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Jury will use objective reasonableness in Ferguson shooting case

Objective reasonableness means that an officer may use deadly force when he or she has the objective and reasonable belief that his or her life or the lives of others is in danger of death or physical harm.

As many in the U.S. roil over the August 9 fatal shooting of Michael Brown — an 18 year-old in Ferguson, Missouri — the country turns to the trial that will determine whether Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, will be convicted.

After Brown’s death, riots and protests abounded in Ferguson and around the U.S. in opposition to what many consider the militarization of the police and the unlawful shooting of an unarmed black teenager. Racist allegations have been thrown at Wilson, and the National Guard was called in to restore peace to the town as clashes raged between civilians and police officers. The St. Louis County grand jury will hold a trial for Wilson, and “objective reasonableness” will be one of the central instructions given to the jury.

The jury will only be able to consider what the officer knew at the time of the shooting, which will call into play whether or not Wilson was aware of a strong-arm robbery in which Brown could have been a suspect. Such considerations will include whether or not Wilson heard radio traffic about the robbery, and if he testifies that he believes Brown was indeed a suspect or not.

McNicholas describes a case similar to this incident that occurred in Los Angeles just last year where objective reasonableness was employed to convict a police officer of killing an unarmed man:

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Juliana Kenny

Juliana Kenny is a contributor to, covering a range of topics including patent litigation, conflict mineral laws, executive compensation, and antitrust regulation. Juliana earned B.A.s...

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