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"The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is simply the best civil rights law firm in American history." -- President Obama

Ferguson in Focus


Ferguson Police

January 6, 2015

LDF Seeks Investigation of Darren Wilson Grand Jury Proceedings by 21st Judicial Circuit in Missouri

On Monday, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) submitted a letter to Judge Maura McShane, the Presiding Judge of the 21st Judicial Circuit in Missouri, requesting that the court conduct an appropriate and thorough investigation of the grand jury proceedings that resulted in the non-indictment of former Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson.  The letter has been endorsed by LDF'S local partners the Mound City Bar Association and the Ferguson Legal Defense Committee.  The transcripts of the grand jury proceedings reveal questionable prosecutorial tactics that compromised the integrity of the proceedings.   As a result, LDF  has asked the court to restore public confidence in the St. Louis County justice system by conducting an investigation, and taking appropriate steps, including convening a new grand jury or appointing a special prosecutor pursuant to Missouri law. 

For the past several weeks, LDF has worked in concert with lawyers and legal experts from Missouri and across the country to read and analyze the grand jury transcripts.  “Our review of these proceedings has raised grave legal concerns, including knowing presentation of false witness testimony, erroneous instructions on the law, and preferential treatment of Mr. Wilson by the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. These and other issues raise questions about the integrity of the process and the lawfulness of the prosecutors’ conduct.  This process sets a bad precedent for our judicial system and diminishes the high standard that stewards of the law are supposed to uphold,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel.

November 25, 2014

On the Andrea Mitchell show, Sherrilyn Ifill states that in the Michael Brown decision "the standard is probable cause, which simply means if there is enough there to suggest the fact that there is even conflict in the eye witness testimony -  as there was in this case - and some of the other testimony and some of the evidence, then it suggests there is probable cause to go to trial." 


November 24, 2014

Statement of Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., the nation’s first civil rights law organization:

"We are deeply disappointed by the grand jury’s failure to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. The tragedy of Mr. Brown’s death at the hands of Officer Wilson, as well as the overwrought, often unconstitutional, and overly-militarized response to protests in Ferguson are harsh and painful reminders of the work that we all must undertake to fulfill America’s promises of racial equality and justice.   

We urge the United States Department of Justice to move forward expeditiously with its investigation of Michael Brown’s death and of the Ferguson police department and to leverage its considerable authority to help put an end to police violence nationwide.

The failure to indict Darren Wilson reflects structural, systemic problems that cannot be fixed without empowered communities of color that have the ability to hold institutions accountable. We call for sustained community-based organizing around the nation to counter police brutality against communities of color.

Police violence against African Americans not only undermines the integrity of law enforcement, but also lends credence to the pervasive perception that African-American lives are not worthy of protection. We will continue to support efforts that seek justice for Mr. Brown; positively transform the culture and character of the Ferguson Police Department; and end discriminatory police practices across the country."

Statement of Vincent Southerland, Senior Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., the nation’s first civil rights law organization:

"African Americans continue to be killed and brutalized by law enforcement at alarming rates. This summer, Eric Garner was choked to death by New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo while pleading for his life. Jonathan Crawford was shot dead in an Ohio Wal-Mart for holding a toy gun that was for sale. Marlene Pinnock was brutally beaten by a California Highway Patrol officer during a stop on the side of a California freeway. Countless others have been unjustifiably beaten, tasered, shot, verbally abused, and traumatized by the police in their communities. 

It is time to bring the cycle of police violence against African Americans to an end. LDF has asked the United States Department of Justice to deploy its full authority to stop this tragic cycle by reviewing police-involved killings and beatings of African Americans nationwide, incentivizing training on racial bias and the police use of force, prosecuting police officers and departments that violate civil rights laws, and encouraging greater oversight of police officers. 

These national efforts, however, can only be successful when the voices of those in communities suffering under the yoke of police violence are translated into substantive changes that reaffirm the value of African American lives. Through sustained community organizing, public education, and continued advocacy, we must all work together to ensure that Michael Brown’s death was not in vain."


A letter from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund to the Department of Justice can be read here.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the country’s first and foremost civil rights legal advocacy organization. Founded in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, LDF’s mission has always been transformative: to achieve racial justice, equality, and an inclusive society. 

LDF has been a separate organization from the NAACP since 1957. If our name needs to be shortened, please refer to us as NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “Legal Defense Fund,” not “NAACP.”


October 13, 2014

(NEW YORK, NY) --The fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager by police in Ferguson, Missouri, is the latest tragic incident in a summer marked by several police-involved homicides. In this case, the conflicting accounts about why Mr. Brown was killed demand a thorough and impartial investigation by federal authorities.

"These incidents erode the public's confidence in the justice system," said Sherrilyn Ifill, President & Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. "Every moment's delay in response to these killings -- just like every minute of the four hours that Mr. Brown's body lay in the street after he was shot to death by the police -- increases the community's frustration and anger.”

The unrest that has taken place in wake of Mr. Brown’s death at the hands of police is the unfortunate result of the understandable pain and frustration felt by that community. That pain and frustration are mirrored in communities across this country where unarmed black teens and adults have been killed by police and civilians. These feelings must be met with proactive efforts to address to what is clearly a deeply flawed system of police and civilian responses to perceived black criminality.

Ifill added: “This is about more than one community. Similar incidents have been documented all over the country. We are gratified that the FBI has stepped in to take over the Michael Brown investigation, and we call on the Justice Department to take action and engage in a comprehensive review of these and other incidents of police-involved killings of unarmed blacks."

LDF has called for charges to be filed against police officers in the killing of Eric Garner, a black man who was choked to death by a New York City Police Officer three weeks ago. A videotape shows the use of an illegal chokehold to subdue Mr. Garner, and an independent report by the New York City Medical Examiner indicates that Mr. Garner's death was caused by the compression of his neck and chest by police officers.

Click here to read Attorney General Eric Holder's statement on the shooting of Michael Brown.

A new LDF report, Ferguson in Focus, looks at Ferguson through the lenses of educational inequality, political disenfranchisement, economic inequality, and the criminal justice system: