Attorney: Ferguson grand jury has reached decision

AP Photo/David GoldmanPolice officers stand outside the Buzz Westfall Justice Center where a grand jury is convening to consider possible charges against the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson

A grand jury has reached a decision about whether to indict a Ferguson police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown, a lawyer for Brown's family said Monday.

The panel has been considering charges against Darren Wilson, the white suburban St. Louis officer who fatally shot the black 18-year-old after a confrontation in August.

The St. Louis County prosecutor's office has told the family the decision will be announced after 5 p.m., attorney Benjamin Crump told The Associated Press.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon was traveling to St. Louis from the Capitol on Monday afternoon, spokesman Scott Holste told the AP, but did not say why.

Speculation about the timing of an announcement swirled and largely peaceful protests took place during the weekend after the grand jury met Friday but apparently did not reach a decision.

Reggie Cunningham was among Sunday night's protesters. He said he doubted Wilson would be indicted and felt like authorities were delaying an announcement “to spin this in the most positive way possible.”

“The more that they drag this out, the angrier people are going to be,” said Cunningham, 30, of St. Louis. The shooting triggered riots and looting during the summer, and police responded with armored vehicles and tear gas.

Many had thought a grand jury decision would be announced Sunday, based partly on a stepped-up police presence in the preceding days.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch's office had said he expected a decision by mid-to-late November, but it was not ultimately not in his control. The 12-person grand jury deliberates in secret and sets its own schedule depending upon when the members are available.

Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Brown's family, said Sunday that they were frustrated the prosecutor did not charge Wilson himself or suggest a charge to grand jurors.

As it is, “you don't have any direction, you're just putting all the evidence out there and you're going to let them figure it out and they can make up their own minds,” Crump said. “You know, it just boggles the mind why he thinks this is fair.”

It's not uncommon for deliberations to take a while in complex cases when self-defense is alleged or when there are two widely conflicting versions, according to Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson, who is not involved in the Ferguson case.

Sunday would have been an opportune time to minimize disruptions from protests, since schools and governments are planning on only a partial holiday workweek, Washington University law professor Peter Joy said, but that Monday or Tuesday still would make sense.

During Sunday's church services, some pastors encouraged their flocks not to fret. The Rev. Freddy Clark of Shalom Church in Florissant told the mostly black interdenominational congregation that “justice will be served” no matter the decision goes, because God will take care of it.

Meanwhile, daily protests continued.

“People feel like it's been engineered, so that the results wouldn't come out until after the election and until the weather got cold, and it would be more difficult to protest,” said Susan McGraugh, supervisor of the Criminal Defense Clinic at the Saint Louis University School of Law. “It's really adding fuel to the fire.”

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