Saturday, October 4, 2014
I write today to clarify the role of the prosecutor and grand jury in the Michael Brown murder investigation.
State grand juries have jurisdiction to investigate and charge people with state crimes committed within the county in which they are located. State or county prosecutors submit cases to them for consideration. Grand juries can also initiate their own investigations by subpoenaing witnesses, but they rarely do that.
Federal grand juries work the same way, but they deal with with federal crimes committed within the federal district in which they are located.
Jurisdiction to charge and prosecute drug offenses overlaps because both state and federal statutes have criminalized drug crimes. To avoid doubling up, the feds handle the more serious drug cases and the states handle the less serious ones. By seriousness, I am referring to the amount of drugs involved.
Jurisdiction rarely overlaps in murder cases because jurisdiction in murder cases depends on where the crime was committed. For example, the State of Missouri has jurisdiction to prosecute Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, but the feds do not since the shooting did not happen on federal property, such as a military base. But they would have jurisdiction to indict him for committing a hate crime or violating Michael Brown’s civil rights, since they have jurisdiction to charge those crimes wherever they are committed.
Federal prosecutors in the Central District of Florida, which is where George Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed Trayvon Martin, apparently have decided not to seek an indictment charging Zimmerman with a hate crime or a civil rights violation.
A St.Louis County grand jury has jurisdiction to indict Darren Wilson because the shooting happened within that county.
There is no statute of limitations in murder cases. Therefore, if the grand jury’s term expires before it decides whether to indict Darren Wilson, a new grand jury can be convened to continue the investigation.
As I see it, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch does not want to prosecute Darren Wilson for murdering Michael Brown, so he is deliberately dragging his feet to prevent the grand jury from indicting him.
I have reached that conclusion because I can think of no valid reason why Wilson has not been indicted. Approximately ten witnesses who do not know Brown, Wilson or each other have all described Wilson shooting Brown after Brown stopped running away, turned and raised his hands. No one described Brown bull-rushing Wilson, although one witness described Brown stumbling toward Wilson after being shot and dropping to the ground.
His body was 95 feet away from Wilson’s vehicle.
A grand jury need only find probable cause (i.e., reasonable grounds) to believe Wilson murdered Brown in order to indict Wilson.
Wilson should have been indicted weeks ago because there is far more evidence against him than is necessary to establish probable cause.
Our legal system is designed to have trials in cases like this so that the community can witness the legal process proceed toward a just result as we just witnessed in the Theodore Wafer and Michael Dunn cases.
Bob McCulloch is attempting to subvert that process and by doing so he is subverting justice.
The good people of Ferguson know what he is doing and they are expressing their dismay peacefully by public protest.
That could change, if he continues to subvert justice.
For more information on the role of grand juries, click on “grand jury” in the index of categories that appears in column on the right side of the web page.
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