A St. Louis County (Mo.) judge has approved the delay of a grand jury decision on whether to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, the man who fatally shot Michael Brown six times on Aug. 9, sparking intense national outrage and a series of contentious demonstrations in the St. Louis suburb.
The grand jury now has until Jan. 7, 2015 to decide whether or not to bring criminal charges against Wilson, who shot the unarmed teenager just days before he was to begin college courses.
St. Louis County Circuit Judge Carolyn Whittington extended the usual four month period, which expired last week, and now the grand jury has an additional 60 days to make a decision.
“She extended it to the full amount allowed by law,” said Court Administrator Paul Fox said.
The panel is hearing evidence in the Michael Brown case exclusively, and can meet whenever it needs to, Fox said.
The grand jury is 12 people selected from the standard jury pool to meet in secret, usually weekly, to hear evidence and decide whether criminal charges are warranted. It takes nine votes to issue an indictment, which sends a defendant to a public trial.
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch can bypass a grand jury and take a case to trial by filing a complaint that goes first to a preliminary hearing, a public proceeding in which a judge decides if there should be a trial. Often, his office files a charge first and then obtains an indictment to replace it, avoiding the preliminary hearing.
McCulloch chose to take the full investigation of Wilson’s use of deadly force to the grand jury. He announced weeks ago that he would present all the evidence gathered, leaving to grand jurors the decision of what to do.
The medical examiner revealed Brown was shot six times, producing numerous wounds with some of the bullets entering and exiting several times, including one that left at least five different wounds.
Wilson was not identified immediately and once he was, police revealed that he had been allowed to leave town.