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Ferguson Grand Juror Fighting to Expose Inner Workings of a System That Often Fails to Indict Police Officers



Michael Brown’s shooting took place a year ago, but the legal wranglings are far from over.  A member of the grand jury that failed to indict Officer Darren Wilson is fighting to take her concerns about the case public.

The woman, identified only as “Grand Juror Doe,” wants the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel’s May decision regarding her desire to speak out about her time on the panel. The juror alleges that St. Louis County District Attorney Bob McCulloch misrepresented the grand jury’s ruling.

The juror’s lawsuits have been filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri. The lawsuit reportedly alleges that McCulloch wrongly implied all 12 jurors believed there was no support for any charges. Grand Juror Doe also said she was filing the lawsuit to educate the public about how grand juries work, something that is largely unknown.

There was a lot of controversy over the way McCulloch handled the grand jury investigation. McCulloch’s father was shot and killed in the line of duty by a Black gunman. He was later accused of acting like Wilson’s defense attorney. Journalists and activists are still fighting for access to the grand jury records.

The AP reports that an unresolved lawsuit on behalf of a reporter for The Guardian newspaper is pressing a judge to force McCulloch’s office to make his emails during the months the grand jury was empaneled public. Four activists also are reportedly asking a Missouri appellate court to overturn a St. Louis County judge’s ruling last month that rejected their lawsuit which called for a special prosecutor to review McCulloch’s process.

According to an article from polling blog, grand juries often fail to charge police officers.

“A recent Houston Chronicle investigation found that ‘police have been nearly immune from criminal charges in shootings’ in Houston and other large cities in recent years,” said Ben Casselman, FiveThirtyEight chief economics writer. “In Harris County, Texas, for example, grand juries haven’t indicted a Houston police officer since 2004; in Dallas, grand juries reviewed 81 shootings between 2008 and 2012 and returned just one indictment. Separate research by Bowling Green State University criminologist Philip Stinson has found that officers are rarely charged in on-duty killings, although it didn’t look at grand jury indictments specifically.”

However, California has taken the power to indict police officers out of the hands of secret grand juries by recently passing a law that would ban secret juries when deciding to charge officers who use deadly force. The law, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, also protects a citizen’s right to record police.


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