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Public defender is picked for grand jury; judge put PD’s name in the hopper

Posted May 13, 2014 8:38 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Prosecutors in Clark County, Nevada, have asked a judge to excuse a newly appointed grand juror for an unusual reason: She is a deputy public defender.

Lauren Diefenbach was selected for the grand jury with the help of Judge Jessie Walsh, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

Judges in the county take turns selecting 55 potential grand jurors after reviewing questionnaires. Walsh selected Diefenbach, though judges discussed potential conflicts that could be raised by her service, the Review-Journal says.

The names of the judges’ picks are then placed in a “bingo-type hopper,” the story says, and 17 names are drawn. Diefenbach’s name was selected.

Diefenbach told the Review-Journal she didn’t “know what to say” about her selection. The newspaper was unable to reach Walsh for comment. According to the newspaper, Diefenbach's service would pose “a logistical mess” because she would have to be replaced with an alternate in every case against a defendant represented by the PD’s office.

Another complication would arise when a defendant represented by a private lawyer during the grand jury process later qualifies for a public defender. In those cases, the PD’s office would have to recuse itself because of the conflict.

Judge Linda Bell, who oversees grand jury returns, is considering prosecutors’ request to excuse Diefenbach.

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