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Grand jury selected for land deals

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A special grand jury was impaneled Monday to investigate controversial land deals involving the county government.

District Attorney Danny Porter, who requested the special panel, said 23 residents were chosen for the special grand jury out of 61 people who appeared before a judge.

While over the years past grand juries have explored individual land purchases, including parkland along Satellite Boulevard, Porter said calling a special panel will allow members to further explore ties and give freedom to study the issue longer.

Special grand juries have the power to set their own meeting dates and path of investigation, he said. While a general grand jury is impaneled for six months, a special purpose one is in existence as long as needed.

Porter said the group discussed a tentative schedule, but because grand jury proceedings are secret, he declined to release any details.

He said no county officials or attorneys participated in the impaneling.

While Porter has not named the cases that will be discussed, his petition said the group could look into purchases for parks, libraries, road rights of way and water and sewer easements since 2005.

Earlier this year, controversy swirled around the proposed purchase of nearly eight times as much land as was needed for the McGinnis Ferry extension. The purchase, which would have settled a lawsuit, was later denied.

Last month, Senior Judge James Oxendine resigned when information involving the county's purchase of parkland along Lakes Parkway showed he was engaged in the practice of law, violating the judicial canon of ethics.