CLAYTON, Mo. — The 18-year-old fatally shot by a suburban St. Louis police officer didn’t face any juvenile charges at the time of his death and never was charged with a serious felony such as murder, robbery or burglary, a juvenile court system lawyer said Wednesday.
Those details emerged at a hearing in which two media organizations sought the release of any possible juvenile records for Michael Brown.
Cynthia Harcourt, the St. Louis County juvenile office’s attorney, offered the most specific public details on whether Brown faced legal trouble before his 18th birthday — a subject of intense speculation in a case that has garnered global attention. The 45-minute hearing before a St. Louis County family court judge didn’t reveal whether Brown had ever been charged with lesser offenses as a juvenile.
Juvenile records are confidential in Missouri, but under state law, being charged with certain violent crimes removes those juvenile privacy protections. Police have said Brown had no adult criminal record.
Joe Martineau, an attorney for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, cited an overriding public right to know Brown’s history after his early August shooting death by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson sparked more than a week of sometimes-violent protests and drew international scrutiny.
“There is interest in knowing Michael Brown’s background,” Martineau said. “What we’re asking for here is just verification, one way or the other … We’re acting in a vacuum here.”
Harcourt said that “simple curiosity” doesn’t trump the state’s legal interest in protecting minors accused of crimes.
“The court of public opinion does not require the release of juvenile records,” she said.
Judge Ellen Levy Siwack did not indicate how long she would take before releasing a ruling.
Also on Wednesday, a grand jury was scheduled to meet for the third time since Brown’s death to consider evidence in a possible criminal case. The police shooting is also being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.