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Symbolic Grand Jury Convenes In St. Louis County To Hear Evidence Against Darren Wilson

Leaders playing the role of prosecuting attorneys sit in the foreground as Herdosia Bentum testifies that she has been mistreated by St. Louis-area police. The grand jury sits in the background.
Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio

A symbolic grand jury convened by African liberation groups is meeting this weekend in north St. Louis County to hear evidence about the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown by then-Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson.

About 50 people passed through a metal detector Saturday to attend the start of the two-day event. Before any witnesses were called or any evidence was presented, ZakiBarutiof the Universal African People’s Organization recited a litany of incidents where he said police in St. Louis have treated black people unfairly and advised the jury to bear that history in mind when hearing the evidence.

“And upon examining that evidence, we’re sure that you will see the need that there ought to be murder charges filed against Darren Wilson,” Baruti told the jury.

In lieu of in-person testimony, several of the eyewitness testimonies are being given through screenings of media interviews.

The 12 people serving as the symbolic grand jury.
Credit Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio
The 12 people serving as the symbolic grand jury.

Herdosia Bentum, however, testified in-person. While she did not witness Brown’s death, Bentum said that she has been mistreated by St. Louis area police on several occasions.

“I can’t keep on having these things happen to me or people around me and think it’s okay. So that’s why I’m here with my time, my energy and everything in me to say that this is not OK,” Bentum said.

After two days of hearing evidence and testimony, the grand jury will determine whether or not charges should be brought against Wilson for the death of Brown in August.

Although this jury will have no legal power to enforce charges, organizers said that the “black people’s grand jury” is not a mock jury. They said that the jury convened by St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch was the true mockery.

For more on the symbolic grand jury, and the organizations behind the event, see St. Louis Public Radio's previous coverage.

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