← Return to search results
Back to Prindle Institute

Freedom of Speech: The Ferguson Grand Jury

By Amy Brown
5 Jan 2015

The role of a Grand Jury is to secretly examine all evidence of a case and decide if there is reason to indict at individual. In the case of the August 9 Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, a Grand Jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer that fatally shot Brown. Grand Jury members are not allowed to reveal their identities or discuss the cases; now, an unnamed member of the Grand Jury is suing the prosecutor. The member claims that restricting speech about the jury proceedings is unconstitutional under the First Amendment and that the evidence and laws were not presented in a clear and precise manner. The juror also says that Prosecutor McCulloh was incorrect in implying that the decision was unanimous and that every juror though all charges did not have substantial evidence. This is not the first time that these claims have been made; the juror goes further to say that the evidence presented was clearly skewed in favor of the police officer instead of with an equal, unbiased presentation. The juror wants to be able to discuss these issues in public and bring more attention and information into the public eye. The lawsuit claims that the case of Ferguson was unique, and the gag order should be lifted for this case alone.  Since the constitution does state that the secrecy measures are on a case-by-case basis, it is possible to lift the gag order on just this case.

Should a member of the Grand Jury be allowed to speak out about the proceedings of the case? Is restricting their speech about cases an ethical thing to do, whether or not it is unconstitutional? Is it right to lift the gag order on only “unique” cases, or should it be abolished overall?

Amy graduated from DePauw University in 2017, and was a Hillman Intern and the Digital Media Assistant Managing Editor at the Prindle Institute for Ethics. At DePauw, she was an Honor Scholar and Political Science major with a Russian studies minor. She has spent time abroad in the Czech Republic and now works in Washington, D.C.
Related Stories