Target: Chief Judge Catherine Perry of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri
Goal: Change Missouri law to allow grand jurors to speak publicly about cases which have been resolved
When a grand jury moved to acquit officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of an unarmed black teen, the already-heated protests rocking Ferguson, Missouri only intensified. Some have portrayed the jurors as unanimously convinced there was not enough evidence to indict Wilson. The reality may have been far murkier, yet a Missouri law forbids grand jurors from ever speaking publicly about cases they have served on. A juror in the Wilson case has sued to lift the gag order, according to the New York Times, and hopes to “contribute to the current public dialogue concerning race relations.”
At the heart of the federal lawsuit are questions regarding the way St. Louis County prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch handed the case. The grand jury was convened for months–an unusually long time–and given a dizzying amount of evidence to sift through. Jurors were offered a variety of possible charges to consider and a strong emphasis was placed on the victim, Michael Brown. All of this ran contrary to what the plaintiff experienced in other cases the panel of jurors had considered.
The lawsuit describes aspects of the case as being handled in a “muddled and untimely manner.” Wilson’s acquittal and cases like it have national significance in the struggle for racial equality and human rights. Call on the court to cease enforcing the gag order, and to allow grand jurors to speak publicly about cases once resolved.
Dear Chief Judge Perry,
Across the United States people are calling for increased transparency and accountability in law enforcement. Cases such as that against Darren Wilson have significance in the national debate, raising the responsibility of all court justices, prosecutors and other staff to conduct themselves with the highest standards of ethics and professionalism.
At least one grand juror alledges abnormalities in the way the Wilson case was handled. Because a Missouri law prevents him or her from speaking publicly about the case it becomes quite difficult to address issues and improve the grand jury process. Instead the public is left with concerns about transparency and accountability within the courts, as well as within law enforcement.
Once a grand jury’s decision has been announced jurors should be allowed to speak publicly about the proceedings. Barring them from doing so perpetuates questionable practices, and therefore injustice. I call on you to cease enforcing this gag order and to work to see it lifted entirely.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Ken Lund via Wikimedia Commons