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Questions, answers about Missouri grand juries

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 22, 2014 at 6:14 pm •  Published: August 22, 2014

A grand jury is considering evidence to determine whether Officer Darren Wilson should be charged in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9.

St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch says it will be several weeks before a decision is made. Here is a look at how grand juries work in Missouri:


Q: How many people are on the grand jury and how are they selected?

A: A grand jury is made up of 12 people who "shall be selected at random from a fair cross-section of the citizens" of St. Louis County, according to Missouri law. The grand jury in the Brown case is 75 percent white: six white men, three white women, two black women and one black man. The county overall is 70 percent white, but around two-thirds of Ferguson's residents are black.

Brown was black while the officer is white.

Unlike a trial, where lawyers can object to having certain people on a jury, there is no role for objections inside a grand jury, said Susan McGraugh, a professor at St. Louis University law school.

Q: What happens in a Missouri grand jury?

A: Prosecutors present evidence and summon witnesses to testify. A grand jury is a powerful tool for investigating crimes because witnesses must testify unless they invoke the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects against self-incrimination.

The use of grand juries varies greatly by state; it's the only way to return an indictment in federal court.

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