Following the Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, one of the jurors is fighting for the right to speak on what happened.
The anonymous juror, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, is not allowed to discuss his or her grand jury service without permission from a court under threat of criminal charges.
“Grand Juror Doe” claims that Robert McCulloch, prosecuting attorney for St. Louis County, has not accurately portrayed the grand jury trial and that his experience could “help inform a way forward.” McCulloch is named as the defendant because he would be able to bring charges against Doe.
“The Supreme Court has said that grand jury secrecy must be weighed against the juror’s First Amendment rights on a case-by-case basis,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “The rules of secrecy must yield because this is a highly unusual circumstance. The First Amendment prevents the state from imposing a life-time gag order in cases where the prosecuting attorney has purported to be transparent.”
According to the lawsuit:
“The investigation had a stronger focus on the victim than in other cases presented to the grand jury.
The presentation of the law to which the grand jurors were to apply the facts was made in a muddled and untimely manner.
[McCulloch’s] statement characterizes the views of the grand jurors collectively toward the evidence, witnesses and the law in a manner that does not comport with plaintiff’s own opinions.
Although the release of a large number of records provides an appearance of transparency, those records do not fully portray the proceedings before the grand jury.”
The lawsuit also states that Doe found that evidence in Wilson’s case was presented differently than in other cases, with the insinuation that Brown, not Wilson, was the wrongdoer. Doe also points out that the decision to not indict Wilson was not unanimous as portrayed, and that Missouri law requires that nine out of 12 grand jurors must agree in order to issue an indictment.
Doe’s fight is important not just to inform the people in Ferguson, but to provide the country with context on what led to one of the most outrageous grand jury decisions in American history, especially in a case where the prosecutors have been exposed allowing a witness with a history of providing false testimony in high profile cases to testify.
On Monday, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund published an open letter to Judge Maura McShane, asking for a new grand jury hearing with new prosecutor based on McCulloch’s admissions that he knowingly allowed a false witness to testify in support of Darren Wilson.
Below is a screenshot of a portion of the letter, which can be in its entirety read here.