The Ferguson Decision: An Update and Legal Analysis

Nov 25, 2014

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Demonstrations have been happening all over the country following a Missouri grand jury's announcement that it will not seek an indictment of police officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Rachel Lippmann covered last night's announcement for St. Louis Public Radio and joins us for an update. David Harris, University of Pittsburgh School of Law Professor, explains why a grand jury was used and offers his thoughts on the prosecutor's approach.

Lippman says that Ferguson has been comparatively calm today after hours of demonstrations. She says that St. Louis police reported that demonstrations last night were the worst seen since the shooting occurred in August, with many shots fired and more than a dozen buildings burned to the ground.

Meanwhile, Harris explains that there were several different options for moving forward in the Ferguson case, but the prosecutor used the grand jury option in order to involve members of the community while simultaneously absolving himself of responsibility for making the decision.

The grand jury was used in several unusual ways in this case, Harris argues, and the circumstances made it so that the decision not to seek an indictment was not a big surprise. Harris suggests that the prosecuting attorney abdicated his responsibility and did so quite purposely.