House approves giving attorney general greater state grand jury authority

State Attorney General Alan Wilson

COLUMBIA — The S.C. House passed a measure Wednesday that gives the attorney general greater authority to investigate public corruption and other crimes using the state grand jury.

The measure removes a requirement that a circuit judge must approve the use of the grand jury. A judge would still have to be notified.

Wilson had sought to use the state grand jury to examine former House Speaker Bobby Harrell’s campaign expenses in a celebrated ethics case last year. Harrell challenged Wilson’s authority, and after lengthy legal proceedings the investigation was moved to another prosecutor and Harrell pleaded guilty and resigned.

“Recent events have pointed to the reality that we need various ethics and judicial reform measures to ensure that independent criminal investigations can proceed with public confidence,” Wilson said in a statement. “This bill provides much-needed updates to our state grand jury system.”

The bill has already passed the Senate but requires another vote in the House before moving to Gov. Nikki Haley for approval.

Reach Jeremy Borden at 708-5837.