Grand Juror Doe, who served on the grand jury which investigated the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, is suing Robert McCulloch, prosecuting attorney for St. Louis County. The lawsuit was filed on Jan. 5, 2015.
Grand Juror Doe would like to talk about the experience of serving on a grand jury, the evidence presented and the investigation in a way that could contribute to the public dialogue concerning race relations.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri is representing Grand Juror Doe because, without permission from a court, it is a crime for grand jurors to discuss their service. McCulloch is named as a defendant since he would be the person to bring charges against Doe.
“The Supreme Court has said that grand jury secrecy must be weighed against the juror’s First Amendment rights on a case-by-case basis,” explains Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “The rules of secrecy must yield because this is a highly unusual circumstance. The First Amendment prevents the state from imposing a life-time gag order in cases where the prosecuting attorney has purported to be transparent.”
“Grand Juror Doe’s perspective can and should help inform a way forward here in Missouri,” says Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri. “The ACLU will fight to allow this important voice to be heard by the public and lawmakers so that we can begin the healing process that can only result from fact-based reforms.”
Update: Feb. 9, 2015
Attorneys for Robert McCulloch are asking the court to dismiss the case.
“These sorts of filings that attempt to prevent the court from reaching the merits of a case are not uncommon. We are confident this matter will move forward," said Jeffrey Mittman. “The goal of the ACLU remains to allow Grand Juror Doe the freedom to provide important information to the public and elected representatives, without punishment by the government.”
Update: March 6, 2015
The ACLU of Missouri filed its memorandum in opposition to Robert McCulloch's motion to dismiss.
Update: May 5, 2015
Today, U.S. District Judge Rodney W. Sippel decided to abstain in the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri’s lawsuit on behalf of Grand Juror Doe. The Court found that Grand Juror Doe may ask the St. Louis County Circuit Court to be released from the oath of secrecy based on St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch’s “disclosures and the unique circumstances of this case.” The court also found that Missouri laws might be interpreted to allow Doe to speak.
“I find that Missouri courts should be given the opportunity to resolve this issue before Juror pursues a federal constitutional challenge,” wrote Judge Sippel. “There are state court remedies available to give Juror the relief she seeks. Abstention will not impact Juror’s ability to litigate her right to speak about her grand jury experience.”
“The court refused Mr. McCulloch’s request to rule in his favor on the merits of Grand Juror Doe’s First Amendment claim,” explains Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “Instead, the judge found that under Missouri state law there might be remedies available to give Grand Juror Doe the right to speak freely, without a federal court intervening to decide the constitutionality of Missouri’s statutes. “In the coming days, we will determine how this case will continue to move forward.”
Doe, who served on the grand jury which investigated the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, filed suit against Robert McCulloch, prosecuting attorney for St. Louis County, on Jan. 5. The ACLU of Missouri represented Grand Juror Doe because, without permission from a court, it is a crime for grand jurors to discuss their service. McCulloch was named as the defendant since he would be the person to bring charges against Doe.
“Juror Doe has a unique perspective and can give the public a fuller picture of how our government works,” explains Rothert. “Juror Doe is eager to speak about race relations and grand jury proceedings in Missouri and we are working diligently to make that happen.”
“The racial injustices uncovered after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown permeate multiple levels of government, and we need transparency, accountability and reforms for effective change,” says Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri. “The public and our legislators, who are considering several bills that propose solutions, deserve a complete view of how the grand jury process worked in the Darren Wilson investigation and it would be valuable for Juror Doe to add to the conversation.”
Cooperating attorneys on this case are Eric Sowers, Ferne Wolf and Joshua Pierson, from Sowers & Wolf Attorneys at Law.
Update: May 29, 2015
Once again, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri is seeking to release Grand Juror Doe from the oath of secrecy—this time through the state court instead of federal court. The change is because on May 5, U.S. District Judge Rodney W. Sippel ruled that the Missouri courts should be given the opportunity to resolve this issue before Juror Doe pursues a federal constitutional challenge.
“We were encouraged that the federal court clearly understood our claim that this is a unique situation and Juror Doe deserves to be able to speak freely,” explains Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “Without permission from a court, grand jurors would be committing a crime to discuss their service.”
“We know that racial injustices permeate multiple levels of government, and it is the job of the ACLU to seek transparency, accountability and reforms for effective change,” says Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri. “The public, and our legislators, deserve a complete picture of how the grand jury process operated in the Darren Wilson investigation and we are fighting so Juror Doe can add to the conversation.”