By Tony Romeo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The state Supreme Court has decided to allow Pennsylvania grand juries to bring indictments in criminal cases, because of witness intimidation in Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania grand juries used to be able to indict, but over the last few decades they were only allowed to investigate and recommend criminal charges.
Reportedly, indicting grand juries are being brought back, enabling prosecutors to limit the exposure of witnesses.

Philadelphia DA Seth Williams, who lobbied for the policy change, says in some cases, witnesses will not have to testify in public preliminary hearings, but will be allowed instead to testify in secret grand jury proceedings which will determine if there’s enough evidence to go to trial.

“What’s important is that it won’t be used in every case. We’re going to create a protocol here in Philadelphia for insuring that they are appropriate cases, in cases where there is intimidation of witnesses or the threat of that. And we’ll be very selective,” Says Williams.

The new policy takes effect in 180 days.

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