Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman has empaneled an investigative grand jury, the fifth-ever in the county, to hear testimony in unsolved major crimes.
The grand jury – which has subpoena power, but not indictment ability – will begin hearing cases in Lancaster County Court this month.
Thirty Lancaster County residents were recently selected, by a county judge, to serve on the panel. Sessions will be held monthly, with 23 jurors typically sitting at each hearing; 15 are required for a quorum.
A grand jury has unique subpoena powers in that witness subpoenaed to testify could be jailed in contempt of court, if uncooperative.
District Attorney Stedman said only unsolved homicides and other major crimes will be taken before the grand jury. Cases, including unsolved homicides, are already lined up for testimony.
However, we are not disclosing which cases, per grand-jury laws.
“I would classify all of them as major-crime investigations which have more or less come to an impasse for whatever reason,” Stedman said Tuesday. “These cases could benefit from testimony from witnesses previously unwilling to fully cooperate and tell what they know.”
The grand jury, the second Stedman has empaneled, is expected to convene for 18 months. Prosecutors have the option of requesting an additional six months, which the panel would have to approve.
The public is not allowed to sit in on the proceedings. All involved are sworn to secrecy.
“Ideally, we are hoping this session brings charges and closure to victims seeking justice,” Stedman said. “At the least, we expect advancement in cases. A previously-unknown detail or two can provide police what they need to move a case forward.
“The simple truth is we have an obligation to do all we can to solve these cases.”
A Lancaster County judge will be available for consultation, but will not sit in court for sessions.
Previous grand juries were empaneled in 1995, 2001, 2005, and 2011.
Among notable cases aided by past grand-jury testimony were:
– Holly Steffy and Jose Colon: Charged after the most recent grand jury with neglecting and abusing a 3-month-old girl in 2008. Steffy and Colon are serving state prison terms.
– Micah Stewart: From the 2005 panel, Stewart was convicted in 2006 of first-degree murder for killing Cortney Fry, a 19-year-old mother, in Columbia in 2004.
– Angel Irizarry, Guillermo Polanco, and Osvaldo Rodriguez: Also from the 2005 panel, the three men eventually pleaded guilty for the killing of 21-year-old Jaimen L. Cooper in a city drive-by shooting in 2000.
– Omar Diaz-Martinez and Alberto Garcia-Hernandez: From the 2001 panel, the pair were charged with killing Frederick Miller, with a broken golf club, in a city alley in 1998.