They’ve been meeting in secret at the Justice Center in Clayton for months. 12 grand jurors, six white men, three white men, two black women and one black man. Any day now, they will decide whether or not Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson faces criminal charges relating to the shooting death of Michael Brown. We sat down with Saint Louis University school of law professor Sue McGraugh for some answers to commonly asked questions about the grand jury system. For instance, why is it taking so long?
“It’s not unusual that it will take a little longer because they are investigating as they meet in grand jury.” said Sue McGraugh.
Grand jurors can ask questions of witnesses, detectives, prosecutors, anyone who comes before them. It’s a process that takes a lot time , especially considering the amount of evidence in this case.
“In this instance Bob McCollough has said he’s bringing in all the witnesses and even allowing officer Wilson to testify, which is unusual because as a general rule criminal defendants are not allowed to testify at a grand jury.” said Sue McGraugh.
When all the evidence has been presented, the grand jurors will meet privately with no one else in the room.
“They will vote on whether there is a true bill that they have probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and Officer Wilson committed it or they can say there is no true bill which means there is not enough evidence to push the charge forward.” said Sue McGraugh.
Nine of the twelve jurors must vote in favor of a true bill to indict. Remember, grand juries use a probable cause standard to bring an indictment, a threshold of proof that is far lower than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard that’s required to convict someone at trial.
When the grand jury returns its decision, which we expect sometime next month.