It’s ‘Civil Suit’ Time. But Do Michael Brown’s Parents Have a Strong Case?

4. What’s the likelihood that the Justice Department will bring a civil rights charge against Darren Wilson? Early reports suggest that it won’t because there’s not enough evidence.

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Though he wasn’t charged at the state level, the Department of Justice can still elect to bring civil rights charges against Wilson, similar to how the feds held on to key pieces of evidence stemming from the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin when they were considering bringing charges against George Zimmerman.

Lest we forget, the Justice Department conducted its own autopsy of Brown’s body and Attorney General Eric Holder dispatched a team of federal detectives to Ferguson to conduct a separate investigation into his shooting. The Justice Department recently issued a press statement saying that its investigation was “ongoing” but it couldn’t provide a “specific time line for concluding those inquiries.”

However, Guster doesn’t think it will amount to anything. “It is almost impossible for the Department of Justice to bring charges against Wilson,” Guster explained, because “the burden of proof is extremely high in reference to a civil rights violation.

“For a civil rights violation,” he continued, the feds would have to prove that “Darren Wilson shot and killed Brown because he is black. That is the extra requirement needed for the case to be a civil rights violation in these circumstances.

“They must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Brown was shot because he was black,” Guster stressed. 

5. What are some of the legal obstacles that Brown’s parents will face if they decide to go forward with a civil suit?

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Oscar Grant was shot in the back while he was in custody and handcuffed, lying facedown on the platform of a train station. Several witnesses captured his last moments alive on video—including the fatal shot that took his life. 

Brown’s alleged resistance during the altercation with Wilson, on the other hand, will be critical to whether his parents will win a civil suit.  

“There are several accounts that there was a fight at the car, which, as the trial goes forward, would make it harder for a civil suit to be successful,” Guster explained. “On the other hand, if the family has reliable witnesses to show that Michael Brown was surrendering to the police officer when he was shot and killed, then the civil suit may be successful.”

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