In 2022, a flower arrangement was attached to a tree as friends and family celebrated the life of Michael Brown Jr. on the eighth anniversary of his death at the spot where he was shot dead on August 9, 2014 by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. This event ignited unrest in Ferguson. 

Nine years have passed since the death of Mike Brown changed his family’s life and the St. Louis region.

Former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed the unarmed Brown, and the teenager’s death sparked the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Wilson was not charged with a crime by then St. Louis County Prosecuting  Attorney Bob McCulloch, whose presentation of the case to a grand jury remains questionable.

Delia Addo-Yobo, a criminal defense attorney with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization, is in search of justice for the Brown family. She has been working on the case for nearly a year.

Mike Brown’s death changed the nations, and it galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Addo-Yobo. Addo-Yobo works on the RFKHR US Litigation Advocacy Team, which partnered with the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center in the continuing pursuit of civil liability.

According to Addo-Yobo, the families of Mike Brown have filed several unsuccessful civil suits. The request that Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell reopen the case was also tuned down.

She says a last resort is an international court. Over the past 7 years, several petitions have reached the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In this commission’s judgment, the petitions should be admissible in an American courtroom.

The plaintiffs contend that local and national governments violated multiple human rights and international laws in connection with the killing and its legal aftermath.

Addo-Yobo says McCulloch’s case that was presented to the grand jury “raised some eyebrows,” especially the fact that Wilson was allowed to testify during the process.

“This typically is not how the proceeding goes. I think there has been a lot of pushback within the community about what happened with this case,” said the attorney. 

Addo-Yobo stated that in 2022 the U.S. had its highest number of police killings on record - and something must be done.  She said Brown’s family isn’t asking for “overtop things,” just justice for the death of their son. 

[A] public apology, acknowledgment of wrongdoing by the US officials, free and subsidized mental health services for family members, and adoption of legislation that will stop and deter future police killings, were noted as possible remedies for the family by Addo-Yobo.

“What the family is seeking is a real effort to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said Addo-Yobo.

She noted there are several stalled bills in Congress that could assist.

They include, ‘The Breathe Act’, legislation where the government invests in restorative justice. The ‘End Religion and Race Profile Act,’ and the ‘Helping Families Heal Act’.

“No family should be left to defend themselves against the mishandled case of a police officer,” said the criminal defense attorney. “They want restorative justice for what happened.” 

Addo-Yobo said it is rare for a police officer to be charged in cases like Wilson’s. If so, they receive a “slap on the wrist,” or have the opportunity to work in law enforcement in another city. 

Addo-Yobo said Brown’s case and the murder of George Floyd by a former Minneapolis police officer are part of American history - and that police killings in the U.S. have reached international stages for decades.

In 1951, the Civil Rights Congress presented the United Nations with a petition entitled, “‘We Change Genocide.” The petition labeled police killings between 1945-1951 as genocide.

“The United States has a problem and it has been a problem for decades,” said Addo-Yobo. “This is a human rights violation that we all should be concerned with”

Ashley Winters is a Report for America reporter for the St. Louis American.

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