Ferguson—Grand Jury Proceedings and Justice Department Investigations


Ferguson, Missouri has become a quieter town since August 19, 2014, and the criminal justice system is beginning to work. A St. Louis County grand jury has begun to weigh the evidence in the shooting death of Michael Brown. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has also arrived on the scene. Cornell law professor Jen Ohlin discusses the developments in the case.

Jens Ohlin

Jens Ohlin

Ohlin believes that Holder has two missions: One is an official legal mission “and the other is an unofficial political mission.” The legal mission is to oversee the beginnings of justice department investigations. The DoJ will definitely investigate the shooting of Michael Brown. “There might also be a broader investigation into the Ferguson police department practices over a long period of time.”

Ohlin explains that a grand jury is different than a regular jury. The grand jury’s function is to sort out the conflicting testimony and to try to determine what actually happened in a factual situation. Grand jury proceedings are not adversarial proceedings, and typically only a prosecutor will be present. [Note: The grand jury considering the Michael Brown shooting has been serving for several months already. Missouri statutes spell out how grand juries work.]

For further developments, keep checking the Legal Broadcast Network.

Jens David Ohlin is a professor of law at the Cornell University Law School. Professor Ohlin specializes in international law and all aspects of criminal law, including domestic, comparative, and international criminal law. His latest book, The Assault on International Law, forthcoming from Oxford University Press, challenges the prevailing American hostility towards international law, and offers a novel theory of rationality to explain why nations should comply with international law.  The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.