Why haven't we heard from Ferguson grand jury?

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Story highlights

  • Grand jury has been solely focusing on Michael Brown shooting
  • Prosecutors have said deadline is January 7, but decision likely before then
  • 12 jurors have more evidence and testimony to weigh than in a normal case
  • Ferguson residents seems tired of waiting; some hope lengthy process sign of thorough jury
The signs pointed to the grand jury drawing near a decision as to whether Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson will be charged with a crime for fatally shooting Michael Brown.
But word leaked out Saturday that when the Missouri grand jury wrapped up its session Friday, it hadn't wrapped up the case. The 12 grand jurors will meet again Monday, sources said.
People are getting antsy. Supporters of Brown's family want to see Wilson go to trial. The officer's supporters want him to be vindicated.
Business owners worry about their property. Officials are concerned about keeping the peace.
It's still unclear when we will hear what the grand jury has decided. In the meantime, here are five things to ponder:
1. Why were there expectations of a decision Friday?
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There were several indicators that something was going to happen last week. On Monday, Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency, citing the "possibility of expanded unrest." He also ordered the National Guard to send troops to the area. For weeks, the prosecutors' office in St. Louis County has said there likely would be a decision by mid-November.
Law enforcement officials briefed on the plans said Wednesday the grand jury was going to meet Friday for what might be its final session.
On Thursday, an email went out to all St. Louis County employees detailing security preparations for a grand jury announcement.
2. What does it mean that the grand jury is not done?
That's hard to discern, but it's not as if they have reached the deadline to decide. That's January 7.
Normally, a grand jury in St. Louis County meets every Wednesday. But the grand jury had 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.
The law enforcement officials who told CNN of Friday's session also said St. Louis County prosecutors were preparing to present more evidence to the grand jury before it started deliberating.
3. What is taking the grand jury so long?
Unlike in most grand jury presentations, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch has said he was going to present every piece of evidence and witness he has, much more information than is typically given.
"Absolutely nothing will be left out, so the grand jury is making their decision based upon absolutely everything, and we'll go from there," he told a St. Louis radio station in August.
It is an unusual approach.
"Most times prosecutors decide, 'Look, I want to get an indictment. I'm going to present the minimum amount of testimony I need to get an indictment,' " CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin has said.
McCulloch told CNN's Ana Cabrera that it had taken longer than expected to get some of the witnesses in front of the grand jury.
The grand jury meets in secret, so it is impossible to know whether all the evidence has been presented and all the witnesses have testified. One possibility is the grand jury wanted to hear from a witness again.
Another scenario is that the grand jurors took a break before starting their deliberations.
McCulloch has told CNN that if there is no indictment, he will seek to publicly release all evidence in the case.
Paul Fox, St. Louis County's director of judicial administration, sent a statement to media on Sunday that said that a judge must approve such a request and that the court will have to "analyze the need for maintaining secrecy of the records with the need for public disclosure of the records."
4. What are the possible outcomes a grand jury could reach?
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. It may choose not to indict Wilson.
Once it has heard all testimony and reviewed the evidence, the grand jury determines whether there is probable cause a crime or crimes have been committed. If that is the case, a "true bill" is found and an indictment is issued. If no true bill is found, then there is no charge.
Nine of 12 grand jurors must agree that there is a true bill for the case to head to a trial hearing. But even in the case of a no true bill, prosecutors could theoretically present the evidence to a different grand jury.
HLN legal analyst Joey Jackson said he thinks that is highly unlikely.
Whatever the decision, officials have said they will give notice to law enforcement and other authorities before publicly announcing the outcome.
5. What do Ferguson residents say about the added wait?
It seems to be a mixture of frustration and confusion for Ferguson residents.
"For me, it's like I don't understand what they are stretching it out for. Maybe they don't feel like they have enough evidence, I don't know," said Anthony Kelly.
Others think the grand jury had a pretty easy case.
"Honestly, I don't think it should be a process. This man (Wilson) should be locked up," said Brandon Turner, who works in Ferguson. "Any civilian could have had 20 witnesses pointing at them, and he could have been locked up that day. I think this is crazy."
Some people were guardedly OK with the news that grand jury would meet again. They said rushing through could lead to the wrong decision.
Turner said many people he has talked to believe that Wilson won't be indicted.
"Everybody is in shock that it's taking this long. Everybody is anticipating that he is going to get off," he said.