CLAYTON • The grand jury considering whether Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson should be criminally charged in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown now has until Jan. 7 to decide.
The extension of the grand jurors’ term of duty does not necessarily mean the job will take that long, officials said. But it could.
There is significant apprehension, especially along the West Florissant Avenue business strip hit by looting and rioting after the killing of Brown on Aug. 9, that violence might return if the grand jury does not send Wilson to trial for something. Some activists have threatened as much.
A St. Louis County grand jury usually sits for four months, a period that for the current panel expired last week. State law provides for a term of up to six months, which moves the date to November. On Wednesday, Circuit Judge Carolyn Whittington issued an order adding 60 days more.
“She extended it to the full amount allowed by law,” Court Administrator Paul Fox said Monday. But he added that the grand jury will keep meeting until Jan. 7 only if it needs to.
The panel is hearing evidence in the Michael Brown case exclusively, and can meet whenever it needs to, Fox said.
The grand jury is 12 people selected from the standard jury pool to meet in secret, usually weekly, to hear evidence and decide whether criminal charges are warranted. It takes nine votes to issue an indictment, which sends a defendant to a public trial.