Will there be rioting over this revelation? The Ferguson grand jury that failed to indict police officer Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown was misdirected on a key point of ‘Use of Force’ law.
Court papers reveal that the jury was initially told about local Missouri law which allows ‘deadly force.’ It says officers can ‘use deadly force when someone is fleeing.’
The error was compounded by prosecutors’ failure to correct the misdirection on this crucial point of law until the final day of the three-month-long hearing.
According to Anthony Rothert, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri the jury was instructed to apply a law that ‘a police officer can use deadly force when someone is fleeing.’
American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri is suing for rules which stop grand jurors from speaking to be lifted after one came forward to question whether the State Attorney has told truth.
The controversy is over the Missouri statute, under which officers were permitted to use deadly force on a fleeing suspect, even if the felony was not of a violent nature, was ruled unconstitutional 38 years ago. In 1977 the US Supreme Court struck down the statute as ‘an arbitrary imposition of death.’
What this means is, an officer must believe there to be a threat of ‘imminent harm’ before he or she is justified in opening fire which, may not be the case with Michael Brown.
St Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri to allow a grand juror to speak publicly about the misdirection
Mr Rothert, lead attorney in Grand Juror Doe v Robert P McCulloch, an attempt by one of the jurors to be allowed to speak openly about what went on in the hearing, described this misdirection as ‘huge’.
He said, ‘The grand jury heard everything through this prism. They heard all the evidence and drew their conclusions as they did without really knowing what they were supposed to be looking for.
‘Then they were told, “Oh that’s unconstitutional,” at the end. Their understanding of the law they were to apply was, at the very least, muddled.’
Prosecutor Kathi Alizadeh admitted, ‘Previously in the very beginning of this process I printed out a statue for you that was, the statue of Missouri for the use of force to affect an arrest…
‘What we have discovered, and we have been going along with this, doing our research, is that the statute of the State of Missouri does not comply with the case law.’
In a rambling redirection, she continued: ‘The statute for the use of force to affect an arrest in Missouri does not comply with…United States Supreme Court cases.
‘So the statute I gave you, if you want to fold that in half so just so that you know you don’t necessarily rely on that because there is a portion that doesn’t comply with the law.’
One juror, clearly uncertain as to just what Ms. Alizadeh was now telling them asked in reference to the print out, ‘So we’re to disregard this?’
Confusingly Ms. Alizadeh replied, ‘It is not entirely incorrect or inaccurate, but there is something in it that’s not correct, ignore it totally.’
Mr. McCulloch has 21 days to respond to the lawsuit filed by Mr. Rothert last week.
It would allow the grand juror to speak freely.
According to Mr. Rothert if the prosecutor is truly interested in transparency he will not fight but make an exception for what is, he said, ‘an exceptional case’.
Mr. McCulloch’s office declined to comment.
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