Is there a leak in the grand jury investigation of the Michael Brown shooting?

The alleged leak came from a Twitter user with the screenname @thesusannichols, who has since deleted her account.

Mar 1, 2020, 8:08 pm*

Internet Culture


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

According to activist and Daily Kos writer Shaun King, there is a leak inside the grand jury investigation into the death of Ferguson teen Michael Brown.

The alleged leak came from a Twitter user with the screenname @thesusannichols, who has since deleted her account. The tweets in question refer to the case against Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot unarmed African-American Michael Brown but has not yet been charged with any crime. “I know someone on the grand jury of this case,” reads one of the tweets. “There isn’t enough at this point to warrant an arrest.”

Shaun King, who shared the @thesusannichols tweets on Wednesday, is of the most vocal critics of the investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown. 

A spokesman for St. Louis county prosecutor Rob McCullough told the Washington Post on Wednesday that they “looking into” the tweets. If they discover proof that the confidentiality of the grand jury has been breached, then the investigation will have to impanel a replacement jury.

The original @thesusannichols Twitter account was deleted, and the username has since been taken over (or “occupied”) by an anti-racism social media campaign called ThatsRacistAF. However, the real Susan Nichols has not remained silent. She is a local St. Louis woman who claims that her Twitter was “hacked” to post the offending tweets.

She told reporters that she hadn’t used the Twitter account in two years. However, it was still linked to her Facebook account last month and was tweeting regularly about everyday topics and commentary on the Ferguson protests. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that on Sept. 29, the account posted a tweet reading, “Wearing my I am Darren Wilson Bracelet tonight,” a show of solidarity with one of the campaigns supporting the police officer.

“It had to have been hacked,” Nichols told CNN. “I promise you I did not do any of this.”

It’s up to St. Louis County prosecutors to decide whether she is telling the truth, but the “hacked” excuse does not seem very plausible. Why would anyone hack the account of a random St. Louis woman with a handful of followers? The relevant tweets are part of a conversation and merely refer to her “knowing someone” on the grand jury, not being part of the jury itself. If this is a case of someone hacking into her account and then inexplicably impersonating her for months, then it’s an impressively subtle job.

Since the screencapped tweets have now been shared across social media, the idea of a grand jury leak has become part of the narrative surrounding the Michael Brown shooting. Even if the tweets are proven to be false, it’s still difficult to imagine many Ferguson protesters regaining their trust in the investigation.

Photo via Loavesofbread/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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*First Published: Oct 3, 2014, 1:28 pm