5 crucial things about the grand jury investigation into Michael Brown's killing

Story highlights

  • The grand jury in Missouri is looking at several potential crimes, not just one
  • The grand jury has been given permission to set its own schedule
  • Grand jurors have until January to make a decision
The "Weekend of Resistance" protests have ended, the prosecutor didn't step aside and the world awaits word from a grand jury determining whether charges should be brought against a white police officer who fatally shot unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Protesters demanded criminal charges against Officer Darren Wilson, who some witnesses said shot and killed Brown while he was surrendering with his hands up. But police said Wilson shot Brown after the 18-year-old attacked him and tried to take his service gun in August.
Demonstrators also sought for St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch to recuse himself from overseeing the case because, they allege, he can't be impartial after his police officer father was killed on the job by a black man in 1964.
McCulloch rejected those demands. But he said he will not try the case if there is an indictment. Meanwhile, two assistant prosecuting attorneys have been assigned to the case.
Here are key five things you'll want to know as the legal system moves forward:
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1. What kinds of charges are the grand jury considering?
It's not just one potential crime.
The grand jury is deciding whether Wilson should be charged with any one of several possible crimes, including: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter, said Ed Magee, spokesman for the prosecuting attorney's office.
The grand jury can issue an indictment on any of those four charges, and it also has the option of adding a charge of armed criminal action, authorities said.
At the same time, the grand jury will receive the Missouri statutes for self-defense and the police use of deadly force.
2. How many votes are needed on a grand jury to issue an indictment?
There are 12 members on the Missouri grand jury (some other states have different numbers), and nine of the 12 must vote yes to indict someone.
The grand jury proceedings are conducted in secret. The same goes for the grand jurors' race or ethnicity.
3. Does the grand jury have a deadline?
Yes, the grand jury has until January 7 to make its decision. But the prosecutor's office says there could be a decision by mid-November.
4. How often does it meet?
Normally a grand jury in St. Louis County meets every Wednesday. But the grand jury has been extended for the Brown case so jurors have extra time to hear from a number of witnesses and to focus solely on this case.
In this scenario, the panel is allowed to meet on days when all 12 jurors can get together. Once agreed upon, the schedule is given to the prosecuting attorney's office.
5. Has the grand jury received all the evidence yet?
No, according to the prosecutor's office.
They have not heard from all the witnesses. Some witnesses are still reluctant to cooperate, the prosecutor's office said. Ultimately, witnesses can be compelled to appear to the grand jury by subpoena.
In past statements, McCulloch has promised a fair and thorough investigation.
"We will be presenting absolutely everything to this grand jury. Every statement that a witness made, every witness, every photograph, every piece of physical evidence. Absolutely nothing will be left out so the grand jury is making their decision based upon absolutely everything and we'll go from there," McCulloch told KTRS in August.