The Associated Press is reporting the FBI has completed its investigation into the police shooting of an unarmed, Black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Mo., a U.S. official said on Wednesday.
The Justice Department has not yet announced whether it will file a federal civil rights charge against former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who is white. The official was not authorized to discuss the case by name and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder will make the final decision with his civil rights chief, Vanita Gupta, in the officer’s case.
But with AP and The New York Times reporting the Justice Departments is not expected to prosecute it is unlikely there will be charges.
While it’s important to remember an official statement has not been released, if what is being reported is true than this is a disappointing decision.
The chances of prosecution were slim from the start and there had been leaks to The New York Times and other news outlets that suggested the Justice Department would not prosecute.
Officials and experts have said such a prosecution would be highly unlikely, in part because of the extraordinarily high legal standard federal prosecutors would need to meet.
While the decision is not a total surprise, many held out hope the Justice Department would prosecute.
Wilson was cleared in November by a state grand jury in the Aug. 9 death of Michael Brown, a shooting that touched off nationwide protests.
Wilson, who shot Brown after a scuffle in the middle of a street, told the St. Louis County grand jury that spent months reviewing the case he feared for his life during the confrontation, and Brown struck him in the face and reached for his gun.
But some witnesses had said Brown had his hands up when Wilson shot him.
A member of the grand jury that declined to indict Wilson contends in a recent lawsuit the prosecutor in the case has wrongly implied all 12 jurors believed there was no evidence to support charges.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of the unnamed juror, who wants to be allowed to talk publicly about the case but could face charges for doing so because of a lifetime gag order.
The juror said she or he came away with the impression evidence was presented differently than in other cases, with the insinuation Brown, not Wilson, was the wrongdoer.
“In Plaintiff’s view, the current information available about the grand jurors’ views is not entirely accurate — especially the implication that all grand jurors believed that there was no support for any charges,” the lawsuit said.
The suit also contends legal standards in the case were discussed in a “muddled” and “untimely” manner. Jurors could have charged Wilson with murder or manslaughter, but nine of 12 would have needed to agree.
The NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, citing “grave legal concerns,” has also challenged the decision not to indict Wilson.
Sherrilyn Ifill, the fund’s president, said lawyers and other experts who analyzed grand jury transcripts for the fund raised concerns about the decision to allow a witness to provide false testimony, erroneous legal instructions to grand jurors and “preferential treatment of Mr. Wilson by the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.”
There is evidence to suggest the prosecutor’s office handled the Wilson case differently than others, with a stronger focus on the victim.
Fortunately a broader Justice Department civil rights investigation into allegations of discriminatory traffic stops and excessive force by the Ferguson Police Department remains open.
Hopefully that investigation leads to significant changes at the police department, which is overwhelmingly white despite serving a city that is mostly African American.