BARTOW, Fla. — The Florida Supreme Court has granted Gov. Ron DeSantis' request to impanel a statewide grand jury to investigate crimes committed by human smugglers or anyone associated with them.
In mid-June, the governor announced the state would be working to cut down on the number of people living in Florida illegally. DeSantis had asked for grand jurors to examine human smuggling networks that bring undocumented immigrants across the southern border and, ultimately, into states like Florida.
Specifically, he wanted a grand jury to identify people and organizations working with foreign nationals, coyotes and drug cartels to bring kids across borders. Additionally, he had called for investigators to identify methods being used to smuggle minors and any other criminal activities that were linked to organized smuggling operations. He also wanted such a grand jury to identify any local governments that were violating Florida's law against sanctuary jurisdiction for people in the country illegally.
On Wednesday, the court gave the green light for the request, saying it was "in the public interest."
A statewide grand jury will be empowered to investigate a lengthy list of crimes and return indictments, but it won't be limited either. The Florida Supreme Court's order is open-ended, leaving room for the grand jury to pursue any wrongdoing it uncovers during the investigation of human smuggling-related crimes.
The panel will be drawn from the 10th Judicial Circuit, meaning the grand jurors will be from Hardee, Highlands and Polk counties. Bartow-based Judge Ellen S. Masters will preside over the statewide grand jury.