The Leavenworth County Attorney's Office has started using a grand jury for at least some of the county's criminal cases.

The Leavenworth County Attorney's Office has started using a grand jury for at least some of the county's criminal cases.

In March, County Attorney Todd Thompson met with Leavenworth County commissioners to review a proposal for using a grand jury to decide if cases should go to trial.

Thompson announced this past week that a grand jury has now been formed and 10 indictments have been returned so far.

"We’re pretty excited to use grand juries," Thompson said in a news release. "There is a real cost savings overall for the county. But more importantly, the citizens have a greater say in how our justice system proceeds."

Thompson said the 15 members of the grand jury were selected using a process similar to the one used to select juries for trials.

He said the grand jury can return an indictment with a consensus of 12 of the 15 jurors.

Thompson said he intends to have the grand jury meet once a month to review cases. Grand juries have six-month terms.

While grand juries are used in the federal court system, they are not that common in the state's court system.

The only other county in Kansas that uses a grand jury to regularly review cases is Shawnee County, according to Thompson.

In a case not involving a grand jury, a preliminary hearing is conducted after the defendant has been charged. A judge listens to evidence during the preliminary hearing and decides if the case should proceed.

When a grand jury has returned an indictment, a preliminary is not necessary and a case can proceed to an arraignment.

Thompson said a grand jury proceeding may require fewer witnesses than a preliminary hearing. This will cut down on the need for many witnesses to testify more than once, both at a preliminary hearing and trial.

"One of the biggest cost savings and benefits to the community is that people aren’t required to miss as much work with a grand jury or go through the stress of testifying on multiple occasions in front of the accused," Thompson said in a news release.

The County Attorney's Office handles many cases involving inmates from the Lansing Correctional Facility.

Thompson hopes the use of a grand jury also will cut down on the number of times inmates have to be transported from prison to the Justice Center for court appearances.

"Cases out of LCF require the transportation of inmates, which costs money, manpower and pose safety concerns," Thompson said in a news release.

Of the 10 indictments that have been returned by the Leavenworth County grand jury, six involve LCF inmates, according to Thompson.

The county attorney said he plans to still use preliminary hearings for some cases. He said testimony given during a preliminary hearing can be preserved for use during future hearings. This is not the case with testimony from a grand jury hearing.

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