In most states, a major barrier to bringing the perpetrators of rape and sexual assault to justice is baked into the law. Nationwide, 34 states and Washington, DC, have statutes of limitations on filing rape or sexual-assault charges, ranging from 3 to 30 years. In New Hampshire, charges must be filed within six years of a crime; in Connecticut, it's five years. In Minnesota, it's three. Some states tie the statute of limitations to reporting deadlines. If a survivor in Illinois comes forward within three years, the state has 10 years to file charges. If she takes longer than that, the case dies.
Twenty-seven states extend or suspend statutes of limitations if DNA evidence can identify a suspect, but these exemptions vary. Georgia puts no time limit on rape cases in which a DNA match has been made. In Indiana, prosecutors must charge a suspect within one year of a DNA match. In Connecticut, the crime must be initially reported within five years for any future DNA match to be considered.
On August 9, 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Brown, an African American, was unarmed. The killing sparked a wave of protests, some of them violent, and calls to formally charge Wilson. With a grand jury decision on the shooting investigation expected imminently, residents and law enforcement agencies in Ferguson and across St. Louis are bracing for a new round of protests and possible violence.
More MoJo coverage of the Michael Brown police shooting
Michael Brown's parents testify before U.N. committee
Michael Brown Sr. and Lesley McSpadden flew to Geneva this week where they spoke before the United Nations Committee Against Torture to present a report suggesting police tactics in Ferguson were a key factor in Brown's death.
"Whatever the grand jury decides in Missouri will not bring Michael back," Brown's father told members of the U.N. "We also understand that what you decide here may save lives. If I could have stood between the officer, his gun, and my son, I would have."
The Ferguson Police Department is currently under federal investigation to review its police tactics and determine if they meet federal standards.
Police get additional training
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said that 1,000 officers from multiple agencies went through 5,000 hours of additional training in preparation for possible reactions to the upcoming grand jury announcement. According to Officer Brian Schellman, a spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Department, "Our training consisted of tactics and response to civil disturbance, as well as a review of the 1st, 4th, and 14th amendments." To help ensure the rights of protesters and the media, Schellman told Mother Jones, "each officer will carry a laminated card with these amendments listed."
Police stock up on riot gear
Should protests turn violent again, the St. Louis County PD has been stocking up on riot gear. "If the police face assaults that could cause injury or worse, they will have riot gear at their disposal," Schellman said, adding that law enforcement efforts will be run by "a unified command that consists of commanders from the St. Louis County Police, St. Louis City Police, and MO State Highway Patrol."
Ahead of the grand jury announcement, guns shops in the Ferguson area have reported an increase in purchases by both black and white residents.
Brown autopsy report leaked
The autopsy, which was leaked to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, revealed Brown had been shot in the hand at close range with Wilson, putting into question whether Brown had had his hands up in the air, as some witnesses claimed. The St. Louis medical examiner, however, cautioned about jumping to conclusions over the leaked report. "As you look at this [report], people are grabbing onto one thing, trying to make a whole case on this one finding,” Graham told PBS. "You can't do that."
Supporters rally for Wilson
Soon after Brown's death, supporters emerged in defense of the embattled Ferguson police officer, whose whereabouts since the killing have been unknown to the public. In one instance during a rally for Brown, police were forced to remove one Wilson supporter holding a sign that read, "Justice is for everybody even P.O. Wilson."
Weeks later at a Cardinals game, Ferguson protesters got into an argument with Wilson supporters, one of whom had a sign "I am Darren Wilson" attached to his jersey.
Lesley McSpadden investigated
Ferguson police are investigating claims of a reported fight between members of Brown's family over the selling of "Justice for Michael Brown" t-shirts. Pearlie Gordon, Brown's paternal grandmother, told police she was in a parking lot trying to sell the items, when McSpadden and a group of about 20 people "jumped out of their vehicles and rushed them," allegedly telling Gordon "You can't sell this s**t." Gordon says she and the other vendors were beaten.
Reports of media accessblocked
The Associated Press uncovered audio recordings suggesting efforts by Ferguson authorities to limit media coverage by calling for "no-fly zones" to block news helicopters from documenting the protests in August. Ferguson police denied the allegations. Attorney General Eric Holder said he had no knowledge of the purported media restrictions and indicated his support for transparency. "Anything that would artificially inhibit the ability of news gatherers to do what they do I think is something that needs to be avoided," he said.
We've all seen a ton of "I Voted" stickers today, but the vote bragging is also happening on social media. Simon Rogers, Twitter's data editor, created this map using geotagged tweets with the hashtag #IVoted or the words "I voted" starting at 6 a.m. on election day. (It's unclear how many of them were tweeted by cats):
Most people don't think about judicial elections until they find themselves staring at a group of unfamiliar names on the ballot. But judges are selected by voters in 39 states, whether in an initial election or a retention election after being appointed. The explainer below details how special-interest money has increasingly flooded the system over the last several decades—including the first ever set of data on campaign money in lower court races.