A few years ago, I was a member of the St. Louis County Grand Jury—the same body that is currently considering evidence in the Michael Brown shooting. According to news reports, the Grand Jury still operates the same way it did back then. Based on my experience in that grand jury room, I predict that Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, will not be indicted. Here’s why:
As St. Louis County grand jurors, our weekly routine began when we received the day’s docket of cases. It was a multi-page document, on which were printed the case numbers, defendants’ names, and—this is the part that’s most significant to my no-indictment prediction—the charge that we were to consider, plus its legal classification [e.g., D Felony].
Our weekly case dockets contained from about 30 to as many as 60 cases. Each case was introduced by a prosecutor, who brought in witnesses—usually police officers—to testify about the details of the crime. Most of the cases were “slam-dunks.” The evidence was overwhelming [thieves who left their wallets with IDs behind at the crime scene, muddy tire tracks leading directly from a home invasion to the burglar’s house, shoplifters caught on security cameras, etc.] On our first day as grand jurors, County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch [who is leading the Darren Wilson investigation] joked that “We don’t catch the smart ones.”
I cannot remember a single case, among the close to 1,000 that we looked at on our dockets, that did not list the charge for which the prosecuting attorney was seeking an indictment.
Looking back, I can see how the formatting of the dockets and the presentation of the cases conditioned us—both openly and in a subliminal way—to vote for indictments, which we did, in, I’d estimate, 95% of the cases. And I can imagine that a case without a charge listed on the docket would stand out.
So, let’s see: All of the other cases are linked directly to a specific charge. This case doesn’t include a charge. In fact, it’s even more confusing than that: The prosecuting attorney is asking the grand jurors to decide IF there should be any charge at all, and WHAT that charge might be [a job for which grand jurors—if they are like me—are completely unqualified].
Given this break in protocol and the confusion it must be creating, I think it’s logical to infer, as a grand juror, that on this case, the prosecuting attorney is not really seeking an indictment. And since grand juries, as has been demonstrated many times, overwhelmingly follow the prosecutor’s lead, I think we can see where this is going.
And that’s why, if I were a betting person—and if Las Vegas bookies were perverse enough to offer odds in the Darren Wilson case—my money would be on a no-indictment result.
[UPDATE: Local news, as you may have heard, is now reporting that the grand jury looking into the Darren Wilson case is now under investigation itself, because a member of the grand juror may have discussed the case outside of the jury room–as indicated by a “friend-of-a-friend” post on Twitter. That potential breach of protocol could tank the entire grand jury investigation and could should help deep-six any indictment, too.]