Summary: The state will begin its presentation of evidence against a police officer that shot and killed an eighteen-year-old boy to the grand jury this week. The grand jury will determine if criminal charges will be filed.
Prosecutors in St. Louis County are gearing up to present evidence to a grand jury in the case involving the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager during an arrest, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. The presentation of evidence is expected to take a week. St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch, in secret proceedings, will offer evidence to the 12-member grand jury. The grand jury will then decide whether criminal charges should proceed against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Michael Brown, 18, was killed when Officer Wilson shot him.
The police department’s position is Brown assaulted Officer Wilson and that the gun fired as the two struggled over the officer’s weapon inside the squad car. Both Brown’s attorney and a witness deny that Brown assaulted the officer.
The Washington Post also reports that St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney David McCulloch faces a challenge both inside and outside the courthouse. “I can’t guarantee and won’t guarantee any particular outcome on the investigation,” he commented last week. McCulloch recently had to defend himself against Governor Jay Nixon when Nixon commented as to whether McCulloch should recuse himself from the case. Whereas Nixon stated he would not ask for the recusal, he was also not quick to praise the prosecutor. Nixon stated, “There is a well-established process by which a prosecutor can recuse themselves from a pending investigation, and a special prosecutor be appointed.” He hinted that not following the recusal process could “unnecessarily inject legal uncertainty into this matter and potentially jeopardize the prosecution.” Nixon also stated “a vigorous prosecution must now be pursued.” Leaders and other community members argue that McCulloch should allow a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation.
In addition, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and State Senator Jamilah Nasheed have expressed concerns on behalf of the black community regarding McCulloch’s objectivity. McCulloch’s father was a white police officer who was shot and killed in the line of duty by a black man when McCulloch was just 12 years old. In 2000, McCulloch stated he agreed with a grand jury’s decision not to indict two white police officers that shot and killed two black men. McCulloch also criticized Nixon’s decision to put the state highway patrol in charge of Ferguson’s security last week during the unrest, saying it could “put a lot of people in danger.”
McCulloch, however, shows no intention of stepping down from the investigation. “I have absolutely no intention of walking away from the duties and responsibilities entrusted to me by the people of this community…I’ve done it for 24 years. I’ve done, if I say so myself, a very good job at that. I’m fair and impartial in every matter that comes before us.”
The small town of Ferguson has been the site of unrest for much of the past week. Demonstrators have demanded justice for Brown. Many protests have started peacefully, but progressed into violence and clashes with local police. On Tuesday, many marches concluded by midnight. A few isolated incidents of violence continued later that night, however.
As a preventative measure, police assembled barricades in front of the county’s justice center in anticipation of protests as the grand jury convenes. However, less than a dozen people showed up by Wednesday morning.
Many locals feel strongly about the need to continue protesting. Lamont Farr, 41, stated, “Right now there is a lack of organization…up to now, emotions have kept it going.”
The grand jury is selected at random by a circuit judge. Three such juries are selected each year, and they meet on Wednesdays to review evidence and testimony to determine whether criminal charges in cases should be filed. The standing grand jury in St. Louis County serves three to four month terms. The current term is set to expire in September, but will be extended through October so that all evidence may be presented.
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