The day after two defendants in the largest marijuana case in county history pleaded guilty and on the day two others are to go to trial, the grand jury that indicted them is still meeting.
That panel's term was to have expired in December, but prosecutors said they are keeping the 24 members on call to review evidence in the case. The jury meets less than once a week in the basement of the state's attorney's office. Prosecutors won't say what they are doing.
The panel has not returned any indictments since the original six in November.
Defense attorneys say holding a grand jury over for this long is unusual, but it gives the appearance that Patricia Emory, former principal of Severna Park Elementary School, still is under suspicion.
Mrs. Emory was arrested along with her husband, James Mitchell Emory, 47, during a raid at their house in Pasadena last fall.
Prosecutors dropped charges against Mrs. Emory in December after she testified in front of the grand jury.
"They don't want to admit that they made a mistake," said Peter O'Neil, James Emory's lawyer.
"She never should have been charged."
Jury selection is to begin today in the trials of Mrs. Emory's husband and his brother, Roger Emory, 43. Two other defendants pleaded guilty yesterday to importation of marijuana and possession of 50 pounds or more with intent to distribute.
"They never had a scintilla of evidence against her," said E. Thomas Maxwell, Mrs. Emory's lawyer. "They have been caught with their pants down."
Mrs. Emory, a 19-year veteran in county schools, has been on paid leave since her arrest Oct. 29, collecting her $63,837 annual salary at home.
"We have an agreement with the school board that she will not return to work until the grand jury is released," Mr. Maxwell said.
Jane Doyle, spokeswoman for the school system, said she did not know why Mrs. Emory's employment hinged on the grand jury.
P. Tyson Bennett, attorney for the school board, could not be reached for comment.
James and Roger Emory, together with four others, were indicted last November on drug kingpin charges after police raided their homes and found 400 pounds of marijuana in Glen Burnie storage bins.
Now, the grand jury is "called in on an as needed basis," said Gerald K. Anders, deputy state's attorney, adding he does not know when the term is expected to end.
"I expect to be using a walker to get around the courthouse and wearing false teeth by the time this grand jury goes out," Mr. Maxwell said.
From the start, prosecutors and police have contended that this is the largest marijuana ring in the county's history.
During hearings this winter, prosecutors said the Emorys and Philip Dulany sold marijuana from a New York drug ring, and that George T. Johnson, 47, and William Bailey Jr., 46, allegedly dealt in Mexican marijuana.