Grand Jury's Decision In Michael Brown Case Will Be Announced Monday
A St. Louis County grand jury has reached a decision in the police shooting of Michael Brown this past August; its findings are expected to be announced at a news conference Monday evening.
The news follows NPR's confirmation earlier Monday that the grand jury had decided whether to indict Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson over the death of Brown, who was 18 years old and unarmed when he was killed.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who declared a state of emergency one week ago, flew to St. Louis Monday; he's slated to give a public address at 6:30 p.m. ET. The jury's decision will be announced later, at 9 p.m. ET.
This story is developing, and we're updating this post to reflect the latest news.
Update at 6:45 p.m. ET: Nixon Urges Tolerance And Respect
Promising logistical support for police, Gov. Jay Nixon said they'll do what it takes to ensure people are safe. But he also repeatedly called for "peace, respect, and restraint" on all sides.
The governor and others who spoke at the news briefing said they didn't know the jury's finding. But St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley promised that no matter what the outcome, the announcement will begin an "emotional" time for the Ferguson community.
Dooley also said it was time to show the world that the community could get through this tense time without violence, a theme that several others touched on.
"What happened to Michael Brown has deeply divided us," St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said. He promised to protect protesters' right to express their displeasure.
"But turning violent or damaging property will not be tolerated," Slay added.
Slay also predicted that it would soon be time "to close the racial divide" and move forward as a community.
Update at 6:27 p.m. ET: Jury Documents May Be Released
If Wilson is not indicted, "Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch's office is planning to release grand jury documents without seeking a judge's approval," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, citing a lawyer for the prosecutor's office.
Such a step would come after McCulloch's office was advised that Missouri's Sunshine Law for public records would allow the documents to be released, the newspaper says. And St. Louis Public Radio's Chris McDaniel says the prosecutor believes the records are his, not the jury's.
We'll note that at least two emails from McCulloch's office about this evening's events have included variations on the message, "Please do not respond with any questions."
Our original post continues:
The grand jury is made up of nine white and three black jurors; seven are men and five are women. A decision on criminal charges requires agreement from at least nine of the 12.
The panel was seated in May; their term "was extended to handle the Ferguson case," as St. Louis Public Radio reports.
The jury's review results from a St. Louis County investigation; the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department are conducting their own inquiry — an effort that included the step of ordering a second autopsy of Brown's body.
(You can follow the events leading up to today in this timeline.)
After news spread Monday that the jury had made a decision, Michael Brown's family released a statement calling for 4 1/2 minutes of silence after the findings are announced, "to remember why we lift our voices."
Their message continues: "We are not here to be violent. We are here in memory of our son. We are here for protection of all children. We are here to support justice and equality for all people. We lift our voices to ensure black and brown men, women, and children can live in this country without being devalued because of the color of our skin."
Nixon's emergency declaration last week cleared the way for the National Guard and state agencies to help quell any potential violence. Officials in Ferguson, a community in the St. Louis area, have been preparing for possible clashes. Police have been restocking equipment and gear, and churches have been working to establish "safe areas" during any potential protests, as NPR's Sam Sanders has reported.
Some businesses have gone to great lengths to ensure their stores in Ferguson remain safe — but as we reported this weekend, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently noted that the fallout from the police killing has brought far less damage to Ferguson than recent hailstorms brought to St. Louis.
The case stems from Aug. 9, when Wilson, who is white, and Brown, who was black, had a confrontation around noon local time in the middle of the street by the Canfield Green apartment complex.
The incident happened less than 10 minutes after Brown left a convenience store from which he'd stolen a box of Swisher Sweet cigars, according to a police incident report that transcribes surveillance video. Wilson was driving his police car when he saw Brown and a friend, Dorian Johnson, walking in the street. He ordered them to get out of the roadway, and they responded that they had nearly reached their destination.
"A struggle ensued at the police car. Wilson drew his gun and fired twice. One of the bullets hit Brown's right thumb. Based on gunpowder residue and Brown's blood on the gun, Brown's hand was close to the gun when it fired.
"Brown and Johnson took off from the car. Wilson got out in pursuit. Brown turned around some distance away. Wilson fired, hitting Brown twice each in the chest and head, killing him. The deadly shots entered from the front of Brown's body, after he had turned around."
But the radio station notes that while most of those details are widely agreed upon, many others remain in dispute.
The scene of Brown's death immediately became a focal point of tributes and prayer vigils. The killing also sparked demonstrations and clashes with police.
"When days of protests over the shooting erupted, the predominantly white police in Ferguson responded with what many viewed as a heavy-handed approach toward mostly black protesters," NPR's Scott Neuman reports.
Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol was brought in to help restore order. And U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder went to Ferguson to try to ease tensions.
The case also has highlighted divisions between state and federal law.
Citing legal experts, St. Louis Public Radio recently noted that "an outdated Missouri law that allows police to shoot an unarmed fleeing felon could help Officer Darren Wilson avoid an indictment and prison."
The news agency adds that "even if Wilson is indicted and convicted, the same law would give Wilson a strong case to get his conviction thrown out on appeal, the lawyers say."
In the St. Louis area, the high-profile role of county prosecutor Robert McCulloch in the case has been a bone of contention. Some protesters said this summer that they did not trust him to pursue the case vigorously.
"When McCulloch was 12, his father, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty," NPR's Elise Hu reported in August. "McCulloch is white. The man who shot his father was black. That history worries many in the community about the prosecutor's objectivity."
McCulloch has stated that his judgment in the case wouldn't be affected by that incident; Nixon has supported the prosecutor.
Earlier this month, Brown's parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., spoke before the U.N. Committee Against Torture in Geneva. They said their son's killing, and the use of force by police that followed, violated international conventions.
Brown's parents have called for the authorities to arrest Wilson and to end "racial profiling and racially-biased police harassment," as they wrote in a statement about their Nov. 11 U.N. appearance.
How can McCulloch release grand jury records if they're normally secret? He argues they're his records, not GJ's. pic.twitter.com/V6RDkgMbWX— Chris McDaniel (@csmcdaniel) November 25, 2014
In 2002 case, we reported McCulloch's release of audio tapes of grand jury hearings was 4th time in modern history any GJ info ever released— Christine Byers (@ChristineDByers) November 23, 2014
Stopped by the Ferguson Burger Bar. Great small biz committed to this community pic.twitter.com/1NjHAvkSpg— Governor Jay Nixon (@GovJayNixon) November 24, 2014
Some, but not all, businesses boarded up in Clayton. pic.twitter.com/BMsO5Al30S— Durrie Bouscaren (@durrieB) November 24, 2014