The grand jury considering whether to charge a Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, 19, has received an extension in their deliberations. They get until January 7th to decide if there is probable cause to charge the police officer. Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Brown on August 9th.
“We are basically just beginning,” Edward Magee, a spokesman for St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, told the media.
The St. Louis Police Department as well as the prosecutor’s office and the FBI are conducting investigations. Media legal experts believe that Wilson will not face murder charges, but could face manslaughter charges. Prosecutors have opted to take an unusual approach to the controversial case that sparked protests around the county. Prosecutors are not waiting for police to close their investigation, instead they are presenting evidence as they receive it. This could account for the need to extend the jury investigation. The grand jury began hearing evidence on August 20th.
McCulloch, who has been the county prosecutor for more than 20 years, has been accused of possible bias due to his professional and personal history. His critics say that his father, a white police officer, was shot and killed by an African American man, which could affect his ability to be fair. In addition, McCullouch has presented 4 cases of fatal police shootings to grand jurors and no officers have been indicted. Protestors and activists have requested that a special prosecutor be named to replace him, but McCulloch has refused to step aside.
A local newspaper has reported that Officer Wilson testified for about 4 hours Wednesday.
Under Missouri law, authorities could have just indicted Wilson themselves without a grand jury, but prosecutors opted to use the grand jury to decide. The grand jury can decide not to indict Wilson. Twelve grand jurors, in this case, 7 men and 5 women, will decide whether there is probable cause. The decision does not need to be unanimous. Only 9 jurors are needed to indict. Grand jury proceedings are almost always sealed. The defense is never allowed to present anything to the grand jury. However, in some cases, such as this one, a possible defendant does have the chance to testify, but they are not required to.
“Usually an accused will not be invited to testify,” Neil Bruntrager, a criminal defense lawyer and general counsel for the St. Louis Police Officer Association, told CNN, “But I would expect, in a case like this, that an invitation would be extended.”