The death of Michael Brown, Jr., in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014, has become a touchstone for reform in three areas of American society: the high incidence of black citizens killed by white policemen; the pattern and effect of systemic racism in the country’s criminal justice system; the need for study and reform of current federal and state grand jury systems.
The Thirteenth Juror illustrates the pitfalls of the grand jury system by inviting readers to take a seat with the 12 people selected as grand jurors in the Michael Brown case, and to share the evidence and process they went through. Details that were not openly or adequately questioned are highlighted, and the impact of the posture and attitude of the prosecuting attorneys is explored. Disparities are uncovered in the narrative of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, who was responsible for Brown’s death, and the process of informing – or misinforming – jury members regarding the law(s) governing their deliberations is given critical attention. Ultimately, throughout the 24 days of testimony, the deeply human side of this tragedy is shared. And measured against the history of the grand jury process itself, this is a case study illustrating the need for examination and reform.