Wichita A grand jury was seated Tuesday to begin its investigation of Dr. George Tiller, and the judge overseeing the group will rule on a motion by abortion foes to appoint a special prosecutor, Chief District Judge Michael Corrigan said Tuesday.
Judge Paul Buchanan, the retired Sedgwick County chief judge assigned to supervise the grand jury, selected the jurors and gave them their charge before the grand jury took the afternoon off. Jurors were scheduled to continue their probe today, Corrigan said.
Buchanan was unaware when the grand jury was convened of the motion filed late Monday by abortion opponents seeking a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation, Corrigan said.
Buchanan will make the decision on whether to appoint a special prosecutor, Corrigan said, adding that even though the grand jury can request the overseeing judge to appoint special counsel the ultimate decision is up to that judge whether to grant the request.
The chief judge's statements on Tuesday clarified an earlier statement he made the day earlier that drew sharp criticism from Kansans for Life.
Corrigan said Monday he did not think there was any intention of appointing a special prosecutor, saying then it was a decision for a grand jury to make.
Kansans for Life subsequently issued a news release saying it was distressed that Corrigan seemed to be dismissing the will of nearly 8,000 registered voters who had requested a special prosecutor when they signed the petition calling for the grand jury.
Corrigan said Tuesday he had no response to the criticism of his statement. "The decision is in the hands of the grand jury judge - no decision is in my hands," he said.
Kansans For Life, which spearheaded the grand jury petition, had demanded a special prosecutor because of what it claims is Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston's failure to investigate Tiller's abortion practices.
The process began with the selection of 15 people from a pool of more than 70 summoned for duty. It will take 12 members to decide whether to return an indictment. The grand jury can meet for up to three months, a term that could be extended if needed.
This will be the second grand jury abortion foes have forced the county to create in 18 months to investigate Tiller. An earlier grand jury reviewed the death of a Texas woman who had an abortion at the clinic but returned no indictment.