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Grand Jury Does Not Indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for Killing Unarmed Mike Brown

St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch

After much anticipation, a grand jury in Clayton, Missouri, did not indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for killing unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, on August 9.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced the grand jury determined “no probable cause” existed to file a charge against Wilson.

“Many witnesses to the shooting of Michael Brown made statements inconsistent with other statements they made and also conflicting with the physical evidence,” McCulloch stated. “Some were completely refuted by the physical evidence.”

“As an example, before the results of the private autopsy were released, witnessed on social media, during interviews with the media and even during questioning by law enforcement claimed that they saw Officer Wilson stand offer Mike Brown and fire many rounds into his back. Others claimed that Officer Wilson shot Mr. Brown in the back as Mr. Brown was running away. However, once the autopsy findings were released showing that Michael Brown had not sustained any wound to the back of his body no additional witnesses made such a claim. And several witnesses adjusted their stories in subsequent statements.”

McCulloch explained to the press that the grand jury’s job was to determine if there was probable cause to show Wilson had committed any crime from first-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter.

“There is no question, of course, that Darren Wilson caused the death of Michael Brown by shooting him, but the inquiry does not end there. The law authorizes a law enforcement officer to use deadly force in certain situations. The law also allows all people to use deadly force to defend themselves in certain situations. The grand jury considered whether he was the initial aggressor in this case or whether there was probable cause to believe that Darren Wilson was authorized as a law enforcement officer to use deadly force in this situation or if he acted in self-defense.”

Later in the press conference, McCulloch explicitly said, “As tragic as it was, it was not a crime.”

Michael Brown’s family immediately responded to the outcome. “We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions.”

“While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen,” Brown’s family added. And, also, “Let’s not just make noise, let’s make a difference.”

While President Barack Obama delivered a statement, police fired tear gas indiscriminately at an entire crowd because a handful of people were throwing rocks. They chose to disperse the entire crowd instead of restraint.

“In this moment, we all have a choice to make,” said Tef Poe, who is the co-founder of Hands Up United, “We can stand by while police and their apologists in prosecutors’ offices and city halls continue to kill, harass and criminalize our communities – or stand up in this moment to demand that our elected officials lead and finally deal with our broken policing system.”

Montague Simmons, the chair of the Organization for Black Struggle, reacted, “We are devastated that the grand jury has failed to indict Darren Wilson in the killing of Mike Brown.”

“All this community wanted was simple justice. Wilson killed an unarmed man and should face a trial by jury. Instead, he benefited from a highly unusual grand jury process, led by a prosecutor with whom the local community pleaded to step down or be removed from the case.”

Simmons placed the outcome into a national context. “Mike Brown was a young man with his entire life ahead of him. He could have been any of us. In fact, since his murder, we have seen more police killings of unarmed Black people. In the last week alone, the killings of Akai Gurley in New York City and Tamir Rice in Cleveland have served as stark reminders that the problems with policing in Ferguson are rampant throughout the country.”

The encounter that led to Brown’s death lasted less than 90 seconds, according to interviews and analysis of police and EMS records reported on by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

On August 9, Brown was walking with his friend, Dorian Johnson, on a residential street when Wilson drove up in his SUV patrol vehicle. A struggle between Brown and Wilson happened, with Johnson claiming that Wilson grew angry when the young men refused to get out of the street.

Wilson pulled up close to the young men and opened his door into Brown. It closed and Wilson reached out to grab Brown around his neck. Wilson took out his gun. Johnson has said a shot was fired. Brown was shot, but he managed to pull away. Brown was shot again while he was running. He allegedly turned with his hands up and asked Wilson to stop shooting him. Several more shots were fired at Brown and in the end he was shot at least six times before he died. [*For more details from eyewitness and previously known evidence on what happened: Complete Guide to to Shooting of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson]

McCulloch did not recommend any charges to the grand jury, even though that is typically what happens in a grand jury process. He did what attorneys for Brown have called a “data dump” and gave the grand jury all pieces of evidence and expected the grand jury to sift through it on their own and make sense of it all.

That can be overwhelming for grand jury members, which is why a prosecutor usually would suggest a charge and only provide the evidence necessary to return an indictment.

The grand jury process lasted longer than normal, taking months to come to a decision. It heard testimony from Wilson, a potential defendant, which often does not happen. There also were plans ahead of time to release evidence presented to the grand jury.

St. Louis County Circuit Judge Carolyn Whittington, the judge overseeing the grand jury, has not agreed to such a release. Whittington, however, is prepared to “analyze the need for maintaining secrecy of the records with the need for public disclosure of the records.”

Nixon could have appointed a special prosecutor, as the Brown family and their attorneys requested. Nixon did not. McCulloch could have charged Wilson without going through a grand jury process. He did not.

Prior to the announcement of the decision, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, St. Louis County Executive Charles Dooley and Missouri Director of Public Safety Daniel Isom participated in a press conference intended to put the focus on plans to keep property safe from vandalism or any acts of violence.

“The men and women of the National Guard will also be in the area to provide security at critical facilities like firehouses, police stations and utility substations and offer logistical and transportation support,” to law enforcement,” as needed,” Nixon said.

The overwhelming majority of employers, libraries, retailers, restaurants and other businesses were closed early. Events at schools were canceled. Businesses had already boarded up or spent the afternoon quickly boarding up ahead of an announcement.

It put the community on edge reinforcing the fear that protesters would not be calm after a grand jury decision. However, the reality is that many of the actions of officials and law enforcement prior to the decision were more frantic or hysterical than protesters.

Protesters were mostly calm, prepared to de-escalate any unruly situation that occurred after they heard the news so long as they could remain in the streets exercising their right to assemble. The governor, on the other hand, declared a state of emergency a week before the decision.

All of which created a climate that bred hysteria. Gun sales skyrocketed. Stores that were selling two to three guns a day now were selling 20 to 30 firearms a day. Enrollment in courses for concealed carry permit increased significantly.

This fueled a woman’s decision to “get ready for Ferguson” and buy a gun. She was fooling around with it while in a car when her boyfriend ducked to get out of the way. He rear-ended a car and the accident led to gun going off. The bullet hit the woman in the head and killed her.

As Dooley said during the press conference, “I do not want people in this community to think they have to barricade their doors and take up arms. We are not that kind of a community. I do not want someone to accidentally shoot or harm someone out of fear.”

But few officials took the lead in previous days to explain to communities why they did not need to be afraid and go out and buy weapons to keep themselves protected from danger.

CommunityFDL Main BlogThe Dissenter

Grand Jury Does Not Indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for Killing Unarmed Mike Brown

St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch

After much anticipation, a grand jury in Clayton, Missouri, did not indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for killing unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, on August 9.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced the grand jury determined “no probable cause” existed to file a charge against Wilson.

“In this moment, we all have a choice to make,” said Tef Poe, who is the co-founder of Hands Up United, “We can stand by while police and their apologists in prosecutors’ offices and city halls continue to kill, harass and criminalize our communities – or stand up in this moment to demand that our elected officials lead and finally deal with our broken policing system.”

Montague Simmons, the chair of the Organization for Black Struggle, reacted, “We are devastated that the grand jury has failed to indict Darren Wilson in the killing of Mike Brown.”

“All this community wanted was simple justice. Wilson killed an unarmed man and should face a trial by jury. Instead, he benefited from a highly unusual grand jury process, led by a prosecutor with whom the local community pleaded to step down or be removed from the case.”

Simmons placed the outcome into a national context. “Mike Brown was a young man with his entire life ahead of him. He could have been any of us. In fact, since his murder, we have seen more police killings of unarmed Black people. In the last week alone, the killings of Akai Gurley in New York City and Tamir Rice in Cleveland have served as stark reminders that the problems with policing in Ferguson are rampant throughout the country.”

The encounter that led to Brown’s death lasted less than 90 seconds, according to interviews and analysis of police and EMS records reported on by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

On August 9, Brown was walking with his friend, Dorian Johnson, on a residential street when Wilson drove up in his SUV patrol vehicle. A struggle between Brown and Wilson happened, with Johnson claiming that Wilson grew angry when the young men refused to get out of the street.

Wilson pulled up close to the young men and opened his door into Brown. It closed and Wilson reached out to grab Brown around his neck. Wilson took out his gun. Johnson has said a shot was fired. Brown was shot, but he managed to pull away. Brown was shot again while he was running. He allegedly turned with his hands up and asked Wilson to stop shooting him. Several more shots were fired at Brown and in the end he was shot at least six times before he died. [*For more details from eyewitness and previously known evidence on what happened: Complete Guide to to Shooting of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson]

McCulloch did not recommend any charges to the grand jury, even though that is typically what happens in a grand jury process. He did what attorneys for Brown have called a “data dump” and gave the grand jury all pieces of evidence and expected the grand jury to sift through it on their own and make sense of it all.

That can be overwhelming for grand jury members, which is why a prosecutor usually would suggest a charge and only provide the evidence necessary to return an indictment.

The grand jury process lasted longer than normal, taking months to come to a decision. It heard testimony from Wilson, a potential defendant, which often does not happen. There also were plans ahead of time to release evidence presented to the grand jury.

St. Louis County Circuit Judge Carolyn Whittington, the judge overseeing the grand jury, has not agreed to such a release. Whittington, however, is prepared to “analyze the need for maintaining secrecy of the records with the need for public disclosure of the records.”

Nixon could have appointed a special prosecutor, as the Brown family and their attorneys requested. Nixon did not. McCulloch could have charged Wilson without going through a grand jury process. He did not. [cont’d.] (more…)

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."

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