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The Sanpete Messenger

Panel of judges will visit Sanpete to hear confidential testimony of crimes

Panel of judges will visit Sanpete to hear confidential testimony of crimes

 

Robert Stevens

Managing editor

9-15-2016

 

MANTI—Five judges drawn from the state’s judicial ranks will gather at the Sanpete County Courthouse in Manti on Oct. 13 to receive confidential testimony from any resident who believes he or she has information about criminal activity that hasn’t been acted on by local law enforcement.

“The purpose of this panel of judges is to listen to any claims there might be regarding criminal conduct, said Debra Moore, administrator of district courts for the Utah Administrative Office of the Courts. “If someone has a claim that someone committed a crime, the panel will listen to that and decide whether or not there is good cause to call a grand jury.”

The hearing, which will be from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., happens in each judicial district once every three years and is thanks to Utah’s Grand Jury Statute.

The statute requires a panel of judges to be brought in to gather any testimony that might indicate there is reasonable cause for a grand jury to be summoned.

Moore told the Messenger that the panel of judges will hear anyone who wants to bring a claim of a crime; however, in general that person should always have gone to the local prosecutor first.

People who wish to testify needs to contact Moore at (801) 578-3800 by Sept. 30 to schedule an appointment.

No controversies between individual parties will be considered, according to Moore.

“The one exception is if someone had already gone through the regular channels, such as the local prosecuting authorities, and there was a refusal to prosecute because of a conflict of interest, or something of that nature,” says Moore.

The hearing will be cancelled without notice if no appointments are scheduled by the Sept. 30 deadline.

The hearing is not a public meeting or open court session and is only open to people who have claims of criminal activity, Moore said.

Anyone wanting to testify before the panel of judges needs to be ready to support their claims with evidence that will justify summoning a grand jury. The testimony will be heard in secret, but all individuals appearing before the panel of judges will be placed under oath.

“Generally these hearings are fairly informal,” Moore said. “The judges will often listen to someone tell them what evidence they have, and if it needs to be followed up on, they will ask for you to provide the evidence itself. I don’t think people need to worry about having detailed evidence at the hearing, but they can bring in whatever they want that supports the claim.”

The panel visiting Sanpete, which is appointed by the Utah Supreme Court justices, consists of Supervising Judge W. Brent West, 2nd District Court; Judge Lynn W. Davis, 4th District Court; Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills, 3rd District Court; Judge Eric A. Ludlow, 5th District Court; and Judge Kara Pettit, 3rd District Court.

According to Moore, the attorney general, a county attorney, district attorney or special prosecutor can also present evidence of criminal activity to the panel, but that rarely happens since they usually follow their own channels of prosecution.

If the panel decides to summon a grand jury, the jurors will be called from judicial districts thoughout the state.