Grand Jury in Ferguson Shooting Investigated for Misconduct

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Grand Jury in Ferguson Shooting Investigated for Misconduct

Unconfirmed confidential information from the hearings emerges on Twitter as activists call for new jury, prosecutor

The St. Louis County courthouse. (Photo: Reading Tom/flickr/cc)

The St. Louis County courthouse. (Photo: Reading Tom/flickr/cc)

Prosecutors in Missouri are investigating possible misconduct by the grand jury hearing the case against Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.

The investigation was launched after a series of messages posted Wednesday morning on Twitter showed users discussing one juror who may have shared information about the proceedings with a friend.

“I know someone sitting on the grand jury of this case[.] There isn’t enough at this point to warrant an arrest. #Ferguson,” read one message.

An activist based in St. Louis, Shaun King, was able to screenshot the conversation before the user—who had previously posted messages of support for Wilson—deleted her account.

The jury has been considering evidence in the case since August 20. Although its official term ended on September 11, the jury could take through mid-November to complete its hearing, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch has said.

McCulloch told the Washington Post last week that both the FBI and county police’s investigations into the shooting are “pretty much done.”

Because grand jury proceedings are confidential, McCulloch’s office may have to begin its  hearing with a new group if there has been a leak. Under Missouri law, a juror who shares private information about a hearing can be charged with a misdemeanor.

“If this allegation is true and there is a member of the grand jury who is discussing the case with a Darren Wilson supporters the appropriate thing for the prosecutor to do is impanel a new grand jury,” Benjamin Crump, the Brown family’s attorney, told the Post. “If this person is discussing the case outside of the grand jury it is wholly inappropriate. It’s an issue of fairness for Michael Brown’s family.”

Activists who have kept up vigilant protests for justice for Brown have long called for McCulloch to remove himself from the case. The newest complication with the case has strengthened the objective, as King told the Post, “If it’s found to be true and the Grand Jury has to be dismantled, McCulloch should be taken off of the case immediately and replaced with a special prosecutor.” King also tweeted earlier,

McCulloch’s history shows a bias in favor of police officers and a pattern of racist prosecution. In 2001, when two white officers shot and killed two unarmed black men sitting in their car in a restaurant parking lot, McCulloch refused to charge them. He said of the deceased men, "These guys were bums."

Wilson himself has already testified before the grand jury, giving his account for almost four hours on September 16.

On Wednesday, the St. Louis County police department confirmed that they would not release a report of the shooting. McCulloch, who is having audio recordings and transcripts made of the grand jury proceedings, has said he will publish them only if there is no indictment. It is unclear what impact the misconduct investigation will have on the recordings or McCulloch’s promise.

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