A protest sign from NYC action in solidarity with Ferguson, Missouri, on November 28, 2014, encouraging a boycott of Black Friday consumerism. Photo provided by The All-Nite Images on Flickr.

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

On Thursday, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell announced that he will not charge former police officer Darren Wilson, who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. He added, “I also want to be clear that our investigation does not exonerate Darren Wilson. The question of whether we can prove a case at trial is different than clearing him of any and all wrongdoing.” At the press conference, Bell also outlined a series of reforms, including using an independent unit to investigate police use of force, providing support to families of those killed or injured by police, and recording the presentation of evidence to grand juries in all homicide cases.

Bell described not pressing charges as “one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do” and stated his office conducted a five-month review of witness statements, forensic reports, and other evidence. The review took place after Michael Brown Sr. asked for the case to be reopened in August 2019. Brown Sr. said at the time that Bell’s election represented an opportunity to have a fresh set of eyes take a look at his son’s case. 

In 2015, the Ferguson Commission released a 198-page report recommending change in a variety of areas, including consolidating the metro area’s many police departments and establishing a publicly available, statewide use-of-force database. However, a 2019 report showed that use-of-force incidents were only made publicly accessible when officers were injured, and information such as the race of the person injured and whether they died was not made public.

Bell’s announcement yesterday was not well received by those who helped him oust incumbent Bob McCulloch in 2018. Kayla Reed of Action St. Louis said on Twitter, “My heart is so heavy today knowing that the family of Mike Brown has to listen to another prosecutor tell them the man who killed their child won’t be indicted.” She added that she doesn’t “have faith that the criminal justice system will ever give our families justice.” In a statement sent to Associated Press, Scott Roberts, senior director of criminal justice campaigns at Color Of Change, said Bell’s statement “perpetuates a criminal justice system that fails Black communities by allowing police to operate with impunity.”

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

No Charges Against Ferguson Officer Who Killed Michael Brown – The New York Times – 7/30/2020
Thursday’s announcement by a new prosecutor, Wesley Bell, most likely marks the end of the legal saga in a case that started the global rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has led to some major shifts in American policing and forced a renewed conversation about racism. “Can we prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime occurred?” Mr. Bell said at a news conference. “The answer to that is no.”

In 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, St. Louis’ top prosecutor announces no charges against Darren Wilson – Fox News – 7/30/2020
But after a five month investigation into the case’s evidence, witness statements and forensic reports, he came to the conclusion that “we cannot prove that he” committed murder or manslaughter. The massive demonstrations that followed the shooting of Brown helped to solidify the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Mo., and around the country.

Messenger: Six years later, Bell reviews Michael Brown case, reaches same conclusion as DOJ – St. Louis Post Dispatch – 7/30/2020
Bell has reviewed the investigation into the shooting death of Brown, at the hands of former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, and he’s reached the same conclusion McCulloch did: There is not enough evidence to charge Wilson with a crime in Brown’s death. “In the end, we cannot ethically bring this case to trial,” Bell told me in an interview before he announced the results of the investigation at a news conference. “Our investigation does not exonerate Darren Wilson.”

Wesley Bell will not charge Darren Wilson – St. Louis American – 7/30/2020
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell met with the family of the late Michael Brown on Thursday, July 30 to tell them that he will not charge Darren Wilson in connection with the killing of their son. “By Missouri’s legal standards, not only would I have to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but I also would have to disprove a self-defense argument beyond a reasonable doubt,” Bell told The American. “I can’t ethically charge him. It would violate the ethical standards of my profession.”

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

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