Laehn convening grand jury Tuesday

Thomas Laehn

Greene County attorney Thomas Laehn is convening a grand jury Tuesday not because there’s something amiss in the county, but because he can, because he should, and because it hasn’t been done in recent years.

Laehn, who was a university professor before he was a lawyer, often educates the county supervisors on various points of law. Monday’s lesson was on grand juries.

“The people of Greene County are the highest authority in the county. We all work for the people of Greene County,” Laehn said, and explained the grand jury as one way oversight is exercised. By the Code of Iowa, a grand jury should be in existence at all times.

A grand jury can force the county attorney to either indict or release someone held in the county jail without being charged. The grand jury can inspect the county jail, and have it closed if it’s determined to be deficient. Finally, the grand jury has the power to investigate unlawful conduct by any elected official in the county, Laehn explained.

A county attorney can also convene a grand jury if he or she wants input about the general feeling of the community. He gave an example of an alcoholic woman whose child drowned while she was intoxicated and caring for the child. The woman was repentant and suicidal because of the event, and the county attorney was uncertain whether she should file a charge of manslaughter against the grieving mother. In that case, the grand jury advised the attorney to charge the woman.

Laehn said he sees nothing in the foreseeable future that would require a grand jury, but he wants one selected to meet legal requirements and to be available should a need arise.
The grand jury will be selected the same was as the jury in a criminal or civil case. A pool of potential jurors will be called in and seven will be selected to serve on the grand jury.

The grand jury will be convened Tuesday at 1:15 pm in the courtroom at the courthouse.

A review of claims paid by the county for stipends paid members of grand jury shows the last time a grand jury was called in Greene County was February 2009.

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