St. Louis 12-Person Grand Jury Weighing Ferguson Shooting Case Has 3 African-Americans

jury

Ever since it happened, race has been front-and-center in the vigorous debate over the fatal shooting of African-American teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer.

Could it also factor into those 12 people now deciding whether that Ferguson, Missouri, officer will face charges in the 18-year-old’s death?

We may never know. That’s because the St. Louis County grand jury weighing the case meets, per established rules, in private.

Still, at least we found out Friday about a little more about those on it — including their race.

St. Louis County Circuit Court administrator Paul Fox said there are three African-Americans — one male, two females — and nine whites — six males, three females — on the 12-member panel. There are a total of seven men and five women.

No information was given about the ages or occupations of any on the grand jury.

This information on the jury’s makeup comes as a key complaint among Brown family supporters continues: that the man whose office is tasked with making the case to the grand jury — St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch — is too cozy with law enforcement, does not have a good relationship with the African-American community and thus should be replaced.

For his part, McCulloch has indicated he won’t recuse himself, saying he’s simply doing the job he was elected to do.

Unlike a jury in a criminal case, which convicts someone if jurors are convinced of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” a grand jury decides if there is “probable cause” — based on testimony and evidence presented, in the absence of a judge — to charge someone with a crime. In Missouri, they don’t have to be unanimous to press such an indictment, as long as nine of the 12 agree on a charge.

Notably, these grand jurors aren’t the only ones with a pivotal say in whether or not Officer Darren Wilson is charged. The federal government is also on the case — FBI agents canvassing the Ferguson neighborhood where the shooting happened have knocked on more than 400 doors and interviewed more than 200 people, according to law enforcement sources — as part of the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division’s investigation.

The federal probe, as currently set up, must prove there was an element of “racial hostility” (as explained by CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin) in the shooting. That’s a higher standard than the one before the St. Louis County grand jury.

This is one big reason why the 12 people on it — including who they are, what they hear and what they believe — matters so much. They may be the first to reach a decision on whether Officer Wilson will get justice, whether that’s defined as a murder charge, a lesser charge, or no charge at all.

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SOURCE: CNN

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