On Friday, October 31, St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch released an op-ed that outlines, in brief, the grand jury process and claims that the grand jury review of the evidence underway in the killing of Michael Brown Jr. is uncorrupted and fair.
He said he is confident the 12 grand jurors, who were empaneled by a circuit judge before the August 9 shooting, will reach “a true and just decision that bears no sign of passion or prejudice.”
The grand jurors will decide whether to bring charges against Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, who remains on paid leave.
Both “passion” and “prejudice” have been much discussed in connection to the shooting, the investigation by St. Louis County Police – which has not yet released a detailed investigative report – and McCulloch’s handling of the grand jury process.
As for “passion,” the shooting and investigation sparked a protest movement that continues – and continues to further polarize the region. Regional and national media, and the local public, continue to speculate whether the grand jury’s decision will enflame larger protests and trigger militarized police response. Recent documentary reporting revealed that area police departments have stocked up on the crowd dispersal weapons used in August.
As for “prejudice,” the local daily newspaper and the nation’s two most influential daily newspapers in New York and Washington all recently published anonymous third-party hearsay reports of alleged evidence that reportedly supports the police shooter’s account of the shooting. None of these reports claimed to derive from the grand jury, and McCulloch claims they do not.
There is a parallel Department of Justice investigation into the shooting. Justice officials also deny providing a source for the leaks and called for the leaks to stop.
The American was offered similar evidence in August and September that derived from two separate police sources and a federal official who does not work for the Justice Department. Though The American did not report on the offered evidence, the paper joins the three publications that did publish leak stories in protecting the agreed upon confidentiality of our conversations.
Wherever the published leaks came from, they were widely understood to “prejudice” public opinion in favor of the police shooter, who claimed that he shot the unarmed teen at least six times, including twice in the head, out of self-defense.
According to eyewitness testimony that supports bringing charges against Wilson, the teen had surrendered at the time of the fatal shooting, regardless of whatever altercation preceded it.
In his op-ed, McCulloch stands by his public position that neither he nor the grand jurors are the sources of the reported leaks. He also reminded the public that media are not giving them the full range of evidence that the grand jurors will review in reaching their conclusion.
“Although the discussion is encouraged and must continue,” McCulloch writes, “we cannot prejudge the case based upon media accounts and bits of information.”
Wilson is white and Brown was black. The Ferguson protest movement is diverse, but it focuses on a national pattern of white police officers shooting and killing black males who are unarmed (or where there is controversy over whether they were armed). The group that has rallied around the accused police shooters is virtually all-white.
This makes the racial composition of the grand jury an issue of concern. As previously reported, McCulloch confirmed that the grand jury hearing testimony in the Michael Brown Jr. case has nine white and three black members. Seven are men and five are women. Nine of the 12 jurors must agree on charges to hand down an indictment.
On Thursday, October 30, a representative from McCulloch’s office told The American the grand jury would reach its decision “mid-November at the earliest.” The previous estimate was early to mid-November. Though public speculation is rampant that the grand jury has finished reviewing evidence and McCulloch has been stalling until the November 4 general election has passed and colder weather has settled in, McCulloch claims in the op-ed, “The grand jury is still hearing evidence in this case.”
Read or download McCulloch’s op-ed: https://app.box.com/s/mtun8cf99pl0uosb57n9.