Grand Jury Decides Not to Charge Cop Who Killed Michael Brown

Nov 24, 2014 at 9:26 PM ET

After almost three months of testimony, a Missouri grand jury has decided not to file criminal charges against the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson earlier this year, an event that rocked the town and the nation.

The grand jury ruling—effectively exonerating Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson—is the latest twist in the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was unarmed. The incident led to weeks of rioting and street unrest in the Missouri town and sparked a national debate on racial discrimination, police brutality and the militarization of police.

The announcement was shared by St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch who slammed the media and people hungry for news via social media, and detailed much of the contradictory evidence provided by witnesses, which was later proved false.

“The law authorises a law enforcement officer to use deadly force in certain situations,” McCulloch said, and said that the grand jury had been asked to consider whether or not that force was reasonable given the circumstances as described by the evidence. They did, and decided that there was no probable cause and that there would be no indictment.

In the run-up to the verdict, the town has been on edge. Residents and business owners promised to take to the streets again if Wilson was not charged, while Ferguson cops and their supporters have been preparing for the fallout. The 12 jurors—three of them black, nine of them white—took part in proceedings that were long and exhaustive. Earlier this fall, a judge granted a 60-day extension to the grand jury after the regular term expired on Sept. 10.

Wilson has reportedly told investigators that he feared for his life when he shot and killed Brown. He said Brown attacked him inside his patrol car and made a grab for his gun. Some eyewitnesses said that contrary to Wilson’s telling of the story, the police offier killed Brown as he raised his hands in surrender.

The jury had the option of indicting Wilson on one of several different charges, including first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter. Jurors heard testimony from an assortment of forensic specialists and eyewitnesses, and even officer Wilson testified, though he was not required to do so. His testimony reportedly lasted more than four hours in total. Officer Wilson has been on paid leave from the force since shortly after Brown’s death. It has been reported that it is highly unlikely that he will return to police work.

Prior to the ruling, jurors were educated on the range of possible charges, as well as self-defense and use of deadly force statutes for police officers. The Department of Justice’s civil rights division has also been conducting a parallel investigation, but federal officials have stated that as of now there is little evidence pointing to an eventual prosecution of Wilson for the teenager’s death.

Governor Jay Nixon issued an executive order last week that placed Missouri in a “state of emergency” in anticipation of the ruling. It has been more than 100 days since Brown’s death, and demonstrators calling for the indictment of Wilson have been a constant presence in Ferguson. Leading up to the announcement, protests were planned in more than 60 cities scattered throughout the country. Prior to the verdict, protesters proposed a list of 19 rules of engagement to local law enforcement officials, of which they have agreed to 16. Before the announcement of the verdict on Monday, city officials also announced that all Ferguson area schools will be closed on Tuesday.