April V. Taylor
After having the decision by the grand jury investigating the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown delayed until next year, investigative reporter Shaun King and others have uncovered several things that point to unethical legal proceedings and a possible cover-up by police. This includes violations of the state’s sunshine laws by hiding basic evidentiary information, questionable revelations of information that include juror misconduct and criminal actions by Ferguson and St. Louis County police.
As reported by Black Enterprise, recent revelations include the allegation that St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar lied about how far Brown was from Wilson when he was shot. Belmar stated in an initial interview about the shooting that Brown was 35 feet from Wilson’s SUV when he was killed. Some believe this distance was used because an officer is allowed to use force when they are in danger, and 25 to 35 feet away from a person is generally considered imminent danger. The issue with this statement is that crime scene photos and physical evidence reveal that when measuring the distance is measured and then verified using Google Map, Brown was more than 100 feet away from Wilson’s SUV when he was shot. In other words, Wilson was not in imminent danger from an unarmed man who was more than one hundred feet away from him when he fired 10 shots at him.
The latest twist involves a Tweet that has prompted the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office to open an investigation into jury misconduct. A spokesman for county prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced Wednesday morning that they had received information about the possible misconduct and that they, “are looking into the matter.” According to the Washington Post, several Twitter users sent tweets out about a juror who is accused of discussing the case against Darren Wilson, the officer who shot and killed Brown in August. The “friend” is alleged to be Susan Nichols, who is a longtime resident of St. Louis. Nichols stated that her friend, who is a member of the grand jury, does not believe that there is enough evidence to justify Darren Wilson being arrested. Nichols has also allegedly posted Tweets in support of Wilson. If the county prosecutor’s office finds that there has in fact been juror misconduct, the office may be required to convene a new grand jury.
Benjamin Crump, who is the attorney representing Brown’s family, has stated that if there has been juror misconduct, the incident must be investigated completely. Crump specifically stated, “If this allegation is true and there is a member of the grand jury who is discussing the case with a Darren Wilson supporter the appropriate thing for the prosecutor to do is impanel a new grand jury. If this person is discussing the case outside of the grand jury it is wholly inappropriate. It’s an issue of fairness for Michael Brown’s family.” The fact that juror misconduct may have occurred further fuels the suspicion that the legal proceedings surrounding Michael Brown’s death are flawed and biased. Crump also has concerns about the fact that the county prosecutor’s office has not approached him about including any evidence Brown’s family has to submit to the grand jury. In an interview with Talking Points Memo, Crump stated that the family has things that they want to present that would “make probable cause clear.” He also stated, “The whole process concerns us…I think there’s a reason why the people mistrust the local law enforcement so much…They think this secret proceeding is going to be whatever the prosecutor wants it to be, and nobody is going to know except the prosecutors and those jurors.”
These are only the most recent revelations. The unethical behavior and official lawlessness goes back to the information released by Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson on August 15th when Darren Wilson’s name, and incident report for a robbery that was basically devoid of any real information as well as a video of an alleged robbery Brown was involved in. Chief Jackson claimed the robbery report and video were released because of numerous media requests, but it was later found that no media outlets had specifically requested the information. The report and video were released while information related to Brown’s killing was withheld. Officials have also attempted to charge news outlets and civil rights organizations thousands of dollars for access to records related to Brown’s killing and the investigation. Charles Grapski states to Salon, “Ferguson is deliberately violating both the laws and its own policies to prevent any information from being produced and made public that could be used to hold Officer Wilson to account for his actions…They are committing criminal offenses.”
Any hope that the state government will step in and hold Ferguson and St. Louis County Police responsible is squashed by the ties between Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Missouri House of Representatives member Jeffrey Roorda. Governor Nixon attended an August 25th fundraiser for Representative Roorda. The Missouri Times quotes Roorda as acknowledging Nixon’s support by stating, “ I’ve enjoyed support from Governor Nixon every time I’ve run. That support has been very important to my success, and I anticipate I’ll continue to enjoy his support moving forward.” What makes Nixon’s support of Roorda so damning is that Roorda sits on the board of directors for “Shield of Hope,” a charity is responsible for running a GoFundMe site that raised almost $200,000 in support of Darren Wilson. In addition, Roorda is the business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers Association union. The union is responsible for instructing Darren Wilson to not make a statement about what happened when he killed Brown. As business manger for the union, Roorda has opposed police dashboard and body cameras as well as civilian oversight commissions.
All of these revelations can only make one wonder what other information will come to light as citizens continue to pursue justice for Michael Brown.