Lawyers defending two defendants in the Fulton County election interference case can interview the grand jurors who handed up the 41-count indictment, a judge ruled Tuesday.
In a seven-page order, Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee said the interviews must be voluntary and stay within the bounds of Georgia law so grand jurors do not disclose their deliberations. McAfee also said he will decide which questions are to be asked and will oversee the interviews, if any of the grand jurors agree to be questioned.
McAfee issued his order in response to requests from lawyers for Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, two attorneys who are charged with former President Donald Trump and 16 others. Powell and Chesebro both filed speedy trial demands and are scheduled to stand trial on Oct. 23.
Separately, McAfee denied requests from the defense attorneys for copies of all recordings, transcripts and reports produced by the separate special purpose grand jury that spent eight months investigating the case and recommended 39 people be indicted. “(O)ur Supreme Court has recognized that all grand juries require secrecy and protection from certain disclosures,” he wrote.
But McAfee ordered prosecutors to turn over any transcripts of special grand jury witnesses who may be called to testify in pre-trial hearings or at trial and to turn them over “at the time the state, in good faith, decides to call that individual.”
As for the interviews of the grand jurors who handed up the indictment, McAfee wrote that he “has not found nor been provided with any authority that suggests defense counsel are totally forbidden from contact.” In fact, he added, “Defense counsel here are entitled, and would be expected, to conduct a thorough investigation in the zealous representation of their clients.”
This includes possibly seeking to dismiss the indictment if they can establish “an infirmity” with the grand jury proceedings, McAfee wrote.
McAfee said he will oversee any interviews to make sure grand jurors’ personal information is not disclosed and to guarantee privileged matters remain protected. He gave the lawyers for Powell and Chesebro three business days to submit a list of their proposed questions and then gave Fulton prosecutors another three days to file objections to any particular questions.
McAfee will then file an order listing all approved and rejected questions, and he said the court will independently contact each juror to ask whether he or she is willing to submit to an interview, either remotely or in person. “Such interviews will be conducted on the record in the presence of the court and counsel for all parties at a time agreeable to each juror,” he said.