Can you explain, with simple words, the procedure that lead to the decision of the grand jury in Ferguson?
Sure thing. I’m going to try simply provide some background on how grand juries normally work, and then explain how the grand jury in Ferguson worked. Other #lawblrsforjustice feel free to jump in and elaborate.
So the role of a grand jury is to determine whether there is “probable cause” to issue an indictment. This means, are there some facts and evidence meaning its possible that the accused committed the crime. This is really easy to do for a couple reasons. Chief among these is the super low burden of proof: note that it’s not the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard you see at trials — it’s basically just enough to be like, yeah that could have/probably happened, let’s send it to a jury to figure out. It’s also noteworthy that prosecutors are not required by law to share evidence with the grand jury in defense of the accused. Also, prosecutors can present ‘hearsay’ evidence to the grand jury, which isn’t necessarily reliable and normally wouldn’t be admissible in a real trial. All of these things come together and make it super simple for a prosecutor to get an indictment, if he really wants one — this is where we get sayings like ‘a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich.’ You really just have to walk up in there and say something like, for example, here are some eyewitnesses that say Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown while he was unarmed and with his hands up. There is no doubt that this presentation would secure an indictment.
The grand jury in Ferguson, though, had a bunch of unnecessary information thrown at them, with no real instruction beyond let’s see what sticks. People without legal training aren’t gonna really know what to do with all this. Also, the prosecutor may as well have been the defense lawyer for Darren Wilson, even having him testify to the grand jury. It is not the job of the prosecutor to put on the defense’s case — all of this is highly unusual.
Like, 99.9% of the times, the prosecutor makes a request of the grand jury, and the grand jury honors that request. The grand jury in Ferguson did what the prosecutor wanted too: nothing.