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Grand jury convenes at Becker County Courthouse

A grand jury has been convened in the Becker County Courthouse, but proceedings are secret and court officials are not even confirming that the grand jury is in session.

Grand juries are used to make charging decisions in difficult cases, but a grand jury indictment is also required in Minnesota in order to level a first-degree homicide charge.

On Tuesday, a White Earth police officer waited with bailiffs outside the third floor courtroom for his turn to testify.

The most recent homicide charged in Becker County occurred April 13 with the death of Chad Swedberg, 33, a Little White Earth Lake man who was shot while processing maple sugar on his property in Maple Grove Township.

Kenneth Eugene Andersen, 34, of rural Waubun has been charged with felony second degree murder in that case.

Andersen is accused of shooting Swedberg twice -- in the shoulder and hip areas -- with a high-powered rifle fired from a distance.

A grand jury is a group of up to 23 citizens who make the decision to charge (or "indict") a suspect in certain cases.

The grand jury will hear evidence, ask questions, and decide whether to indict for first-degree homicide, or to indict for a lesser charge (murder in the second degree, murder in the third degree), or not to indict at all.

All grand jury hearings are closed to the public. Only the grand jury members, prosecutors, and witnesses are allowed to attend. In order to have an indictment, a majority of the grand jury must vote for it.

Although family members, police officers ands others may be called to testify before the grand jury, all testimony is secret, and no one is allowed to listen to the proceedings.