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Douglas County grand jury pool is filling up

Christy Chalmers

Douglas County’s prospective grand juror pool is slowly but steadily filling up.

Clerk-Treasurer Barbara Reed said Monday her office is sending out another 50 questionnaires to potential grand jurors this week. Three earlier group mailings have netted a 65 to 70 percent response rate, but not the 36 willing participants that are needed.

“We’re a little over halfway there,” said Reed. “I’m hoping by the end of July we will be able to say we are ready to subpoena the minimum number of 36 for the judges to interview.”

District Judges Dave Gamble and Michael Gibbons issued an order to begin assembling a grand jury May 3. They say the jury will be asked to review county operations, not in response to any particular issue but because Douglas County hasn’t had a grand jury convened since the last one met throughout 1993 and 1994.

Reed’s office began mailing questionnaires to prospective jurors in May. Grand jury service is optional because of the time commitment – the members may meet weekly for a year or more – so residents are free to opt out. Prospective jurors are picked from the regular jury pool, consisting of licensed drivers and registered voters.

The questionnaires are sent out in batches of 50. Reed said she anticipates at least one more group mailing, bringing the number for the 2000 grand jury selection process to five.

The response rate is “not as high as we had hoped,” Reed said, but noted the last grand jury process also required four or five batches of questionnaires. She hopes to submit the names of 36 people who are definitely interested in serving, plus some who have indicated a borderline interest.

After that, the judges will interview the prospective jurors and decide who to impanel. Seventeen people, plus a few alternates, will be chosen.