Ferguson, Grand Juries and Justice

By YeOldeScribe ~ November 28th, 2014 @ 10:01 pm

It would be fair to say there’s been too much media attention surrounding what’s been going on in Ferguson, Missouri. No one outside of the state probably even heard of the St. Louis neighbor before 2014. But when Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014, that all changed. Wilson was white, Brown was black. Brown was unarmed. Some say he was surrendering when he was fatally shot. Riots ensued around the rallying cry “No justice, No peace.”

That “justice” came earlier this week. Prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch gave a 45 minute speech in which he announced a no-bill for Officer Wilson, meaning there would be no trial. Here’s the full speech:

You’ll note that McCulloch indites pretty much everyone except the officer who pulled the trigger on an unarmed civilian. Our favorite part was when he said the grand jury “gave their lives” to examine all the evidence. Was that really the choice of words you wanted to use there?

Look, we all knew this was coming. And maybe the evidence, if it had gone to a trial, would have supported Officer Wilson. We haven’t looked through the data dump McCulloch’s office provided yet. Frankly, we’ve waited a couple days to write so our post is informative and helpful instead of accusatory and filled with profanity.

The problem here is how this was all handled from the very beginning. It started with the Ferguson police releasing only the information that helped their case. Isn’t it amazing how the video of Brown robbing a convenience store was leaked to the public, but there were no leaks when it came to anything involving Officer Wilson? The official police report was also a joke, so it wasn’t until this week when we actually got to hear the full version of what the police say happened.

Cops protecting themselves isn’t anything new though. But something that is rare is a grand jury issuing a no-bill. At the federal level, attorneys prosecuted over 162,000 cases in 2010. 11 were returned without an indictment. In terms of percentages, that means the chances of Wilson receiving a no-bill was .00679%. If only.

The percentage is higher mostly because McCulloch didn’t do his job. He’s a prosecuting attorney, which means it’s his job to prosecute someone. Instead, he said from the beginning that he wanted to present the grand jury with all the evidence available and let them make an informed decision. Sounds great, right? Except that’s not what grand juries are supposed to do.

Grand juries exist to determine if a case should be sent to trial. And while their is good evidence that Wilson was not guilty of a crime, there was definitely evidence that something went wrong and a jury should probably examine the evidence. Even in McCulloch’s 45-minute grandstand evidence was laid out in a somewhat nonsensical way – McCulloch said Wilson was responding to a burglary, but it was earlier reported that Wilson had no idea a burglary took place. Wilson describes Brown as a “demon” at one point. Isn’t that enough evidence right there?

And can we all agree that when a white police officer shoots an unarmed black teenager, there should at least be a trial?

What McCulloch did was to have a “secret trial” with the grand jury. Even a halfway competent lawyer could have presented enough evidence to push this case to a trial. Instead, McCulloch didn’t present a charge. He didn’t present evidence in a way that would make any sense to a grand jury. He didn’t do his job and Wilson walked because of it.

As we said earlier, maybe the outcome would have been the same had this case gone to trial. But the fact that it didn’t even get that far shows just how broken our legal system still is.

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