State appeals court blocks Darren Wilson grand juror from speaking about the case | St. Louis Public Radio

State appeals court blocks Darren Wilson grand juror from speaking about the case

Dec 12, 2017

Updated Dec. 12 at 4:50 p.m. with comments from Tony Rothert and Bob McCulloch — The Missouri Court of Appeals has become the latest to rule against a grand juror who wants to speak about what it was like to consider charging former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson with a crime in connection with the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

Grand jurors take an oath of secrecy when they are sworn in. The unidentified juror wanted to be able to violate that oath in order to “contribute to the current dialogue around race relations” and to correct what the juror saw as misconduct by St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch. In a unanimous opinion issued Tuesday, the appeals court said no.

“We do not find that making specific disclosures about grand jury proceedings is necessary for [the juror] to reach many of her goals stated in the petition,” Judge Colleen Dolan wrote. “We believe that Doe would be able to address all of these issues without specifically divulging details of particular proceedings.”

In addition to talking about race relations, Doe had wanted to teach people how grand juries function, lobby to change the way proceedings are conducted, and add to the conversation about whether grand juries are still needed.

The appeals court decision comes nearly a year to the day after a St. Louis County judge tossed out the case, saying the juror hadn’t made a strong enough argument for violating the oath of secrecy.

McCulloch applauded the ruling.

“They all agreed that there is no basis for this grand juror or any grand juror in this situation to be released from the oath of secrecy,” he said. “It protects witnesses coming before the grand jury, it protects the grand jurors, and it certainly protects someone who is not indicted by a grand jury.”

Tony Rothert, the legal director of the ACLU of Missouri, said in a statement that his client planned to ask the Missouri Supreme Court to consider the case.

“Our plan is to exhaust the options in the Missouri court system so we can get back to federal court and pursue our First Amendment claim,” Rothert said. He had originally filed the juror’s case in federal, court, but was told to argue state-law issues first.

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McCulloch applauded the ruling.

 

“They all agreed that there is no basis for this grand juror or any grand juror in this situation to be released from the oath of secrecy,” he said. “It protects witnesses coming before the grand jury, it protects the grand jurors, and it certainly protects someone who is not indicted by a grand jury.”

 

Tony Rothert, the legal director of the ACLU of Missouri, said in a statement that his client planned to ask the Missouri Supreme Court to consider the case.

 

“Our plan is to exhaust the options in the Missouri court system so we can get back to federal court and pursue our First Amendment claim,” Rothert said. He had originally filed the juror’s case in federal, court, but was told to argue state-law issues first.