AT THE height of the protests in Ferguson in August, Dan McMullen, the owner of a local insurance company, was already thinking about the future. A grand jury trial weighing what happened the night that Darren Wilson, a white police officer, shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year old, had not even been convened yet. But Mr McMullen told The Economist he feared things would get worse if no one was indicted. He is not alone.
In the weeks and months since the riots erupted after Brown was fatally shot, a semblance of calm and order has returned to the St Louis suburb. Protesters were quieted by the launch of an official investigation and the prospect of an indictment for Mr Wilson. But leaks released last week from the grand jury trial, a supposedly secret procedure, suggest that an indictment looks unlikely.
The official autopsy report, obtained by the St Louis Post-Dispatch, indicates that Brown was shot at close range, which seems to support Mr Wilson’s assertion that Brown reached for his gun. It also seems to back up his testimony that Brown first ran from the vehicle, defying the officer’s command to stop, and then turned around and charged him. Brown’s blood was found on the gun, on Mr Wilson’s uniform as well as inside the car, which also supports Mr Wilson’s claim that the confrontation took place at short range and that he was acting in self-defence. Half a dozen witnesses also provided testimony supporting Mr Wilson’s version of the events.