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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Darren Wilson Grand Juror Loses Appeal, Must Keep Her Silence

Posted By on Tue, Dec 12, 2017 at 10:58 AM

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch.
A grand juror who argued that she must be allowed to break her silence to contradict misstatements by St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch has lost her case — again.

A three-judge panel of the Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals issued a ruling today, agreeing with the circuit court that the unnamed juror does not have the right to speak out publicly about her experiences on the grand jury, which famously opted against indicting Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in November 2014.

The ruling, written by appellate judge Colleen Dolan, was unanimous.

In her petition — filed first in federal court and then later moved at its direction to state court — the grand juror had argued that being released from her oath of secrecy would allow her to educate the public, advocate for changes in how the grand jury process works and set the record straight on the Wilson case.

But the justices found that the examples she offered in Wilson case were not enough to be persuasive.

Among other statements, the juror had noted that McCulloch had said that the grand jurors were "able to assess the credibility of the witnesses" and "discussed and debated the evidence among themselves before arriving at their collective decision."

But the justices found the statements to be "neutral recitations of the facts — not statements that should potentially be corrected. They also argued that she could do things like advocate for grand jury reform without divulging facts about any particular cases.

The judges seemed to recoil at the juror's contention that the presentation of Wilson's case “differed in significant ways from how evidence was presented in the hundreds of matters presented to the same grand jury earlier in its term,” and the juror's contention that she “wishes to express opinions about…[her] impression that evidence was presented differently than in other cases presented to the same grand jury.”

The judges wrote, "Thus, the exception Doe seeks in her petition is not just limited to Wilson’s grand jury proceedings; Doe seeks an exception that would allow her to disclose information from potentially 'hundreds of matters.' Affording a grand juror unrestrained ability to disclose her interpretation of what happened in the proceedings completely destroys the idea of secrecy, which is crucial to the proper functioning of the grand jury process."

State law holds that grand juries must to be secret "to protect the jurors themselves, to promote a complete freedom of disclosure, to prevent the escape of a person to be indicted before he may be arrested, to prevent the subornation of perjury in an effort to disprove facts testified to, and to protect the reputations of persons against whom no indictment may be found.” And those principles, the justices found, were not enough to release the grand juror in this case.

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