St. Louis Prosecutor Robert McCulloch’s refusal to ask a Ferguson grand jury for an indictment of Officer Darren Wilson — leaving them to examine mounds of evidence with no suggested charge — isn’t the only flaw that may have helped Wilson’s case.
Turns out, an outdated, unconstitutional statute given to the jurors by Assistant District Attorney Kathi Alizadeh may have bent the law in Wilson’s favor, allowing him to avoid an indictment.
The shocking information was made public last week by MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, who cited a review of the transcript that reveals the jurors were given a false impression about an old law that allowed police to shoot a fleeing suspect.
It must be noted that the law was deemed unconstitutional in 1985, nearly 30 years before Michael Brown Jr. was shot to death by Wilson.
From Think Progress:
Assistant District Attorney Kathi Alizadeh instructed grand jurors on how to decide the case based on a statute that was invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court two decades ago. As O’Donnell points out, that statute had not been valid for the entirety of Alizadeh’s legal career. That statute said that officers can use any force they deem necessary to achieve the arrest of a fleeing suspect. It does not preclude deadly force ,saying only that officers are “justified in the use of such physical force as he or she reasonably believes is immediately necessary to effect the arrest or to prevent the escape from custody.”
The U.S. Supreme Court nixed this law and others like it when it held in the 1985 case of Tennessee v. Garner that police officers could not use deadly force simply because a suspect was fleeing. They could only do so if that suspect also threatened the lives of others. A 1979 Missouri statute was never changed.
Alizadeh disclosed the error three months after presenting the statute, but according to the transcript, she never told jurors exactly what she did wrong. According to Think Progress, Alizadeh “simply told the jurors to “fold in half” the paper they had been referencing for three months and gave them a new one with different instructions.”
This certainly changes things. To hear O’Donnell’s take on the now-illegal statute, click the video above.
For more on the grand jury transcript, which includes Wilson’s account, click here.
SOURCE: Think Progress, MSNBC | VIDEO SOURCE: YouTube