President Judge Thomas King Kistler ordered Thursday that a county investigating grand jury be impaneled in Centre County pursuant to a request made last week by District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller.
That request stated that Parks Miller concluded the grand jury should be convened to consider “at least one unsolved murder, and a recent series of cases the scope of which cannot be determined without the powers granted to a county investigating grand jury.” Parks Miller said last week that the grand jury could handle drug trafficking, corrupt organizations and unsolved missing persons cases, without going into specifics.
Kistler will serve as the grand jury’s supervising judge.
After Kistler’s order was filed Thursday afternoon, the District Attorney’s Office announced in a press release plans to form a “Special Investigations Unit,” which will give selected police officers and state troopers wiretap authority and access to the grand jury. The unit will consist of Parks Miller, Special Assistant District Attorney Robert Stewart and assistant district attorneys Lindsay Foster and Jessica Lathrop.
Stewart is one of two special assistants Parks Miller has appointed in recent months, the other being Bruce Castor Jr., who has represented Parks Miller since forgery allegations against her were made public.
Stewart is a former Huntingdon County district attorney and deputy attorney general. His oath of office states he would handle drug forfeiture cases.
Jury selection for the grand jury has not yet been scheduled, Court Administrator Kendra Miknis said. Jurors will be selected from a pool of 200 Centre County residents, with 30 — 23 jurors and seven alternates — ultimately being picked for duty. Grand juries in Pennsylvania are seated for 18 months, but can be extended to 24 months.
Parks Miller’s request last week came days after a statewide investigating grand jury cleared her of forgery allegations made by a former employee, Michelle Shutt.
At a news conference on the courthouse steps the day the grand jury report was released, Parks Miller publicly blasted county officials, local defense attorneys and called for the state Attorney General’s Office to pursue charges against Shutt and “anyone else that assisted” her.
Parks Miller said last week the county grand jury would not hear anything related to herself.