Christi: Meanwhile, angry protesters and Ferguson, they say they want justice and they’re calling for the arrest of this man, Darren Wilson. He’s the officer who shot and killed unarmed teen, Michael Brown. Will he be forced to testify? Up next, we’re gonna ask legal expert, Page Pate, what he would tell Wilson if he was his defense attorney.
While we are learning more about the investigation into the death of unarmed teen, Michael Brown, let’s get over to Victor Blackwell. He’s on the ground there in Ferguson this morning. Victor, what have you learned?
Victor: Well, we’re learning, and of course, we’ve known for some time, the FBI is here in Ferguson. Well, sources tell CNN that the FBI has now interviewed more than 200 people in the community, and has knocked on more than 400 doors here, and officials are also investigating recent cyber-attacks against local law enforcement. This morning, we know more about the makeup of the grand jury weighing this case as well. According to a St. Louis court administrator, of the panel of 12, 3 are African-American, one male, two females. Overnight, it was a peaceful night here in the community so that’s some good news. Protesters were still on the streets, but there were no arrests. Today, also in a sign of solidarity with the people of Ferguson, there are several rallies scheduled including one in Washington, D.C. and supporters of Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, they’re speaking out as well. They’re expected to gather in St. Louis later today and all of this, we have to remember that there is a family at the center of this that is grieving.
Brown’s funeral is scheduled for Monday, the same day Ferguson students are scheduled to a return to school in this community. And, you know, Christi, that according to the prosecuting attorney, it could take another two months before the grand jury decides whether this case should be brought to trial.
Christi: Yeah, they were saying October and that decision’s expected to be a tricky one, primarily because there are so many different eyewitness accounts on what actually happened. So, let’s talk about this with criminal defense attorney, Page Pate. Page, thank you so much for being with us so early in the morning right now on a Saturday.
Page: You’re very welcome.
Christi: Let me read to you if you would please, something that you wrote actually, about Officer Darren Wilson’s legal defense just so we can give some background here. You wrote, “The investigators who will be reviewing this case will likely be predisposed to believe the officer’s version of the events and the citizens serving on any grand jury or trial jury may be predisposed to defer to the officer’s judgment. Convicting Officer Wilson of any crime in this case will be much more difficult than some people are assuming.”
Do you think charges will be brought and what makes it so difficult?
Page: Well, that’s a very good question. I think it’s particularly difficult for a state grand jury to indict them. Let’s remember number one, the makeup of this grand jury. We know that it’s majority, white, and we know that there’s a minority African-Americans on it. When you come in to a grand jury, you can come in with your own biases, your own predispositions about what you think about the particular case, unlike a trial jury, where they don’t let someone serve on that jury if they’ve already made up their mind.
So in my experience, and I’ve represented several officers in excessive force cases, once the jurors hear from the officer and if they believe that officer, and if his explanation make sense, they’re gonna defer to him. They know it’s a tough job and they put themselves in the shoes of the officer and they say, “Look, I don’t wanna be in that position. We trust you to do the right thing,” and if he appears to be somewhat remorseful that what happened happened, I think they’re gonna defer to him. I really do.
Victor: Hey, Page, if you were advising Officer Wilson, you know, thus far, we’ve not heard from him. We’ve heard from a woman named Josie, who CNN has confirmed that that’s the story he’s telling, but would you advise him to come out and tell his side of the story or continue to stay quiet?
Page: Well, Victor, at this point, I would advise him to go ahead and get his story out there. We know he’s already given at least two statements to investigators, so it’s not like he’s not gone on the record yet, he has. And I think this district attorney’s going to offer him the very unique opportunity of appearing before the grand jury. That doesn’t happen in every case. So, I think you need to go ahead and get your statement out there, tell people why you did what you did, and be prepared to go into the grand jury and tell them the same thing because if you do it, and it’s believable, then I don’t think this grand jury will indict him.
Christi: Well, we know that investigators have spoken to hundreds of people. These witnesses and so many of them have different accounts. How do you reconcile and decipher the truth from all of those accounts?
Page: Well, I think that’s gonna be difficult and that’s another reason why I think this grand jury’s gonna have a hard time indicting him. Most of the time, a prosecutor will only present their best witnesses to a grand jury. It’s a one-sided affair. They’re gonna take the best witnesses they have to go ahead and get that indictment, but in this case, the district attorney said, “I’m gonna let him hear everything. I’m gonna let him hear all the evidence.” So, they’re gonna hear these witnesses who have inconsistent statements, not just with each other, but with themselves sometimes.” And I think it’s gonna be difficult especially if the officer has one consistent, credible story about what happened. It’s always the prosecution’s burden and I think it’s a tough one to meet here.
Victor: The prosecutor, Page, has said that this could take until mid-October and we know that this sometime takes…takes some time. The grand jury’s presented with all the evidence and then they have to decide and that means it could be another two months until charges are brought in this case. Do you think that it will quiet the community and calm things down here knowing that things are happening, or do you think just the wait and no response, no answer will incite more protests?
Page: Well, I think it’s tough to tell right now. I mean, we’ve seen the protest continue, although I think they’ve been not nearly as potentially violent that they have been in the past, but this will take some time, and let’s assume for a second this grand jury does not indict him, then we’re talking about a federal investigation, which I think will take even more time. In my experience with these federal grand jury investigations into excessive force, we’re not just talking months. Sometimes, these investigations will last for a year or more. So I just don’t know if this town can keep it together for that long.
Christi: All righty. Page Pate, thank you so much. Victor, we’re gonna check back in with you here in just a few minutes as well, but we appreciate your time this morning.
Page: Thank you.
Christi: Thank you.