According to news reports, no federal civil rights charges will be filed in the case of the white police officer Darren Wilson who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri last summer.
First reported by the New York Times on Wednesday afternoon, other news outlets, including CNN, spoke with officials familiar with the details of the probe by the Justice Department and confirmed investigators will state not enough evidence was found to conclude that Brown’s civil rights were violated during the events that led to his death.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Brown’s family, declined to respond to the developments other than to release a short statement, which read: “The family of Michael Brown Jr. will wait for official word from the Justice Department regarding whether or not any charges will be filed against the police officer who shot and killed him. The family won’t address speculation from anonymous sources.”
From the initial reporting by the Times:
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and his civil rights chief, Vanita Gupta, will have the final say on whether the Justice Department will close the case against the officer, Darren Wilson. But it would be unusual for them to overrule the prosecutors on the case, who are still working on a legal memo explaining their recommendation.
A decision by the Justice Department would bring an end to the politically charged investigation of Mr. Wilson in the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The Missouri authorities concluded their investigation into Mr. Brown’s death in November and also recommended against charges.
But a broader Justice Department civil rights investigation into allegations of discriminatory traffic stops and excessive force by the Ferguson Police Department remains open. That investigation could lead to significant changes at the department, which is overwhelmingly white despite serving a city that is mostly black.
According to CNN:
Legal experts have long noted that a federal civil rights case against Wilson would be more difficult to prove.
“The bar is extraordinarily high,” said Joey Jackson, a criminal defense attorney and legal analyst for CNN’s sister network HLN. “You have to show an intentional deprivation of a civil right.”
Given how difficult it is to prove intent, and also how many conflicting accounts emerged from the grand jury investigation, “it would be very difficult to move forward federally with a civil rights charge,” Jackson said.
If no federal charges are brought against Wilson, who resigned from his position as a Ferguson Police officer in November, some people in the area will be disappointed, said Antonio French, a St. Louis city alderman who lives near Ferguson.
“I think you have a lot of people who will be disappointed if this does turn out to be the case. The community and the family wanted a day in court, an opportunity to see all the evidence laid out, cross-examined,” French said. “And it looks like that’s not going to happen.”