Missouri AG Confirms Michael Brown Grand Jury Misled by St. Louis DA


The Daily Kos has the post Missouri AG Confirms Michael Brown Grand Jury Misled by St. Louis DA.

The background of this situation is that Lawrence O’Donnell reported that after reviewing the transcripts of the Darren Wilson Grand Jury, his analyst discovered that Assistant District Attorney’s working for Bob McCullough gave the Jurors an outdated copy of Missouri Law that all that was required for an Officer to use deadly force is their “reasonable belief” that there was a threat.

In 1985 the Supreme Court amended this law to include a “probable cause” requirement under Tennessee v Garner and the Jury wasn’t informed of this until 3 months later just before their deliberations, nor even at that time was the difference and relevance of this explained to them clearly.


Here is the video of Lawrence O’Donnell that is the subject of the article.


After reading this and seeing comments about this, I came to realize that a lot hinges on the difference between “reasonable belief” and “probable cause”. I emphasize this, because I hadn’t paid enough attention to these words when I first read the article.

Originally, I would have thought that the two were reasonably similar. Perhaps a reader who is trained in the law can explain the difference.

I think that remembering this discussion is going to be important in judging whatever else you may read or hear about this and other similar cases.


I did a Google search of probable cause vs reasonable belief.

One article I found was Definitions Of Probable Cause Vs. Reasonable Suspicion.

According to the Supreme Court, probable cause to make an arrest exists when an officer has knowledge of such facts as would lead a reasonable person to believe that a particular individual is committing, has committed or is about to commit a criminal act. The officer must be able to articulate the facts and circumstances forming the basis for probable cause.
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Reasonable suspicion is a standard established by the Supreme Court in a 1968 case in which it ruled that police officers should be allowed stop and briefly detain a person if, based upon the officer’s training and experience, there is reason to believe that the individual is engaging in criminal activity. The officer is given the opportunity to freeze the action by stepping in to investigate. Unlike probable cause that uses a reasonable person standard, reasonable suspicion is based upon the standard of a reasonable police officer.


I am still mulling this over to see if I really understand the difference between the two. Every time I think I have it, the difference starts to escape me.

I also found the Police Magazine article Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion.

One court decision they quoted said the following:

“Articulating precisely what ‘reasonable suspicion’ and ‘probable cause’ mean is not possible. They are commonsense, non-technical conceptions that deal with the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act. As such, the standards are not readily, or even usefully, reduced to a neat set of legal rules.” (Ornelas v. U.S.)

The best conclusion the article could come up with was:

“Probable cause” means reasonably reliable information to suspect there is a “fair probability” that a person has committed a crime, or that a search will reveal contraband or evidence. “Reasonable suspicion” is a strong suspicion, even if based on less information of a less-reliable nature, that a person is involved in criminal activity or may be armed and dangerous.

I think the point of the article is that you would be completely justified if you were still confused.

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