After an anonymous Ferguson juror and the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed a lawsuit last month demanding that a gag order be lifted, lawyers for St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch are pushing back, reports USA TODAY.
In November, a grand jury declined to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown last August. The anonymous juror is asking for freedom to speak publicly about the case, arguing that the facts presented during the hearing were unceremoniously one-sided, focusing more on the victim than the perpetrator. However, in court papers filed last night, McCulloch’s legal team are adamant that the gag order remain in place indefinitely and ask that the judge dismiss the case.
“Plaintiff is requesting the court to issue an injunction that would threaten the continued health and sound functioning of Missouri’s grand jury system,” McCulloch’s attorneys said. “Given the important state issues raised in this case, the court should abstain from exercising its jurisdiction over plaintiff’s claims.”
In Missouri, divulging confidential grand jury information is considered a misdemeanor. In this case, though, there are some exceptions, particularly since McCulloch made the decision early on to release evidence and jury papers to the public.
Lawyers for McCulloch have said that releasing the paperwork would compromise the state’s commitment to “a freedom of disclosure before future grand juries.”
“Such information, especially as it relates to evidence and witnesses, is not plaintiff’s to disclose and would pose a clear and present danger to the persons whose identities remain unknown to the public,” the papers read.
The juror and ACLU will have an opportunity to respond to the new filings before a judge makes a ruling.