While tempers continue to flare in Ferguson, Mo., after a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed African-American teen Aug. 9, there are still a number of issues that now must be considered. As several stories have emerged and Ferguson continues to split at its racial seam, state prosecutors have to decide whether to take legal action against Darren Wilson, the 28-year-old officer who fatally shot Michael Brown.
According to the Associated Press, a “Missouri grand jury could begin hearing evidence as soon as Wednesday.” Below are several possibilities and potential questions that must be considered.
1. Could Wilson face the death penalty?
Short answer: Yes. Long answer: According to AP, although death-penalty charges could be brought, several legal analysts believe that the death penalty is highly unlikely, since proof would be needed to substantiate that Wilson plotted to kill Brown.
“It’d have to be a cold and deliberate killing—almost execution-style,” Peter Joy, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, told AP.
2. What charges could be brought against Wilson?
If charged, Wilson would likely be charged with second-degree murder. This charge is usually applied to killings that happened in the moment, meaning that there might not need to be an intention to kill, AP reports.
Wilson could also be charged with voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. According to AP, while these are lesser charges, they are still serious and would require proof that Wilson’s reckless or negligent actions caused Brown’s death.
3. Could Wilson not be charged?
Yes, if the investigation concludes that Wilson acted in self-defense. Joy did tell AP that a minor charge, like assault, is not probable. “It’s likely you’re going to have the state charge him with murder or manslaughter—or nothing at all.”