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Monday, Oct. 20, 2014

Lawsuits seek Ferguson victim Michael Brown's juvenile records

By Alan Scher Zagier, Associated Press

Published: Wed, Sept. 3 8:27 a.m. MDT

 FILE - In this Aug. 11, 2014 file photo, Lesley McSpadden, the mother of 18-year-old Michael Brown, wipes away tears as Brown's father, Michael Brown Sr., holds up a family picture of himself, his son, top left, and a young child during a news conference in Jennings, Mo. Lingering questions about Michael Brown could be answered Wednesday as two news organizations seek the release of any possible juvenile records for the unarmed 18-year-old who was shot by a police officer last month.

FILE - In this Aug. 11, 2014 file photo, Lesley McSpadden, the mother of 18-year-old Michael Brown, wipes away tears as Brown's father, Michael Brown Sr., holds up a family picture of himself, his son, top left, and a young child during a news conference in Jennings, Mo. Lingering questions about Michael Brown could be answered Wednesday as two news organizations seek the release of any possible juvenile records for the unarmed 18-year-old who was shot by a police officer last month.

(Jeff Roberson, Associated Press)

CLAYTON, Mo. — Lingering questions about Michael Brown could be answered Wednesday when a judge considers two media requests to release any possible juvenile records of the unarmed 18-year-old who was killed by a Missouri police officer last month.

Juvenile records are confidential in Missouri, so it's not known if Brown was arrested before he legally became an adult. Police have said Brown had no adult criminal record. The family's attorney, Benjamin Crump, has refused to discuss whether Brown had a juvenile record.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and a California online journalist asked St. Louis County Family Court to determine whether Brown had past legal trouble. Both cite an overriding public right to know Brown's background after his shooting death by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson sparked more than a week of sometimes-violent protests and drew international scrutiny.

The more basic argument boils down to the question of whether Brown's privacy rights extend beyond the grave.

The lawsuit by Charles C. Johnson of Fresno, California, cites a 1984 Missouri Court of Appeals ruling in which the juvenile records of an 18-year-old who was killed by a security guard while shoplifting at a supermarket in 1979 were released in a wrongful death lawsuit.

That man's mother challenged a trial court's decision to release the records to defendants who were hoping to determine the 18-year-old's lost earning capacity.

"It certainly is not much of a stretch to go from the case law that exists right now to that theory," said Jean Maneke, who is counsel to the Missouri Press Association.

But Washington University law professor Mae Quinn, director of the school's juvenile law clinic, called the case cited by Johnson, editor-in-chief of the website GotNews.com, "completely irrelevant," since he does not have a vested legal interest in the Brown case.

"The biggest distinction is they were real parties to a real suit," she said, referring to the grocery store owners' successful challenge for the juvenile records. "There was a real dispute. That's a major distinction."

"The cited case in no way deals with release of records, much less release to a member of the general public," she added.

The efforts to obtain Brown's juvenile records — if there are any — have been criticized by some who say his past is irrelevant to the question of whether Wilson responded with excessive force.

A grand jury in another Clayton courtroom is also scheduled to meet Wednesday to consider that issue.

The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division is also investigating Wilson's fatal shooting of Brown.

Follow Alan Scher Zagier on Twitter at http://twitter.com/azagier

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1. Richie
Saint George, UT,
Sept. 3, 2014

I would like to hear a truthful answer. Any black kid killed by a white man is supposed to be choir boy according to all the race baiters including President Obama, Al Sharpton etc.

2. CHS 85
Sandy, UT,
Sept. 3, 2014

@Richie

"Any black kid killed by a white man is supposed to be choir boy according to all the race baiters including President Obama, Al Sharpton etc."

Well, conversely, any black kid killed by a white man is supposed to be a gang-banging thug to all the race-baiters including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilley.

Juvenile records are supposed to be expunged at age 18.

3. Maudine
SLC, UT,
Sept. 3, 2014

Why does it matter? Unless there is a specific connection between him and the officer who shot him, his record is irrelevant to the circumstances.

4. Middle of the Road
Home Town USA, UT,
Sept. 3, 2014

Those juvenile records for Michael Brown have a lot to do with the history of Michael Brown's pattern of behavior and previous run-in(s) with law enforcement. We keep hearing how he was "unarmed". But he was assaulting the store clerk, several times as shown in the robbery video. He appears to be in the video as using his height and weight to intimidate the store clerk.

Then he roughs up the police officer when he realizes that Brown was likely the reported robbery suspect at the convenience store. Using his physical force to beat up the officer was just as if he was armed with his own physical force as a weapon. Call it what it is and cannot be overlooked.

Michael Brown might still be alive today had he been compliant with the demands of officer Wilson without breaking the policeman's eye socket. Those kinds of injuries don't just happen without force and the response was likely in defense of the policeman's safety.

It is unfortunate that this kind of end came to the situation, but there is responsibility on both them. Let's wait for the truth to prevail.

5. Sequoya
Stafford, VA,
Sept. 4, 2014

Middle of the Road:"Those juvenile records for Michael Brown have a lot to do with the history of Michael Brown's pattern of behavior and previous run-in(s) with law enforcement. We keep hearing how he was "unarmed". But he was assaulting the store clerk, several times as shown in the robbery video. He appears to be in the video as using his height and weight to intimidate the store clerk."

You took the words out of my mouth, in more ways than you know.