Court Clears 3 Arrested Ferguson Protesters

CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) — A St. Louis County judge ruled against Ferguson in three cases stemming from arrests of protesters in the immediate aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting.
     Keith Rose, Michael Lhotak and Jasmine Woods were all charged with failure-to-comply during a prayer vigil outside the Ferguson Police Department on Aug. 11, 2014.
     Brown, an unarmed black man, was gunned down two days earlier by Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson, who is white. The shooting, and others that followed, sparked nationwide protests of racism and excessive police force.
     Ferguson claimed the three disobeyed police officers’ order to leave the area.
     The Department of Justice, however, in an investigation of Ferguson’s handling of the protests, accused the city’s police of routinely abusing failure-to-comply charges.
     Judge Joseph S. Dueker found Rose not guilty on Tuesday.
     In the other two cases he granted motions for judgment of acquittal, meaning the evidence was so weak that no reasonable person would find the defendants guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
     The rulings turn the heat up on City Prosecutor Stephanie Karr, an attorney with Curtis, Heinz, Garrett and O’Keefe. The cases cost the cash-strapped city thousands of dollars in legal fees, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. On Monday protesters gathered at the Ferguson municipal court and marched to Karr’s house, demanding her ouster.
     Karr defended the prosecutions, telling the Post-Dispatch that violations of law are “contrary to the public health, safety and welfare. Therefore, the public interest is served by taking action to prevent further violations of the law by making offenders accountable.”
     Two other failure-to-comply cases are pending and two more failure-to-comply trials are scheduled for next week in St. Louis County Court.

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