After unarmed teenager Michael Brown was fatally shot by Officer Darren Wilson, Gov. Jay Nixon urged the public to put its faith in a grand jury which would clearly, objectively decide whether or not Wilson was guilty of a crime. The jury's actual meetings (the group decided not to indict Wilson) ended up being anything but straightforward. A number of leaks tarnished the confidential nature of the proceedings, while a central witness used in Wilson's defense was ultimately discredited.
Now, a grand juror is suing the St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert P. McCulloch, with the intention of winning the right to speak publicly about the jury's meetings, claiming that the public has an inaccurate impression of what went on. In the court filing, the anonymous plaintiff wanted to "advocate for legislative change to the way grand juries are conducted in Missouri" and "contribute to the current public dialogue concerning race relations."
The Associated Press' Jim Salter reports:
"Right now there are only 12 people who can't talk about the evidence out there," ACLU attorney Tony Rothert said. "The people who know the most ? those 12 people are sworn to secrecy. What (the grand juror) wants is to be able to be part of the conversation."
The suit also contends that legal standards in the case were discussed in a "muddled" and "untimely" manner. Jurors could have charged Wilson with murder or manslaughter, but nine of 12 would have needed to agree.
The suit does not seek to allow grand jurors in all Missouri cases to be free to discuss proceedings. But it argues that the Ferguson case was unique, and that allowing the juror to speak would be valuable to the national debate about race and police tactics that followed the shooting.
"The rules of secrecy must yield because this is a highly unusual circumstance," Rothert continued in an interview with the AP. "The First Amendment prevents the state from imposing a lifetime gag order in cases where the prosecuting attorney has purported to be transparent."