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Answers to questions about the Ferguson grand jury

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced the grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.REUTERS

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A Missouri grand jury heard evidence for months as it weighed whether to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of Michael Brown, which was followed by sometimes violent protests. The grand jury did not hand down any indictments.

Some answers to common questions about the grand jury:

Q: What was the grand jury deciding?

A: The grand jury considered whether there is enough evidence to charge Wilson with a crime and, if so, what that charge should be.

Q: How was the grand jury different from other juries?

A: The grand jury can determine only whether probable cause exists to indict Wilson, not whether he is guilty. If the jury had indicted him, a separate trial jury will be seated to decide whether to convict or acquit him.

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Q: How many people were on the grand jury and how were they selected?

A: The grand jury was composed of 12 people ‘‘selected at random from a fair cross-section of the citizens,’’ according to Missouri law. The jurors, whose identities were kept secret, were 75 percent white: six white men, three white women, two black women and one black man. St. Louis County overall is 70 percent white, but about two-thirds of Ferguson’s residents are black. Brown was black. The officer is white.

Q: Was the grand jury appointed for this specific case?

A: No. It was appointed for a four-month term. The grand jury had been hearing routine cases around the time Brown was killed and then turned its attention to the shooting.

The jury’s term was due to expire Sept. 10. That same day, county Judge Carolyn Whittington extended the term to Jan. 7 — the longest extension allowable by state law. The investigation was always expected to go longer than the typical grand jury term.

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Q: How often did the grand jurors meet?

A: Their normal schedule was to meet once a week.

Q: Who was inside the grand jury room?

A: The jury, a prosecutor and a witness. Grand jury proceedings are closed to the public.

Q: What happened when the grand jury convened?

A: Prosecutors presented evidence and summoned witnesses to testify. A grand jury is a powerful tool for investigating crimes because witnesses must testify unless they invoke the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects against self-incrimination.

Typically, grand jurors hear a condensed version of the evidence that might be presented at a trial. In the Ferguson case, grand jurors received more extensive evidence and testimony.

Q: Who testified to the grand jury?

A: The only witnesses known for certain to have testified were Wilson and Dr. Michael Baden, who performed a private autopsy on Brown on behalf of his family. But other witnesses and experts may also have appeared.

Q: Do charges require a unanimous vote?

A: No. Consent from nine jurors is enough to file a charge in Missouri. The jury could also choose not to file any charges.

Q: Can jurors speak to the public?