Raleigh County Prosecutor makes changes to grand jury due to COVID-19

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BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Three times a year in Raleigh County, Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller and her office collect police reports and evidence, and finds 16 jurors to sit on a grand jury.
The prosecuting attorneys present their case to the jury, and they decide if the criminal charges should be brought against the defendant.

Typically, they present about 140 cases, but the May grand jury was cancelled by the Supreme Court this year due to COVID-19 concerns, which means they will present double the amount of cases in this September jury.

“We’ve combined the May cancelled grand jury and this normal September grand jury. So we have about 295 cases to present to the grand jury,” Keller said.

That is why this grand jury will last about two weeks. They also had to completely change the process because of the virus.

“It’s all experimental because we are trying to figure out how to do this effectively, and efficiently accomplish the grand jury function, while also keeping everyone safe,” Keller explained.

They moved from the judicial annex to the old courthouse room, since it is much larger. Law enforcement officers who will present their evidence will sit in a conference room. Everyone in the courtroom is at least six feet apart and they are required to wear masks.

“We have 16 grand jurors by law and they are spread out way more than six feet apart,” Keller said.

In past grand juries, the prosecuting attorney would present all cases over a course of a few days, and the grand jury would deliver their decisions at the very end. However, with this grand jury, they will deliver their decisions to the judge at the end of each day.

“If for any reason, someone had a family member who tested positive or if any of the grand jurors had any other problems, these indictments that are being returned every day are done,” Keller explained.

That way they can replace that juror for the following day, and continue their jury.

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