Uncertainty Fuels Speculation in Ferguson
FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — The final weekend before the Thanksgiving holiday passed without a grand jury decision on whether to indict a Ferguson police officer, fueling new speculation about the timing as protesters demand he be indicted in the death of Michael Brown.
After meeting Friday but apparently not reaching a decision, the grand jury was widely expected to reconvene on Monday to consider possible charges against Darren Wilson, the white suburban St. Louis officer who fatally shot the black 18-year-old after a confrontation in August. There was no official confirmation about when the grand jury would meet again.
Reggie Cunningham was among Sunday night’s protesters. He said he doubted Wilson will be indicted and felt like authorities were delaying an announcement “to spin this in the most positive way possible.”
“The more that they drag this out, the angrier people are going to be,” said Cunningham, 30, of St. Louis. The shooting triggered riots and looting back in the summer, and police responded with armored vehicles and tear gas.
Many thought a grand jury decision on whether to charge Wilson would be announced Sunday, based partly on a stepped-up police presence in the preceding days.
Downtown STL Inc., a St. Louis civic group that promotes downtown businesses, told members in an email Saturday that the grand jury will reconvene Monday to continue deliberating. The email did not explain how the group knew that, and St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s office has not commented on the grand jury’s schedule.
McCulloch has said he expected a decision by mid-to-late November, but that’s ultimately not in his control. The 12-person grand jury deliberates in secret and sets its own schedule depending upon when the members are available.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Brown’s family, said they are frustrated the prosecutor didn’t charge Wilson himself or suggest a charge to grand jurors.
As it is, “you don’t have any direction, you’re just putting all the evidence out there and you’re going to let them figure it out and they can make up their own minds,” Crump said. “You know, it just boggles the mind why he thinks this is fair.”
If jurors meet Monday, there is no guarantee they’ll reach a decision that day, or even this week. It’s not uncommon for deliberations to take a while in complex cases when, such as in the Brown shooting, self-defense is alleged or there are two widely conflicting versions, according to Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson, who is not involved in the Ferguson case.
Sunday would have been an opportune time to minimize disruptions from protests, since schools and governments are planning on only a partial holiday workweek, Washington University law professor Peter Joy said, but that Monday or Tuesday would still make sense.
But “my belief is that with the holiday, releasing it on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday would produce a negative reaction,” Joy said.
During Sunday’s church services, some pastors encouraged their flocks not to fret. The Rev. Freddy Clark of Shalom Church in Florissant told the mostly black interdenominational congregation that “justice will be served” no matter the decision goes, because God will take care of it.
Meanwhile, daily protests have continued and there is speculation that the delays are intentional.
“People feel like it’s been engineered, so that the results wouldn’t come out until after the election and until the weather got cold, and it would be more difficult to protest,” said Susan McGraugh, supervisor of the Criminal Defense Clinic at the Saint Louis University School of Law. “It’s really adding fuel to the fire.”