Possible leak from Ferguson grand juror being probed
A Twitter post declaring there is not enough evidence to indict the officer who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson is being investigated by prosecutors, and could potentially derail the entire grand jury process.
The St. Louis County prosecutor’s office said Wednesday that it is investigating whether there was a leak by a grand juror hearing evidence in the case of Darren Wilson – the white Ferguson police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August.
The leak came in the form of a Twitter post belonging to the account of Susan M. Nichols, @thesusannichols, as identified by the Washington Post. The message was posted in response to another user.
“I know someone sitting on the grand jury,” the Twitter message said. “There isn’t enough at this point to warrant an arrest.”
Within seconds of posting this, her friends told her to delete it and she did. It was screenshotted first. pic.twitter.com/b6kTf9p40h
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) October 1, 2014
By Wednesday evening, the Twitter account and tweet were gone.
Grand jury investigations are conducted in private, and the possibility of a juror sharing information externally could be considered misconduct.
But Ed Magee, spokesman for St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch, said there was no evidence to suggest the information in the tweet was credible.
"We just got it this morning also and will be looking into the matter," Magee told the Associated Press.
The St. Louis grand jury has been meeting since August 20 over whether to indict Wilson, and is expected to complete its work by mid-October or early November. In the state of Missouri, the decision does not have to be unanimous to press an indictment, as long as nine out of the 12 jurors agree on the charge.
Wilson shot Brown at least six times from the front, according to the medical examiner commissioned by his family. His body was reportedly left in the street for four and a half hours.
There are conflicting eyewitness reports from residents and police regarding the shooting, but several witnesses have described Brown as holding up his arms in surrender during the confrontation. That detail developed into the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” chant used during several weeks of protests that followed the incident.
In the predominantly black community of Ferguson, Brown’s death – and the militarized response to protests and demonstrations near the site of the shooting – escalated tensions with the majority white police force and galvanized the local population to call attention to racial grievances.
In addition to the grand jury, the Justice Department is conducting its own investigation into whether Michael Brown’s civil rights were violated, with the FBI conducting over 200 interviews as part of that investigation.
The grand jury’s investigation is occurring while another grand jury looks into the death of a New York man, Eric Garner, who died shortly after being placed in a chokehold by police when they arrested him for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. Chokeholds are prohibited in the New York Police Department’s Patrol Guide. The Justice Department has not yet declared if it will investigate whether Garner's civil rights were violated.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department is also investigating the shooting of a black Ohio man, John Crawford III, who was shot by police after they received a 911 call that a man was waving a rifle at customers in Walmart. Officers maintain they told the suspect to put the gun down before shooting him. A grand jury said last Wednesday they would not indict the officers, but a surveillance video surfaced afterwards showing police shooting Crawford before he put his weapon down. The Justice Department announced the same day that it would investigate whether Crawford’s civil rights had been violated.