Lingering questions about Michael Brown could be answered today when a judge considers two media requests to release any possible juvenile records of the unarmed 18-year-old who was killed by a Missouri police officer last month, the Associated Press reports. Juvenile records are confidential in Missouri, so it’s not publicly known if Brown was arrested before he legally became an adult. Police have said Brown had no adult criminal record. The family’s attorney, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and a California online journalist have filed petitions in St. Louis County Family Court to determine whether Brown had past legal trouble.
Both cite an overriding public right to know Brown’s background after his shooting death by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson sparked more than a week of sometimes-violent protests and drew international scrutiny. The more basic argument boils down to the question of whether Brown’s privacy rights extend beyond the grave. Washington University law Prof. Mae Quinn, director of the school’s juvenile law clinic, says one journalist who sued, Charles Johnson, editor-in-chief of the website GotNews.com, does not have a vested legal interest in the Brown case. The efforts to obtain Brown’s juvenile records, if there are any, have been criticized by some who say his past conduct is irrelevant to the question of whether Wilson responded with excessive force.