The Marshall Project has this excellent summary of the grand jury proceedings that concluded yesterday with the return of no indictment of Ferguson police office Darren Wilson for the death of teenager Michael Brown.
The summary has links to many relevant stories and sources, including legal commentary on the unusual nature of the prosecutor’s handling of the proceedings — pointing out as some experts have that prosecutors know how to get an indictment when they want one.
Referring to St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s quick release of grand jury testimony and his unusual failure to get an indictment in the case, writer Andrew Cohen says:
The release of the evidence may or may not change the minds of people around the world who have been waiting in suspense for the past 108 days for this story to come to some sort of resolution. But it is unlikely to change the view of some legal observers that McCulloch manipulated the result here by managing the process. This was not a typical grand jury proceeding in which only a few witnesses testify, the prosecutor tightly controls what grand jurors hear, and the suspect does not testify at length about why he should not be charged.
How do we know it is rare for a prosecutor to manage a grand jury in this fashion? We know because the grand jury process has become pro forma in most jurisdictions and because prosecutors almost always get an indictment from them when they want one. On the federal level, Five Thirty Eight reported last night, “U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return in indictment in 11 of them.” That’s about 0.01 percent of the time.