Assistant District Attorney Kathy Alizadeh deliberately misled the grand jurors when she told the grand jury deliberating whether to charge police officer Darren Wilson with a crime, to base their decision on a 1979 Missouri law that had been declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1985.
Early on in the grand jury deliberations, Assistant D.A. Alizadeh handed the jurors a copy of the 1979 Missouri statute which said that police were “justified in the use of such physical force as he or she reasonably believes is immediately necessary to effect the arrest or prevent the escape from custody.”
She did not explain to the jurors that the six years later the Supreme Court had ruled, in Tennessee v. Garner, that those kinds of statutes were unconstitutional. As a result the statute cited by Alizadeh has not been part of Missouri law since 1985, twenty-nine years ago.
So the grand jurors made their decision on erroneous information supplied by the Assistant District Attorney.
After not providing the grand jury with the correct statute for several weeks, Alizadeh finally gave the grand juries a copy of the correct law just as they were about to go into deliberations on November 21st. Then Alizadeh compounded the problem.
When one of the grand jurors asked her whether a Supreme Court decision overrules Missouri state law Alizadeh told the jurors, “As far as you need to know, just don’t worry about that.”
“As far as you need to know, just don’t worry about that.”
Assistant District Attorney Kathy Alizadeh
Alizadeh’s colleague, Sheila Whirley, then added, “We don’t want to get into a law class.”
The correct answer to the question is a simple, “Yes.”
The difference in the law, which Assistant District Attorney Kathy Alizadeh failed to explain to the grand jurors, is that the law changed from allowing officers to use deadly force when they “reasonably believed” a person could be dangerous to them, to requiring that the police officer must have “probable cause” that a person was dangerous to him- or her.
The unconstitutional Missouri 1979 law allowed police officers to shoot and kill fleeing suspects even when the crime they were suspected of committing was far less than a capital offense.
The old law said that police were “justified in the use of such physical force as he or she reasonably believes is immediately necessary to effect the arrest or prevent the escape from custody.” The Supreme Court threw out that standard and required the police to have “probable cause” that their life was in danger from the suspect.
That was definitely not the case in Ferguson, Missouri. According to eye witnesses, Michael Brown was about 30 feet away and had his hands up when he was shot to death by Officer Darren Wilson.
MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell found the error by reviewing the transcripts from the grand jury deliberations.