Attorney General Eric Holder is facing limited options in pursuing a federal civil-rights investigation against white police officer Darrell Wilson, who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, now that a grand jury has declined to indict.
Many legal analysts agree the Justice Department has high hurdles to overcome to prove the Ferguson, Missouri, policeman intentionally violated the civil rights of the Brown, who was black and who died after a violent struggle in August.
More than four weeks before a St. Louis County grand jury decided, Justice Department sources
were telling reporters that they were facing trouble trying to build a case against Wilson.
"The evidence at this point does not support civil-rights charges against officer Wilson," a source told the Washington Post.
Federal authorities must prove that Wilson "willfully" deprived Brown of "a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States," according to federal law.
Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, wrote in a column for USA Today
that the evidence in the case gives Wilson a "strong defense."
He said Wilson's account of the fight with Brown was supported by at least six black witnesses, making a civil-rights case even harder to prove.
After the grand jury reported Monday evening, Holder promised the Justice Department would finish its civil rights investigation.
"While the grand jury proceeding in St. Louis County has concluded, the Justice Department's investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown remains ongoing," Holder said. "Although federal civil-rights law imposes a high legal bar in these types of cases, we have resisted forming premature conclusions."
Nevertheless, Brown's supporters held out hope for the federal probe. Their reaction on Twitter was typified by this tweet:
After rioters burned buildings and looted stores over the grand jury announcement, however, one tweet expressed fears of another round of violence:
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