Eleven days since the fatal shooting of African-American teen Michael Brown, the public has only been given bits of information at a time about what happened. Protesters have taken to the streets of Ferguson, Mo. nightly demanding answers, but officers have insisted the justice system must work the case out in its own time – no matter how long it takes. And Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol has said it could take months before any action is taken against Brown’s killer, Darren Wilson – a name made public this week.
Here’s what we now know about about the Michael Brown case:
1. Officer Darren Wilson has been questioned by investigators. The officer who shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9, kicking off a torrent of protest, violence, and police activity, was questioned by investigators, a spokesman for the county prosecutor confirmed Tuesday.
Officer Wilson has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting. Protesters have demanded his arrest, taking to the streets of Ferguson night after night, clashing with police. Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, now in charge of security in Ferguson, has said it could take months before any action is taken against Wilson.
It took nearly a week after the fatal shooting for police to identify Wilson by name. We still don’t know why he shot the African-American teen or how many times he fired – though an autopsy report shows Brown was shot at least six times.
The St. Louis grand jury starting Wednesday will hear preliminary evidence presented by prosecutors and decide whether or not there’s enough grounds for a felony charge. The sealed hearings are required by law to bring felony charges. The dozen jurors, which are chosen at random, are already convened. The grand jury does not decide guilt or innocence and there’s no defense present, though like all who face felony charges, Officer Wilson will be given the opportunity to testify.2. Grand jury hearings began Wednesday at noon EST.
According to the prosecutor’s office, the specific grand jury that will hear the case meets weekly, so this process could take months as the sworn witnesses and other evidence is presented to them. Grand juries typically hear dozens of cases during lengthy terms, hearing evidence piecemeal, often over several days or weeks.
3. Gov. Jay Nixon won’t ask the prosecutor investigating the case to recuse himself. “I am not asking St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch to recuse himself from this case. There’s a well-established process by which a prosecutor can recuse themselves from a pending invest and a special prosecutor be appointed. Departing from the established could unnecessarily inject legal uncertainty into this matter and potentially jeopardize the prosecution,” Governor Jay Nixon said in a statement late Tuesday night.
Protesters and the Brown family attorneys have questioned whether the St. Louis County prosecutor can properly investigate the shooting death of Michael Brown. A 23-year-veteran prosecutor, McCulloch, who is white, angered many African-Americans when he criticized the decision by Gov. Jay Nixon to hand over policing duties in Ferguson to the state Highway Patrol, under the command of Capt. Johnson. McCulloch also faced criticism in 2000 when he agreed with a grand jury to not press charges against two white police officers who shot and killed two black men. In an interview on msnbc, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill also threw her support behind McCulloch’s investigation.
On Wednesday, McCulloch appeared on a radio show and said Nixon was “ducking” the question, leaving the door open for a later recusal that would threaten the integrity of the investigation.
“Man up, stand up and say I’m not removing McCulloch or I am removing McCulloch. Let’s get on with it,” McCulloch said. He added that he has “absolutely no intention of walking away from the duties and responsibilities entrusted to me.”
4. Michael Brown’s funeral will be on Monday. A lawyer for the family announced that the funeral would occur at at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church is St. Louis on Monday morning; Rev. Michael Jones will officiate the service and MSNBC’s Rev. Al Sharpton – who has been in Missouri leading protesters for days – will deliver the eulogy.
The family has pushed for the prosecution of the police officer that shot and killed their son. “Justice will bring peace,” mother Lesley McSpadden said on “TODAY”.
5. The investigation is underway. For now, Brown’s family is waiting for the results of the autopsy ordered by the Justice Department and conducted by a military medical examiner as part of the full investigation Attorney General Eric Holder has promised. Holder arrived in Ferguson Wednesday for an on-the-ground briefing of the situation.
“This is my pledge to the people of Ferguson: Our investigation into this matter will be full, it will be fair, and it will be independent,” Holder wrote in an open letter published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
The FBI has been canvassing the neighborhood and interviewing witnesses this week; on Monday, Holder reported that more than 40 FBI agents had been canvassing the neighborhood and conducting interviews.
“The full resources of the Department of Justice are being committed to our federal civil rights investigation into the death of Michael Brown,” Holder said in a statement on Monday.