Will the Ferguson grand jury bring justice?
FERGUSON, Mo. (WJLA) - Twelve members - nine white and three African American citizens from the community - make up the grand jury that's now pouring over evidence in St. Louis County, Missouri.
To indict police officer Darren Wilson, nine jurors must reach the same conclusion - that Wilson "knowingly caused death" to Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager.
Jurors can apply a low standard to arrive at that decision, says law professor Byron Warnken.
"All you need is a preponderance of the evidence to file the charges," Warnken told reporter Kristine Frazao - meaning, the majority of evidence is more convincing in probable truths and accuracy.
Dr. Lawrence Kobilinsky, of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, explains, "We really need to look at the physical evidence, whatever it is - gunshot residue, the gun itself, the shell casings - all of this will help us, really, to establish fact."
The other side to this case is Officer Wilson's innocence. Again, nine jurors would have to agree and return what's known as a "no true bill" - meaning, there's no reason to believe a crime was committed.
"The standard is, would a police officer similarly situated honestly and reasonably believe that he needed to use - right now, imminently - a deadly force response to prevent death or serious bodily harm to him or some other innocent person?" Warnken explains.
The grand jury in St. Louis County meets once a week, and the expectation is it will need weeks or even months to reach a decision.
That's okay with Michael Brown's father.
"I don't want a rush to judgment. I want everyone to take their time, so there be no mistakes, and get it done right," said Michael Brown Sr.
How much justice can we expect coming from a grand jury, since the prosecuting attorney not only decides what evidence is presented, what charges are considered, who testifies, and - to top it off - instructs jurors on applicable law?
"A prosecutor can get whatever he or she wants out of that grand jury," said Warnken - and that, he says, makes for perfect cover for a prosecuting attorney, especially one confronted with a racially charged case. He can blame the grand jury for the final decision.