A grand jury has heard evidence in the fatal shooting in August in Ferguson, Missouri, of a black teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, and its decision will be announced Monday.
The St. Louis County’s prosecuting attorney, Robert McCulloch, outlined the jury’s responsibility and its composition in a statement issued in October. The grand jury’s sole function, McCulloch said, “is to answer a single question: what, if any charges shall be brought?”
Following is a description of the function of grand juries in the St. Louis County courts and details of the jury hearing the Brown case:
In St Louis County, grand juries are composed of 12 citizens. The jury’s function is to make a “preliminary decision about a criminal charge: whether or not probable cause exists that a crime has been committed and that the accused committed it.”
The Ferguson grand jury is composed of seven men and five women. Nine are white and three are black. They vary by age, socioeconomic status and live in various parts of St. Louis County.
An indictment requires agreement by at least nine jurors. As in a jury trial, only the grand jurors are present during deliberations and their vote.
The prosecuting attorney does not participate in selecting the grand jury. The prosecutor presents evidence and “serves as the legal advisor to the grand jury.” In the Ferguson case, two assistant prosecutors are presenting the evidence.
Normally in a homicide case one or two investigators summarize the medical and scientific evidence, other physical evidence and witness statements. If the jury does vote to indict Darren Wilson, McCulloch has said that all the evidence in the case will become public during the subsequent prosecution. If the jury does not vote to indict, McCulloch said he will ask that the evidence be released to the public “as soon as possible, if not immediately.”