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Federal judge says state court should handle Darren Wilson grand juror case

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed the lawsuit of a grand juror who wants to speak about the Darren Wilson case, saying it would be better for a state court to handle it.

“Federal intervention would interfere with Missouri’s procedures and policies in an area of special state interest, that is, the control, use, and structure of its grand jury system,” U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel wrote in a memorandum accompanying the order dismissing the case.

The grand juror from the case over former Ferguson police officer Wilson’s fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, filed the lawsuit in January against St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch. The plaintiff claims that laws barring the grand juror from talking about her experiences on the grand jury are unconstitutional.

The grand jury decided to issue no charges against Wilson.

The lawsuit didn’t indicate whether the plaintiff was a man or a woman; Sippel referred to the plaintiff by female pronouns in his memorandum.

Sippel’s dismissal memorandum reflects one of the arguments used by attorneys for McCulloch when they filed a motion to dismiss the case.

“The court refused Mr. McCulloch’s request to rule in his favor on the merits of Grand Juror Doe’s First Amendment claim,” Tony Rothert, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, said in a statement.

The ACLU is representing the grand juror.

“In the coming days, we will determine how this case will continue to move forward,” Rothert said in the statement.

If the case does go to state court, McCulloch’s release of extensive transcripts and evidence  after the grand jury reached its decision would need to be addressed, Sippel wrote.

“Stated otherwise, have McCulloch’s disclosures served to eliminate the Missouri statutory requirement for secrecy? As a result of McCulloch’s disclosures, is Juror now permitted to freely discuss any aspect of her grand jury service, or is she limited to speaking only about those matters disclosed by McCulloch?” Sippel wrote.

“Or, despite McCulloch’s disclosures, is Juror still completely barred from discussing any aspect of her grand jury service?

The case is Grand Juror Doe v. Robert P. McCulloch, 4:15-cv-00006. Sippel’s memorandum is here: gj.dismiss.