St. Louis, MO — Data from city and county prosecutors in the city of St. Louis confirm that a total of 39 people were fatally shot by police officers between 2003 and 2012; and according to the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office, only one police officer was indicted. It was a case back in the year 2000, and that same officer was acquitted.
Even worse, during St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch’s 23-year tenure, his office handled at least five grand jury investigations into fatal on-duty police encounters, and you guessed it… none of the grand juries returned indictments. Since the recent Michael Brown case, the media has brought to light that McCullough and any other state prosecutor can determine HOW the case is presented to the grand jury, and that this can influence their decision.
So how is this legal?
Roger Goldman, a legal and criminal procedure expert, says that a long-standing Missouri statute gives police officers a very wide latitude to shoot to kill. According to Goldman, the law states they are justified in doing so if they “reasonably believe” their target “has committed or attempted to commit a felony” and deadly force is “immediately necessary to effect the arrest.”
Goldman says this is one major reason why “it’s particularly difficult to get grand juries to indict or prosecutors to even take the case to the grand jury in the first place.”