10/1/08 – How Tony Alamo’s grand jury hearing will work

October 1, 2008
by Jared Broyles

How Tony Alamo’s grand jury hearing will work

FORT SMITH – A federal grand jury has been seated in Fort Smith and the first case they will hear is that of Tony Alamo–the embattled evangelist accused of transporting minors across state lines for sexual activity. 5NEWS has been told by a staff member of the U.S. Attorneys office that Alamo is not back in Arkansas at this point and may not be for a few weeks as extradition protocol is followed.

Meanwhile, the case to indict him has begun at the federal courthouse in Fort Smith. Grand jury proceedings are taking place behind closed doors at the federal courthouse. Registered voters from across western Arkansas are impaneled by a judge and the U.S. attorney.

“I do know that they have a certain amount of influence on who is actually seated on the grand jury,” UAFS professor of geography, history, and political science, Dr. Robert Willoughby explained.

Grand juries are provided for under amendment five of the U.S. constitution and the proceedings are not public. The group meets about every six weeks to consider cases brought to them by the U.S. Attorney. He or she presents the evidence against a defendant and the grand jury decides whether or not to return an indictment.

They can vote one of two ways: jurors can return a true bill to indict a defendant…or they can come back with a no bill, meaning they fail to find sufficient evidence for a trial.

As for the Alamo case, it’s not clear what allegations the grand jury is being asked to consider. What you may not know is that the defense has no part in the process.

“I think the modern criticism of the federal grand jury is that it really becomes more of a rubber stamp for the prosecutors case,” Dr. Willoughby told 5NEWS.

But others argue that it’s simply another check in the case to make sure a crime has been committed and there is sufficient evidence to suspect the defendant. If an indictment is returned, the defendant is arraigned, the case scheduled for trial, and a petty jury is seated.

The grand jury can consider Alamo’s case over the course of several meetings. Federal grand juries typically serve 18 months and meet every 6 weeks.

In: 2008 - (Trial year)

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