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Willingess to serve

Our Opinion

Douglas County is looking for 17 good people to serve on the first grand jury of the millennium.

Clerk Barbara Reed was asked Thursday by the county’s district judges to find 36 willing residents who can make a commitment of up to a year or longer. Out of that pool, 17 will chosen by the judges as jurors and alternates.

The grand jury is empowered by law to inquire into the management of county departments and districts, the case of anyone jailed in Douglas County without charges or criminal complaints filed and any public offense which could be tried in District Court.

Residents who want the grand jury to poke its collective nose into county issues – and we suspect there will be a few who do – are required to sign their requests. That’s to eliminate what Judge David Gamble calls witch hunts and rumor-mongering.

Jurors will be selected from the county’s 2000 jury pool. Service on the grand jury is voluntary – you don’t have to manufacture a reason to be excused. On the other hand, you can’t volunteer. Once a pool is chosen, the judges make the final decision about who serves.

A grand jury is a rare occurrence in Douglas County. The last one was impaneled in 1993, and before that, it was 1988.

Grand jury proceedings are secret, but interim reports may be released. When the work is complete, the jury issues a comprehensive report and recommendations.

With the expansion of the Internet, computer owners probably will able to download personal copies.

It would be an interesting exercise to dig out a copy of the 1994 report and see if county officials took the grand jury recommendations to heart. It would also be a good starting point for the 2000 grand jury.