a parallel criminal investigation overseen by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. James and Bragg are both Democrats.
Bragg says the criminal investigation is continuing despite a shake-up in the direction of the investigation. So far, that has only resulted in benefits-related tax evasion charges against the Trump Organization and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. Both pleaded not guilty.
Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak in New York contributed reporting.
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