“We are basically just beginning,” Edward Magee, a spokesman for St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, said Tuesday. “The investigation hasn’t been completed, so neither the county police nor FBI has said we are done.”
He declined to comment on how much of the evidence has been presented to jurors. McCulloch has said that prosecutors will “present absolutely everything” to the grand jury. The St. Louis County Police Department is investigating the shooting, while the FBI is conducting a separate investigation.
The additional time means that the jury could potentially push the decision regarding Wilson to the end of the year or into 2015. This would be well after the protests and the ensuing militarized police response that captured international attention in August.
It also means that by the time jurors reach a decision, it could be the dead of winter, which could feasibly be a factor in any protests that could follow this decision. (The average temperature in St. Louis tends to be around the high 70s in August and around the mid-to-low-30s in December and January, according to the National Weather Service.)
It is unclear what the jurors will ultimately decide. Wilson could be charged with murder or manslaughter, though legal experts say murder charges are unlikely and suggest that lesser charges of manslaughter could be possible. They may also opt not to indict him, as there is considerable leeway for when police officers use deadly force. Depending on what the jurors decide, this could spark another public outcry, but this extension means that any protests could occur amid freezing temperatures.
McCulloch’s office is taking a rather unusual approach with this grand jury. Rather than waiting for the police investigations to wrap up before presenting the case, which is the typical process, they are presenting evidence to grand jurors as it arrives. Wilson will be given an opportunity to appear before the grand jury, but he cannot be compelled to appear, Magee said last month.
The standing St. Louis County grand jury, which began hearing evidence in this case Aug. 20, was originally going to be in session until September. But McCulloch said in a radio interview last month that their term was going to be extended just for this case, adding that prosecutors hoped to present all of their evidence by mid-October. Grand juries can be extended to six months. A judge has now approved an additional 60-day extension, pushing the deadline to Jan. 7.
McCulloch, who has been the county prosecutor since 1991, has been the subject of scrutiny and criticism focusing on both his personal and professional history. His critics have pointed out that his father, a white police officer, was shot and killed by a black man in the line of duty. And while McCulloch has been in office, there were at least four times in which he presented evidence to a grand jury after a fatal police shooting. None of the officers involved in those incidents was indicted.