William H. Freivogel

William H. Freivogel is director of the School of Journalism at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a professor at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. Previously, he worked for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for 34 years, serving as assistant Washington Bureau Chief and deputy editorial editor. He covered the U.S. Supreme Court while in Washington. He is a graduate of Kirkwood High School, Stanford University and Washington University Law School. He is a member of the Missouri Bar.

Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby of Baltimore, left, and Robert MCCulloch of St. Louis County
Official Photo and Bill Greenblatt | UPI

First of two reports — A change may be underway in the prosecution of police brutality cases, with prosecutors moving more quickly to charge officers when they have strong evidence, experts say.

After two long-running grand juries in Ferguson and Staten Island, N.Y., decided not to indict officers in high-visibility cases, authorities in North Charleston, S.C.; Tulsa, Okla., and Baltimore moved rapidly to charge officers in the deaths of Walter Scott, Eric Harris and Freddie Gray, respectively.

The shooting of Walter Scott
Wikipedia

The police killing of Walter Scott in South Carolina looks like an open and shut case of murder. But South Carolina, like Missouri and many other states, has confusing laws on police use of deadly force — laws that could provide Officer Michael Slager with a defense, experts say.

falkow | Flickr

The Missouri Supreme Court’s decisive and unexpected Ferguson reforms Monday - on top of the Justice Department’s devastating critique of the town’s municipal courts last week - have created momentum toward major reform of the St. Louis County municipal courts, experts say.

Jeff Roberson | Associated Press

The Justice Department has neither the authority nor the staffing to expand its investigation of unconstitutional police and court practices from Ferguson to surrounding municipalities, legal experts say.

Attorney General Eric Holder visited Ferguson Aug. 20.
Office of U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay

The Ferguson police department and municipal court engaged in such a widespread pattern of unconstitutional conduct that it lost the trust of the people, the Justice Department concluded after a seven-month investigation.

The federal civil rights case that the Justice Department is unveiling against the Ferguson Police Department offers the town great opportunities but also poses substantial costs and risks, experts say.

gavel court justice
sxc.hu

The grand juror who wants to challenge publicly St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch’s portrayal of the Ferguson grand jury has a relatively strong First Amendment case -- if the juror can get the argument before a judge, legal experts say.

The U.S. Supreme Court threw out a Florida law that permanently barred a grand jury witness from disclosing his grand jury testimony. That same rationale may apply to grand jurors themselves, legal experts say.

Arch City Defenders executive director Thomas Harvey spoke during the last meeting of the Ferguson Commission.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Supreme Court issued a new rule two weeks ago that eases the financial burden on poor people facing big fines in municipal courts. The new rule should reduce the number of people who spend time in jail for failing to pay fines. 

Darren Wilson
Undated video grab

One of the most important reforms that could grow out of the Aug. 9 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, experts say, would be the creation of a national database containing detailed information about all police shootings, whether or not suspects are wounded or killed.

On this much experts agree. But beneath that agreement, the debate about police use of force is fraught with sharp disagreements about how important a factor race plays.

The laws governing how much force police are allowed to use has had a long, circuitous history.
Flickr | Quinn Dombrowski

Second of two parts.

Even though a St. Louis County grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, the case against Wilson is not entirely closed. The U.S. Department of Justice is also conducting an investigation into the Aug. 9 incident.

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