A grand jury found there was not enough evidence to indict officer Darren Wilson for the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown. The prosecuting attorney for St. Louis County, Bob McCulloch, announced Wilson would not be indicted at a press conference held at the St. Louis County Justice Center Monday.
From McCulloch’s statement:
“After their exhaustive review of the evidence, the grand jury deliberated over two days making their final decision. They determined that no probable cause exists to file any charges against Officer Wilson and returned a ‘no true bill’ on each of the five indictments. The physical and scientific evidence examined by the grand jury, combined with the witness statements, supported and substantiated by that physical evidence, tells the accurate and tragic story of what happened.”
In order for an indictment to have been handed down, 9 of the 12-person grand jury would have needed to believe there was enough credible evidence to warrant ‘probable cause’ to believe Wilson committed a crime. The grand jury process is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and is designed to be held in private where prosecutors present evidence to jurors.
The evidence that was presented will be made available to the public and a federal investigation is still ongoing.
The decision comes as tensions between law enforcement and residents has escalated in the days and weeks prior to the decision.
During a press conference held hours before the announcement, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon issued a statement urging citizens to show restraint when exercising their First Amendment rights:
“Our shared hope and expectation is that regardless of the decision, people on all sides show tolerance, mutual respect, and restraint.”
Nixon declared a state of emergency on Monday, November 17, under executive order 14-14. The executive order granted the St. Louis County Police Department operational control over security within the City of Ferguson. The national guard has also been called in to secure government buildings.
The following day he announced the creation of a 16-person commission called the ‘Ferguson Commission,’ tasked with making recommendations to improve policing policies and race relations in the community. Recommendations are expected by Spring 2015 at the earliest.
In the days and weeks ahead of the decision, activist groups held protest drills stressing non-violent demonstration in an effort to train participants and reduce the chances for violence and destruction of property.
Hundreds of civil rights activists have amassed outside of the Ferguson Police Department headquarters to demonstrate their opposition to the verdict.
Whether or not the protests will remain unimpeded by law enforcement or fall victim to unruly provocateurs remains to be seen. One thing is certain, the community of Ferguson, Missouri now has the undivided attention of the nation.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay captured the sentiment during his statement at the press conference with Nixon earlier today:
“The world will be watching us. They are going to watch how we handle our disagreements in the coming days and how we make needed change in the coming months and years. St. Louis finds itself with an opportunity to show the nation the ways in which a community can be more fair, and more just for everyone. We must seize this opportunity together.”
Editor’s note: The post was updated to include McCulloch’s full statement and the civil unrest that followed. Also, case evidence and transcripts of the proceedings were made available to the public.
Image: Bob McCulloch / CNN