CLAYTON, Mo. – St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell held a press conference Thursday afternoon to announce new developments in the Michael Brown case. He says a five-month review of the case showed that his office could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that former Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson committed murder or manslaughter under Missouri law. Therefore he is not relitigating the case.
“Because of the significance of this case to this community, and because his family asked, I believed it was necessary to conduct a reexamination of this case and come to our own conclusion if Darren Wilson committed a crime under Missouri law when he shot Michael Brown. Our newly formed conviction and incident review unit conducted a five-month review of the evidence, examining thousands of pages of witness statements, forensic reports and other evidence,” said Bell.
The father of Michael Brown had been seeking a new investigation of the white Ferguson police officer who fatally shot the black and unarmed teenager nearly five years ago.
Officer Darren Wilson killed Brown on Aug. 9, 2014, during a street confrontation. Wilson claimed self-defense, saying Brown was coming at him menacingly moments after attacking the officer inside Wilson’s police SUV.
The shooting set off months of often-violent protests. Demonstrations escalated again in November 2014 when a grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson was announced. Wilson resigned that same month.
“Although this case represents one of the most significant moments in St. Louis history the question for this office was a simple one, ‘Could we prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that when Darin Wilson shot Michael Brown, he committed murder or manslaughter under Missouri law. After an independent and in-depth review of the evidence, we cannot prove that he did,” said Bell.
“By Missouri law, we would also have to disprove any self-defense claims beyond a reasonable doubt and we just could not get there with the evidence.”
An attorney representing Michael Brown Sr. released a statement after Mike Brown Sr. met with Bell to learn about the prosecutor’s decision. Part of that statement read, “He (Mike Brown Sr.) did not leave there happy. Anything short of justice…Wilson being held criminally responsible…would be disappointing.”
Bell declined to comment on whether he’ll reconsider charging officer Darren Wilson in Brown’s death in 2019.
“Out of respect for Michael Brown and his family, I do not plan to relitigate the evidence in this case. These facts have been aired in public time and again. This is a time to reflect on Michael’s life, to support his family, and to honor a transformative moment that will forever be linked to his name. My heart breaks for his father Michael Brown Senior and his mother Lesley McSpadden. I know this is not the result they were looking for and that their pain continues forever,” said Bell.
Significant policy changes Bell’s announced immediately after taking office include no longer prosecuting most marijuana possession cases and eliminating cash bail in misdemeanor and low-level felonies.