Michael BrownFerguson, MO-As the smoke rises above Ferguson, Missouri, and shop owners assess the damage after a night of looting and multiple businesses set ablaze, some are wondering what is next for Michael Brown’s family. With the Grand jury deciding not to prosecute Officer Darren Wilson for gunning down Brown, there is a desire around the country for justice. So what can the Brown family do to get the justice they deserve?
The Justice Department is investigating whether Officer Wilson violated Brown’s civil rights. This could lead to federal prosecution, but Attorney General cautioned that federal charges require a “high legal bar,” NBC News reported. A federal prosecutor would have to be able to prove that by shooting Michael Brown, Officer Wilson violated the teen’s civil rights. That’s not easily done.
The Ferguson Police Department could also chose to fire Wilson. Now that he has been cleared by the grand jury, Wilson is cleared to return to duty. But again with the protections bestowed on police officers via their union, firing Wilson would be a nearly impossible task and an unlikely prospect.
And that may not be necessary since prior to the grand jury decision, Wilson was already in negotiations with Ferguson Police to resign.
In the absence federal charges, the next recourse of action the Brown family can take is to file a wrongful death suit against Wilson and the St. Louis County Police.
A statement issued by the Brown family prior to the announcement of the grand jury’s decision implored the community to engage in peaceful protests, but Brown family made no mention of whether they intend to file a civil suit. Earlier on Monday, in a statement to MSNBC News, the Brown family attorney, Benjamin Crump said “the only remedy they will have left is a legal civil matter” if the grand jury
A civil suit has a lesser burden of proof than a criminal case. NBC News noted that to secure a criminal prosecution, prosecutors must prove a person’s guilt beyond a “reasonable doubt.” The burden of proof in a civil suit requires the case be proved through a “preponderance of the evidence.” While that is still a significant burden of proof but one that is much easier to meet than in criminal cases.
A wrongful death suit may be the best course of action for the Brown family, it won’t bring Michael back, but it will ensure that Wilson is held accountable for the young man’s death. Civil action would also ensure, the Ferguson Police Department is held accountable.
In June, an Albuquerque family was awarded a $6 million judgment against the Albuquerque Police Department after their son, who was schizophrenic, was shot and killed by police. So it is possible for the Brown family to prevail in civil court.
Last night was a travesty, and many are wondering if it was one that might have been avoided had St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCullough chosen to present the grand jury’s findings earlier in the day. There is some who believe the violence that erupted could have been prevented if the announcement was not done under the cover of night after residents of the Ferguson had all day to rile themselves up over the impending decision.

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