Senate committee scraps grand jury corruption investigations

Posted June 28, 2016

— The Senate Rules Committee scrapped a measure Tuesday that would have allowed prosecutors to use grand juries when investigating political corruption cases.

"It's gone," said committee Chairman Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson. "We're not doing investigative grand juries while I'm here."

The measure, which has already passed the House and got an initial nod from the Senate Judiciary Committee, would have allowed district attorneys and prosecutors working for the Attorney General's Office to compel witnesses to testify in cases of bribery or public corruption.

"Accusations of public corruption are often difficult to prove, and law enforcement and prosecutors need better tools to root out wrong doing by government officials," Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a news release last week. "Investigative grand juries can help uncover the truth and restore faith in government."

The lack of an investigative grand jury, Cooper argued, has left the state hamstrung and often reliant on federal officials, who can turn to that tool. In his news release, Cooper pointed to recent public corruption cases in which state officials such as former governor staffers and former House Speaker Jim Black were convicted of bribery and related charges.

Asked whether the bill was killed by because Cooper, a Democrat, favors it and is running against Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, Apodaca said no. He said that, in his view, investigative grand juries "can be very dangerous" and wielded for political purposes. He pointed to former Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong as a prosecutor who had abused his discretion.

Asked whether the "danger" might apply to lawmakers, who could become the subject of such grand jury investigations, Apodaca again said no.

"There's plenty of statutes to deal with us," he said.


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