ATLANTA — Wednesday will mark the beginning of what is expected to be a lengthy process in Fulton County.
A special grand jury will start meeting to investigate whether former President Donald Trump and his allies attempted to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia.
The jury can hear from witnesses and examine related evidence for up to a year.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is using a special grand jury to push her investigation forward as she considers a range of potential charges including racketeering.
Special grand jury proceedings are rare and take place behind closed doors.
11Alive talked with former Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter Tuesday, who isn't involved in the Fulton case, about the process. Porter said during his nearly 30 years as a district attorney he only called a single special grand jury.
"To a certain extent we were making it up as we went along because there isn't a lot of law on it and there still isn't a lot of law on it," Porter said of the special grand jury. He called the special grand jury, from 2009 into 2010, to investigate Gwinnett County land acquisition deals involving county commissioners and hear from witnesses.
"We were looking into possible criminal activity, so there were a lot of people who wouldn't come in without a subpoena," Porter said.
According to the former Gwinnett DA, that is a point of calling a special grand jury, as it allows prosecutors to force witnesses to appear in court that might otherwise be reluctant to testify.
Willis has run into a similar issue with certain witnesses telling her office that they would only testify if sent a subpoena.
Subpoenas for the case 11Alive received through an open records request show from the Georgia Secretary of State's Office that several staff members have been requested to testify before the jury.
The list includes Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Chief Operating Officer Gabriel Sterling, General Counsel Ryan Germany, former Head of Elections Division Chris Harvey, former Chief Investigator Frances Watson, and former executive assistant Victoria Thompson.
The subpoena sent to Raffensperger shows he has been asked to testify on Thursday.
A subpoena was also sent to Raffensperger's office seeking records of communication between the office and Trump following the 2020 election, records of post-election audits, and audits of the state's voting machines.
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr and several other individuals have also received subpoenas seeking their testimony before the special grand jury.
Willis is looking into the now-famous phone call from then-President Donald Trump and Raffensperger where Trump said, "I just want to find 11,780 votes."
Her office is also examining a call between U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and Raffensperger following the election, U.S. Attorney B.J. Pak's abrupt post-election resignation, and comments made during hearings at the state capitol following the 2020 election.
"There is going to be a certain amount of fact-finding going on as they receive testimony," Porter predicted of the Fulton proceedings.
A traditional grand jury decides if criminal charges should be filed or not for a list of cases and meets for a shorter period of time.
A special grand jury is designed as an investigative tool, only considers one case, and doesn't issue charges. One witness's testimony can lead to more subpoenas being issued.
"Say Raffensperger comes in and testifies and there is new information they didn't know about, they will follow up on that and subpoena documents or individual," Porter said.
At the conclusion of its proceedings, the special grand jury will issue a report to Willis with recommendations for the case. Porter said it could be some time though until the public sees the report.
"If the DA decides to move forward with criminal charges based on the recommendation of the special grand jury, then it remains confidential until the case is disposed of," the former prosecutor said.
Porter said he expects the Fulton special grand jury will work into 2023 and he said anyone believing they will be done with the case before then is "wildly optimistic."