A grand juror in the Michael Brown shooting has brought a lawsuit against the prosecutor for what the juror said was presentation of a shoddy case against Officer Darren Wilson.
The juror is also represented by the American Civil Liberties Union in a free-speech quest to lift the gag order and allow the jurors to talk about the case.
“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, in a statement today. “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.”
Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri, argued that the grand juror’s perspective, if shared with the public, “can and should help inform a way forward here in Missouri.”
“The ACLU will fight to allow this important voice to be heard by the public and lawmakers so that we can begin the healing process that can only result from fact-based reforms,” Mittman added.
The lawsuit notes that the grand juror began serving in May 2014 for a term scheduled to end in September 2014. That was extended through November.
Brown was fatally shot by Wilson on Aug. 9. The grand jury decided not to indict Wilson in November.
“From Plaintiff’s perspective, the presentation of evidence to the grand jury investigating Wilson differed markedly and in significant ways from how evidence was presented in the hundreds of matters presented to the grand jury earlier in its term,” the lawsuit states.
“From Plaintiff’s perspective, the investigation of Wilson had a stronger focus on the victim than in other cases presented to the grand jury,” it states, adding the “presentation of the law to which the grand jurors were to apply the facts was made in a muddled and untimely manner” compared to other cases during the term.
The grand juror contends that prosecutor Robert McCulloch has “collectively” summed up the grand jury’s opinions in a way that “does not comport” with the plaintiff’s individual views.
“From Plaintiff’s perspective, although the release of a large number of records provides an appearance of transparency, with heavy redactions and the absence of context, those records do not
fully portray the proceedings before the grand jury. Plaintiff would like to speak about the experience of being a grand juror, including expressing Plaintiff’s opinions about the evidence and the investigation, and believes Plaintiff’s experience could contribute to the current public dialogue concerning race relations.”
The argument in the suit contends that “prohibiting Plaintiff’s expressive activity does not serve to assure that Wilson will not be held up to public ridicule.”