BREAKING: No Grand Jury Indictment of Darren Wilson for Mike Brown’s Death; Protests in Ferguson & Nationwide

feature image via Jeff Roberson/AP Photos

After weeks of little to no communication, confusion and contradiction about the date of the decision, the pre-emptive institution of a state of emergency, and increased threatening police presence, a decision by the grand jury regarding Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown on August 9, 2014. Tonight, the announcement came that the grand jury did not indict Darren Wilson for his shooting of Michael Brown. 

Brown’s family has asked for 4 1/2 minutes of silence immediately after the announcement of the decision in honor of their son’s memory.

Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., Michael Brown's parents (via Jeff Roberson/AP Photo)

Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., Michael Brown’s parents (via Jeff Roberson/AP Photo)

The grand jury considered whether to indict Darren Wilson on any combination of a number of charges: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter. Outside of the grand jury decision, it’s still technically possible that Wilson could still be subject to a Justice Department investigation at the federal level, having his police license stripped, or a civil lawsuit. However, these options are unlikely; past precedents show that these are all options that are rarely taken up, and aren’t always effective:

More than two years into the investigation of the death of another unarmed black teen, Trayvon Martin, the department has yet to come to a decision on whether to bring charges against George Zimmerman, the man who killed him.

The grand jury process is fairly dense and confusing when viewed from the outside; the Washington Post has a breakdown of it here, as does the AP. Important takeaways are that the grand jury isn’t a trial itself, just a process by which to decide whether something will go to trial at all. The standard of proof is lower than in “regular” criminal court — grand jurors only need to decide whether there’s probable cause to believe Wilson committed a crime, not “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” Also, the jury doesn’t need to be unanimous on their decision — only 9 of the 12 jurors need to agree on it. It’s not clear when we’ll see what evidence was presented to the grand jury — McCulloch’s office has said that they’ll release the evidence even without a judge’s approval, but it’s unclear how long that will take. The state is under no legal obligation to release the names of the jurors, but sources say that 9 of the jurors were white, and only 3 Black or African-American.

Just days before the decision was handed down, activists examined video evidence that suggests that Mike Brown was in fact a full 148 feet away from Darren Wilson’s SUV when he was shot, and not 35 feet, as claimed by Ferguson police. The grand jury ruling also comes in the midst of reports that Darren Wilson may plan to resign rather than return to the police force, not because he believes he did anything wrong but to “help ease pressure and protect his fellow officers.” Wilson has reportedly expressed that he didn’t want to turn in his resignation unless the grand jury returned a decision that was favorable to him, so that he wouldn’t appear to be admitting guilt.

Even before the grand jury decision was released, Ferguson and the surrounding areas have been in a state of high tension. Schools in the Jennings School District closed Monday and Tuesday in anticipation of the ruling; local businesses were advised to board up their windows in anticipation of riots, although some businesses chose to demonstrate their faith in their communities and peaceful protest by electing to leave their windows unprotected. Although the mayor of St. Louis, Francis Slay, declared that “If protesters are non-violent, police will not be aggressive,” the increased police presence and declaration of state of emergency have many anxious about violent repercussions for protesters.

Since Brown’s death and the increasing tension around the grand jury ruling, there’s been an atmosphere of increased visibility and awareness around the murders of other young Black and brown people by police. To name just a few, the list includes Vonderrit Myers, Tanesha AndersonKajieme Powell, Vernicia WoodardJohn Crawford, Darrien Hunt, and just yesterday Tamir Rice, who was only 12 years old. Just yesterday protesters in the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis marched to block off Kingshighway Boulevard in remembrance of Vonderrit Myers. Connections are also being made in activist spaces to link different judicial injustices, like the event being held in Chicago this evening in solidarity with both Ferguson and Marissa Alexander (who accepted a plea deal today).


The conversation about Ferguson, Mike Brown’s death, and what justice looks like in our communities isn’t over. Here are more ways to get involved:

List of nationwide Ferguson solidarity events

Information and resources about protests and safe spaces/sanctuaries

Contribute to the National Lawyers Guild Fund for Ferguson legal support

Contribute to the fund for Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment Legal Support Team

Read an open letter from Ferguson protesters

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1086 articles for us.

53 Comments

      • I totally understand that the family was informed first and of course their testimony is reliable (I wasn’t questioning any of that). I guess my big issue is that McCulloch released a lot of evidence and testimony from witnesses that are just as reliable so why not wait an hour to get additional information? Shouldn’t the members of this community be privy to all information not just information that fits a particular narrative? I am in no way trying to be disrespectful to you I just believe that if you are going to write about an issue it would be nice to provide both sides so people can truly be informed.

        • It’s not our responsibility to comment on all court proceedings or all evidence – our responsibility is to report the news, which is done here. We have published a wealth of other information on Mike Brown and Ferguson, all of which is still available. There are also myriad other news sources which are picking apart McCulloch’s statement, if that’s what you’re interested in – feel free to consult them.

          • How is the evidence in a court proceeding not worth more than an unlabeled hyper-link in your news report? If we really want to understand why things like this happen I think it’s worth more than the typical racist cop gloss over. When I come here I want nuance. I want to feel like all the facts matter, even if on the surface they don’t support the narrative of our gut feelings. And I want people not to assume that means I’m white and a police apologist.

          • Frequently, I feel like requests for “all the evidence,” “nuance,” and “both sides” are actually requests to give white voices more weight/stop centering Black pain.

            This is one of those times.

          • While it is certainly not your responsibility to report on all court proceedings I do believe you have a responsibility to report accurate information on those proceedings you do report on. You commented on one of my posts below and I am going to respond here as I feel it would be rude to debate with you on another persons post. You are 100% correct that coming to this site (any site actually) and trying to convince people that there is no injustice in the criminal justice system isn’t a worthwhile endeavor. I’d go even further that such a claim would be absolutely ridiculous. I have seen cases of gross misconduct in the criminal justice system and it is appalling. It’s one of the reasons I got into my line of work. I decided the best way for me to change things would be to become a part of the system and change things from within. And I didn’t comment to get people to agree with me. I honestly don’t care if people agree with me as you are all entitled to your opinion and just because you disagree with me it doesn’t mean I think you’re wrong for feeling the way you do.

            To Laura, no one is trying to silence anyone. There is no question that there is a racial disparity in this country and it should be talked about. It’s an issue that people should be talking about every day. However, it should be done in an open way where all sides of the issue are presented. We can’t learn or fix a problem if we are unwilling to look at all aspects/views of the issue.

  1. Nobody should be surprised by this. Police officers in America are able to do a whole lot that an ordinary citizen can’t do without consequence. I’m hoping that the social pressure of the last few months doesn’t die down, and that the citizens of this country continue to demand accountability from it’s public servants. Vest cameras and cell phones recordings are a great start, but there needs to be very real consequences when it is determined that a police officer is at fault.

    • I have examined evidence in several internal investigation cases and I can assure you there is a great deal of accountability in law enforcement. I wholeheartedly agree with you about cameras and recordings. In this day and age no officer should be put on the streets without some sort of video and audio recording. It protects citizens in true cases of police misconduct as well as protects officers from false allegations.

      • Coming to LGBTQIA communities and hoping they’ll agree that police violence and abuse by the judicial system doesn’t exist isn’t a feasible plan. The legal system isn’t here to protect us, especially those of color, and it wasn’t there to protect Mike Brown, and trying to convince people otherwise isn’t a worthwhile endeavor.

      • I have a little problem with all your arguments and it’s just this one:

        A police officer is professionally trained to respond to threatening situations, so I’m sure Wilson or any policeman shouldn’t respond to a threat like a normal citizen. if I’ve found myself in a similar situation I would probably shoot all over the place, but I’m not a police officer and I’m not trained to deal with that kind of situation.

        Besides the answer you can give must be equivalent to the threat; if an unarmed person attacks you, as police officer, your first choice to respond shouldn’t be to shoot that person down.

        And by the way, as a trained police officer, if you need to shoot somebody to eliminate a threat, you will not need to shoot 7 times and kill the person.

        Probably you’re gonna argue that I don’t know what I’m talking about because of the risks, hazards and danger police officer’s face.

        But my point is this, if you are not prepared to deal with that, don’t become a policeman, because you have to know that your job will be more than saving kittens from trees.

        • I think the problem is that most police officers aren’t trained properly. My parents are cops the training protocols repeat that anyone could be carrying gun. Any day could be your last one. Anyone could kill you. There shown videos of police officers dying horribly after following the appropriate steps. The statements from Darren Wilson read to me like he didn’t have any training on how to take someone bigger than he was. He kept saying he was so much bigger and looked like a demon. Personally, I’m frustrated that he didn’t wait for back up since he couldn’t handle the situation.

          I want my mom to come home alive. But I think that the common types of training encourage paranoia and overreaction.

          • Mike Brown was the same height as Darren Wilson, he just weighed 70 pounds more. Darren Wilson characterizing him as huge, hulking, and coming at him like a demon tells us about Darren Wilson’s racialized response to the situation.

  2. I’m not even surprised though. Not even surprised. Travyon got no justice while his killer runs around beating women and generally behaving like a shithead(but he’s a hero though). And neither will Mike Brown. His killer is off getting married and receiving half a million in charity donations. I heard some 12 year old kid got killed by the police this week too for brandishing a toy gun on a playground. I’m sure their will be many more stories like this. I’m just numb right now and the first person I see expressing some pro-Darren Wilson rhetoric is probably going to lit up by me tonight. Fair warning.

    • I know the fact that George Zimmerman got off told me there wasn’t any hope of Darren Wilson being convicted. I just wish there was at least a trial. I get that the witness were conflicting but they weren’t supposed to prove it beyond reasonable doubt. I would think that conflicting evidence would be enough to charge manslaughter.

    • I can’t even think about Trayvon’s murderer still being a free man. It makes me so freaking livid and fills me with hatred for him and for the idiotic jury.

      And now the kid here in Cleveland – yes he had a very real looking BB gun, but I just can’t understand why bullet-proof vest-wearing cops have to shoot a young male who isn’t even an active shooter. There has to be another way.

      There are way too many stories like this and way too much *nothing* being done about it. What a great country.

        • If this were a little white kid that this police officer killed America would be outraged. OUTRAGED. We aren’t going to see any sort of real change until some police officer fucks up badly and kills a white kid. Then they will want to change how police do their jobs. Watch and see.

          • @turkish This would NEVAAAAAAR happen to a white kid like I can imagine the scenario:

            Picture it:

            In the future of a suspiciously lily white dystopian YA novel, a white kid gets shot or killed by a authoritative figure. A girl who does not know her own strength named Jennifer Lawrence/ Emma Stone/ Famous white girl under 27 has a super special secret that can cause a revolution and change the world…

  3. Tomorrow we’re having school-wide 4 1/2 hours of silence and wearing all black in memorial. I’m also going to try and go to a city-wide student protest tomorrow evening, if I can impress upon my parents the need for such protests (and they’d better listen). I hope everyone remembers that no matter your age, you have a voice on this, and you can use it to speak out for justice.

  4. I don’t even know what to say. I have no words. Just deep sadness and deep love for everyone fighting on the side of justice for mike brown.

    Grateful for the links to take action or get involved or lend support. At time like these, it can feel hopeless.

  5. I can’t even find words. It was so predictable and yet is so shocking.

    While everything starts and comes back to the police officer being a white man and the victim being a POC at one point in the future there needs to be a discussion of some serious questions like why people like Zimmermann can carry weapons around, why people like police officers and soldiers are somehow more worthy than other people and should not be questioned about their actions. Why is it any different to kill a police officer than any other person? I’m sure it happens in other countries as well but I always feel like it’s pretty shocking in the US.

    Some people might say this has nothing to do with these cases, it’s all about race. It is all about race, but these other problems lead to people like Wilson knowing they can kill a black person without being punished for it. The one’s who suffer the most under these people with too much power are always POC. It’s sickening.

    • It has everything to do with race but ofc it also has everything to do with police brutality and state violence and all these complicated things that affect marginalised people – POC, LGBTQ people, sex workers, migrants, women, etc, etc, etc – more than others. It’s not distracting the conversation from the meat of the matter to also talk about police brutality. That conversation is one and the same conversation as the one we all need to be having about structural racism in the US and elsewhere.

      At least, dem’s my thoughts.

  6. I am not surprised with this and honestly I am shocked, SHOCKED people thought otherwise. Come on, this *is* “America, baby!” just don’t look like a convenient scapegoat! I was talking to my about sister about good ol’ America and three rules apply:

    1) Capitalism and pro “we are white (hetero)” men made the fundamental rules
    2) You don’t tell white (men) people “no”
    3) Good luck, seriously

    Oh we are not different than militarized zones, it is just “shit” did not go down.

    GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!!!! In life and don’t get shot for saying “no” to whoooite people or just existing in a the *wrong* space.

    This is America.

    😀

  7. I don’t know how anyone can justify all the looting, arson and vandalism last night. If you support how these people acted, shame on you. I’m all for proper protests and the like but what does violence solve?

    I also don’t understand how most people keeps on relating this to Trayvon Martin’s case. That’s unfair to Trayvon as that truly was an issue of race. Michael Brown robbed a store and based from evidence, witness’ testimonies and autopsy reports, Michael Brown was attacking the police officer. And tried to attack him repeatedly. All the documents are available online. I think everyone should read it before forming an opinion.

    Do not be unfair to Trayvon Martin by comparing him to Michael Brown.

    • I don’t think anyone is justifying the looting last night.

      I do wish that Trayvon’s parents were the ones invited to Geneva. That said, the problem here is that the police allowed a dispute over cigars and jaywalking to escalate to shooting someone. I admit the Michael Brown didn’t do anything correctly but we expect the police to be able to control a situation.

    • I don’t “support” looting, arson, and vandalism. I also don’t condemn. People (including white people) participate in property damage and destruction when their sports team win championships. The intentional focus on looting in this context (similar to how it was racialized during Katrina in New Orleans) and the way it is ignored in others tells you something.

      People are angry. They have a right to be angry. Sometimes, that anger boils over. As a white person, my job in this context is to follow the leadership of the people of color I’m accountable to. For that reason, I wouldn’t engage in property damage. Because they will suffer.

      If you don’t understand how Michael Brown’s shooting and killing was also a matter of race, I am happy to provide some links that cover the history of race and racialized space in the St. Louis area, particularly in Ferguson, the history of the Ferguson police department, and the demographic make-up of the police department vs. the population of Ferguson.

      Based on evidence, witness testimonies, and autopsy reports (and I’m going to go off Darren Wilson’s testimony here, ignoring the ways in which it is biased because even it doesn’t demonstrate justifiable homicide), Darren Wilson harassed Michael Brown and his friend to get out of the street. Michael Brown stood at the car window. He punched Darren Wilson twice in the face. Darren Wilson had mace in his car (but not a stun gun). He pulled out his weapon and fired twice. There is conjecture that Michael Brown tried to grab the weapon from him, based on the DNA evidence in the car and the soot on Michael Brown’s hand. He may have tried to grab the weapon. He may have put his hand close to it to try to push it away so he wouldn’t get shot. One shot grazed Michael Brown’s hand. He hesitated, then moved away from the car. Darren Wilson exited the vehicle. Darren Wilson then states that Michael Brown began moving towards him. Darren Wilson fired at least 7 more shots. While standing outside of the car, with full range of motion, Darren Wilson did not attempt to use his pepper spray. He did not get in his vehicle and move away from Michael Brown (who was unarmed and did not represent a threat to the general community) while he waited for back-up. He did not shoot to incapacitate rather than kill. His state of mind was affected by his fear of the community, which he stated had lots of gang shootings and was not friendly to police (again, happy to link you to articles that research and analyze the history of the Ferguson police department). All of those factors make the killing of Mike Brown about race. As do the haphazard ways in which parts of the investigation were handled and the ways in which Mike Brown was portrayed by the media (he robbed a store, he was doing something wrong).

      I have read the documents. I was present in Ferguson for the weekend of resistance and watched how the militarized police harassed peaceful protesters. I live in New Orleans, where “He was no angel” is used to excuse the murders of black and brown men by police constantly.

    • This is about respectability politics. Trayvon’s name isn’t the only one used in conjunction with Michael Brown.

      This is about a system that sanctions violence towards young black people based on the assumption that they did something wrong. It’s what Darren Wilson assumed about Mike Brown when he harassed him and his friend for walking down the middle of the street in their neighborhood. It’s why Darren Wilson’s fear of the neighborhood encouraged him to put Mike Brown down, in the street, instead of attempting to incapacitate him.

      The same arguments were given about Trayvon. He might have smoked weed (rather than shoplifting cigarillos). He might have fought back when someone harassed him. The other person was armed in both cases. The other person chose to use lethal force rather than de-escalate the situation. If anything, since George Zimmerman wasn’t a trained police officer, we should have expected less of him than Darren Wilson. Why are police in the US not trained to de-escalate rather than escalate situations?

    • I didn’t see one person on here say they supported looting and vandalism when talking about this case but you can go ahead and spin that web of lies if you want to. Along with the lie that it’s all the protestors and that none of the demonstrations have been peaceful. These same people complaining about looters and vandals will be same ones knocking people over for TVs and Toys on Friday and destroying property after Football games so spare me the righteous indignation on that front.

      So basically because unarmed Brown allegedly “robbed a store”(stole a pick of cigs though that still hasn’t been proven) he deserved to get shot up 12 times. I’m not buying Wilson’s narrative that some big hulking black man(a demon, his description) who was actually his same height made him feel like a 5 year old in comparison so he just had to keep shooting him even after he was clearly injured. I saw those pictures of his supposed injuries. He didn’t have so much a rash and mosquito bit. He was in fear of his life though. If he is so terrified and can’t handle a guy of his own height and build who doesn’t even have a weapon maybe he shouldn’t be on the damn job to begin with.

      And how is it that police officers can take in mass shooters of movie theaters and Boston bombers into custody but can’t subdue a 12 year old with a toy gun without using deadly force or an unarmed teen who again allegedly stole a pack of cigs. Or as the media and Pro-Wilson supporters like to describe him, “A violent thug”. Had to get it right.

      And what makes you so sure this isn’t an issue of race? You don’t know if Wilson is racist or not. One thing is for sure though. Ferguson is predominantly and yet it’s police force is predominantly white. The Grand Jury was made up of 9/12 whites and they only needed 9 to make a decision. Who have been Wilson’s biggest supporters vocally and financially? The KKK. What do all the pro-Wilson supporters have in common on social media? They are the ones complaining about “the blacks” as we speak. But it’s not a race issue though.

      And that’s just Ferguson. This happens all over the country. There are statistics available all over the place about what race gets stopped by cops more than others. About what race gets killed by cops more than others. About police brutality. You can Google it I’m not going to help you today.

    • Here is a link to an article about how the history of ‘looting,’ ‘arson’ and ‘vandalism’ have been an integral part of important acts of rebellion and human rights protests throughout history: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/smashy-smashy-nine-historical-triumphs-to-make-you-rethink-property-destruction-20141021

      I think the idea of being upset about some protesters allowing their anger to boil over and perhaps destroyed or stole material things is in no way comparable to a situation in which the police force meant to protect everyone is destroying the lives of black citizens and stealing the lives of their children. I don’t know what you consider a ‘proper protest,’ but when it comes to anger and emotional reactions, things are not generally so ‘proper.’

    • This case has several things that to me don’t make sense:

      – Darren Wilson was responding to a cigarrillos’ theft, but he never talked to the store’s owner, the person who made the complaint or anybody like that(you know, somebody who could give you a description of the person who committed that huge crime).

      – He gets distracted about the cigarrillos because he saw a bigger crime: jaywalking. So he says something to Michael Brown, who responds disrespectfully.

      – According to Wilson, who is the same height as Brown, although Brown was heavier, from this point, all hell’s breaking loose. He gets beat by Brown (I’ve seen the photos on NBC and I really think that Wilson and I have different views about what “beat” means, because I don’t think that if that happens to you, you will only have some bruises and get Aleve and ice as treatment), his freaking gun misfired 3 freaking times and this “demon” just kept charging at him.

      – Another thing is that it seems that Michael Brown was The Incredible Hulk, because he gets mad and keeps getting bigger and bigger.

      But what I find most offensive is that it seems that laws, rules and regulations can only applied to black people (or any other minority) in the United States.

    • Things I’m tired of hearing: the words ‘looting’ and ‘rioting’. To be honest, my concern is not with the buildings or the property. My concern is with the flagrant miscarriage of justice that keeps happening to Black people. My concern is with the number of white people (and sadly, even some black people like my mother) who watch five minutes of CNN and believe that Mike Brown deserved to die. For what? For what? I don’t care if he was 7 feet tall and loud instead of quiet and I don’t care if he smoked weed everyday and never went to school and actually stole those cigarettes, he still doesn’t deserve to die. He certainly doesn’t deserve 6 bullets in him. Do your precious documents plausibly explain how that happened? How DARE you say that it’s unfair to Trayvon Martin to compare him to Mike Brown. You know what’s unfair? The fact they’re both dead. I’ve had it up to here with the things I’m hearing and reading.

  8. For my fellow white, and some other, people who are shaming the protestors of Ferguson for so-called ‘rioting’, I would like to paraphrase a few words from Lundy Bancroft, a psychologist who specializes in the behaviour and mentality of abusive men:

    “The abuser’s problem with anger is almost the opposite than is commonly believed. He does not have a problem with HIS anger, he has a problem with YOUR anger. However badly he treats you, he believes that your voice should never rise and your blood never boil. The privilege of rage is his only.”

    When we take away black people’s fundamental right to be angry this is textbook abuse. Racism is textbook abuse.

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