Ferguson, Missouri, again in the legal news

A day after I noted that the ACLU has filed a complaint in Ferguson, Missouri about voting discrimination, another lawsuit makes the news: Grand Juror in Ferguson Sues to End Silence Rule – NYTimes.com.

It’s an interesting story for a number of reasons. The first that comes to my mind is the entire issue of secrecy in grand jury proceedings. I don’t know legal history, of course, but thought it was highly unusual, at the least, for the transcripts of the grand jury proceedings in the Michael Brown murder to be publicly released.

But since the prosecutor did release them and made pronouncements about them, a grand juror is now suing for the freedom from Missouri laws restricting grand jurors themselves from making statements about the proceedings:

A member of the grand jury that did not indict a white police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., sued the county prosecutor on Monday, seeking to speak out because the public’s impression of the grand jury’s work was “not entirely accurate.”

The lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court in St. Louis, raised questions about the way the St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert P. McCulloch, chose to have evidence presented and about how he portrayed the decision to not indict a former Ferguson policeman, Darren Wilson, who fired the shots that killed 18-year-old Michael Brown.

The public is left with the perception, the lawsuit said, that all of the grand jurors believed that there was not enough evidence to indict Mr. Wilson.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri is representing the grand juror, who is identified only as a St. Louis County resident. In the court filing, the plaintiff indicated a desire to “advocate for legislative change to the way grand juries are conducted in Missouri” and “contribute to the current public dialogue concerning race relations.

Seems to me what the juror is requesting is the right to break silence on the proceedings if that restriction has previously been broken by the prosecutor himself who, misrepresented the proceedings, as far as the juror is concerned.

It’s a gnarly legal issue, the sort of thing that people who like to condemn such things sneer at as “legal technicalities.” So what is a “legal technicality?” Um, the law.

And the case was filed in federal, not state, court.

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