Ferguson awaits grand jury’s decision

This month, the St. Louis County grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri is expected to announce its decision on whether to bring charges against Officer Darren Wilson.

They convened on Aug. 20. Wilson shot Michael Brown Jr. six times on Aug. 9, killing him.

This particular grand jury proceeding has been unusual, the New York Times reported, resembling a criminal trial more than a grand jury hearing. The jurors have been presented with every piece of evidence relevant to the case.

Wilson himself testified before the grand jury in September in another major irregularity.

After being instructed in the differences between the various charges that could be brought against Wilson, the 12 jurors will have to make judgments such as whether Wilson could “reasonably believe” that he or someone else was in serious danger.

If he did, this would justify the use of deadly force. Jurors will also have to evaluate eyewitness accounts and forensic evidence, the Times reported.

The jurors will have to evaluate conflicting witness accounts. Brown’s family and eyewitnesses say he had his hands up and was verbally surrendering at the time of his death.

Ferguson police said he was struggling with Wilson in his car and reached for his gun, USA Today reported. The prosecutors themselves are not recommending any charge, as is standard.

Ric Simmons, a former prosecutor and professor of criminal law at Ohio State University, told the Times that “the prosecutors appear to be giving the grand jury the ability to decide for themselves.” They may hope that a decision made by peers might be seen as more valid by the community at large.

The jurors have not been sequestered, so it is certain that they have heard a lot about the case and the protests following Brown’s death via news and social media.

On Nov. 12, Brown Jr.’s parents traveled to Geneva, Switzerland for a private meeting with the United Nations Committee Against Torture, CNN reported.

The Committee Against Torture also opposes cruel or degrading treatment or punishment by government authorities.

“We need answers and we need action,” Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden said. “And we have to bring it to the U.N. so they can expose to the rest of the world what’s going on in small town Ferguson.”

McSpadden and Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., read from a statement submitted by their family and the organization HandsUpUnited, the Organization for Black Struggle, and Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment.

The statement said Brown’s death and the actions of police against protesters should be considered violations of the Convention Against Torture and demands a Department of Justice investigation of “police brutality and harassment in black and brown communities.”

It also asks the U.N. to recommend the arrest of Officer Wilson, CNN reported. Ferguson at large is bracing itself, and violence is expected no matter what the grand jury’s decision.

On Nov. 11, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said the National Guard would be on standby and urged for peace from both police and protesters.

Brown’s family attorney Darryl Parks said Brown Jr.’s parents have faith in the grand jury and oppose any violence, Reuters and L.A. Times reported.

Gun sales have sharply increased, and businesses are boarding up their windows in advance of looting, ABC News reported.

Meanwhile, protesters have been holding workshops on teargas protection demoing the process of using milk and water to rinse teargas from the eyes and face at protest sites and using social media.

Ferguson police have drawn criticism for their use of stun, or “flashbang,” grenades, tear gas and armored vehicles in response to unruly protesters, as well as imposing curfews and designating protest sites.

Amnesty International, who sent a delegation to Ferguson Aug. 14-22, has said the police in Ferguson violated protesters’ right to peaceful assembly, and the use of lethal force against Brown was not justified.

The human rights organization said in a report that “the police should not intervene aggressively simply in response to the actions of a small number of participants.”

-Henry Ashton ’15, Senior Politics/Opinions Editor

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