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Tuesday, July 16, 2024 | Back issues
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Grand Juror Can’t Write About Serving on Michael Brown Case

A Missouri appeals court on Tuesday upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a member of the Michael Brown grand jury who sought to go public with her experience.

ST. LOUIS (CN) — A Missouri appeals court upheld the dismissal Tuesday of a lawsuit filed by a member of the Michael Brown grand jury who sought to go public with her experience.

“Affording a grand juror unrestrained ability to disclose her interpretation of what happened in the proceedings completely destroys the idea of secrecy, which is crucial to the proper functioning of the grand jury process; the secrecy requirement promotes vitally important interests, such as protecting the jurors themselves, encouraging prospective witnesses to come forward and speak candidly, protecting the integrity of the grand jury process by shielding witnesses from threats, bribes, or other means of inducing fabricated testimony,” Presiding Judge Colleen Dolan wrote for Missouri’s Eastern District Appeals Court.

Judges Mary K. Hoff and Lisa S. VanAmburg concurred.

Jane Doe sued St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch, claiming his handling of the case and introduction of evidence “differed significantly from how evidence was presented in the hundreds of other matters presented to her and the other empaneled grand jurors earlier that same term.”

More specifically, Doe said that “the evidence was presented in a way that implied Brown was the wrongdoer and not [Ferguson police Officer Darren] Wilson.”

Doe was sworn in on May 7, 2014, and sworn to secrecy.

Brown, an unarmed black man, was shot to death Wilson, who is white, on Aug. 9, 2014. The shooting sparked months of often violent protests and brought the issues of racism and excessive police force into the national conversation.

The grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson in November 2014 sparked another round of violent protests.

On Jan. 5, 2015, Doe filed a federal lawsuit seeking an exception to the state law requiring secrecy on grand jury service. Doe said she wanted to “speak publicly about her experience on the grand jury” and “contribute to the current dialogue concerning race relations.”

A federal judge abstained from exercising jurisdiction on Doe’s claims and dismissed her complaint, but an Eighth Circuit panel ruled in June 2016 that the district court should have retained jurisdiction. It stayed the proceedings while the parties litigated state law issues in Missouri courts.

Doe filed her petition in St. Louis County Court on June 2, 2015.

On July 16, 2015, McCulloch filed a motion to dismiss, saying Doe failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The trial court granted the motion.

Doe appealed to the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern Division, but on Tuesday a three-judge panel affirmed the decision to grant dismissal.

The appeals court found that Doe’s desire to contribute to the dialogue on race relations is not sufficient to overcome the benefits of maintaining the secrecy of grand jury proceedings.

Attorneys for both parties did not respond to emailed requests for comment Wednesday afternoon.

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Categories / Appeals, Civil Rights, Criminal, Government

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