What charges could Darren Wilson face?


by Craig Cheatham / News 4 and Dan Greenwald / KMOV.com


Posted on August 20, 2014 at 5:38 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 20 at 5:42 PM

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – While it's too early to know if Darren Wilson will face charges for shooting Michael Brown, a legal expert said a range of charges, from murder to manslaughter, would likely be considered.

Washington University Law Professor Peter Joy said the grand jury’s investigation into the shooting that caused Michael Brown Jr’s death could last two months, which he said is designed so it can gather as much evidence as possible.

“I don’t think you can fault any prosecutor for trying to get all the facts. You don’t want to rush a case and leave some critical facts out there,” Joy said.

Joy said pressure from some protesters for a faster investigation is not fair. He said the fact that St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch said the grand jury may not make a decision until October means McCulloch is committed to a thorough investigation that will likely include many witnesses.

“Instead of having a head detective summarize the statements of people, it sounds like they’re going to take a lot of live testimony,” Joy said.

Joy told News 4 grand juries often find police credible and Wilson’s fear will be a critical factor in the decision to indict or not indict.

“If Mr. Brown was, say, 30 feet away from the officer with his hands up surrendering, it would be hard to imagine a scenario where the officer could credible say ‘I was in fear for my life,” Joy said. “On the other hand, if there was a struggle over the gun or if Mr. Brown was rushing at the police officer, that’s a whole different story.”

According to Joy, if the grand jury concludes Wilson walked up to Brown after Brown surrendered and shot and killed him, then Wilson could face murder charges. Wilson could also be charged for recklessly causing Brown’s death even if he did not intend to kill him. However, if the grand jury believes Brown charged Wilson and refused to follow orders to stop, Joy said its likely Wilson will not be indicted.

The critical question before the grand jury is whether Wilson had probable cause to believe Brown posed a significant threat of death or serious injury to him or others.