Two Reasons Why The Darren Wilson Grand Jury Did Not Reach The Right Decision

A lot of people, good people, believe that the grand jurors did the right thing when they did not indict Darren Wilson for any crime related to his killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson. I’m not one of those people, as you all know. Neither is MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell.

In my last attempt to change minds on this matter, I post below two segments from O’Donnell’s “The Last Word” program from earlier in the week. The first segment has to do with the witnesses in the case, centered on the one known as “Witness #10,” who ostensibly corroborated Officer Wilson’s testimony and who ostensibly was beyond impeachment.

The second segment has to do with a Missouri statute, dealing with a police officer’s use of legal force in making an arrest. Just before Officer Wilson’s hours of testimony, prosecutors presented to the jurors, either mistakenly or intentionally, that state statute, which had been written to authorize the reasonable use of deadly force against a suspect running away from a police officer. Later on the prosecutors had to tell the jurors that they may not want to “necessarily rely on that because there is a portion of that that doesn’t comply with the law.” Yes, because that “portion”—the portion which authorized the use of deadly force against a fleeing suspect—was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

I urge all of you, those of you who think the grand jury did the right thing, those of you who may not be sure, and those of you who just want to know a little more about what happened inside that grand jury room, to watch these two segments:

 

6 Comments

  1. OK, I watched both clips. The public is unable to judge the veracity and reliability of witness #10, but I hope the Grand Jury was. Jury members should have been able to question witnesses – did they? The conduct of the prosecution relative to misleading the GJ on Missouri law is outrageous and very likely had much to do with the jury’s decision. I was unaware of it – blatant and grounds for disbarment in my opinion. Justice was not served.

    What to do? If an adversary defense attorney were appointed to rebut the prosecution it would amount to turning the process into a trial. How about requiring the appointment of a qualified lawyer to advise grand jury members on points of law and questioning witnesses? I’m no lawyer (thank goodness), just trying to think.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Duane,

    I have not yet seen the videos, but I can say with certainty that the handling of this case is shameful.

    The local police should have never have left Darren Brown in the street for 4 hours. And whatever their excuse is for a CSI team should have done as thorough a job in gathering evidence as if Brown was white, not black.

    Then the DA was so pro-cop, he blatantly used the Grand Jury as a real jury and become Wilson’s de facto defense attorney. A grand jury, if properly run, doesn’t need 4 months to hand down an indictment. And it turns out that there was more than enough controversial evidence in this case to justify charges being brought, and a real honest-to-god trial go forward. Then the whole wide world could see the case proceed in the open and not behind closed doors.

    The DA must be completely stupid not to have realized that there was going to be a strong reaction from the black community in the absence of a conviction and that trouble was afoot. Then the idiot announces the “non-verdict” at 8:30 in the evening, when the protestors were well rested and ready to make a night of it! Which they did. What was wrong with waiting until 8:30 the next morning?

    This has become one of those “the-operation-was-a-success-but-the-patient-died’ deals. Those in charge of our system of law and order should make it SOP to have a trial when any white man, cop or not, shoots an unarmed black man regardless of the circumstances. Given the racism in this country, our justice system needs to make an extra effort to let the facts play out in a courtroom. I believe that would help mitigate the violence. The Zimmerman case is a good example.

    But, now we got the cops to worry about. If they have second thoughts about the legally correct action to take, they may end up dead themselves. But we are talking about very uncommon and unique circumstances here– an unarmed black man and a white cop.

    Seems to me the body camera and a high powered Taser would go a long way in helping to prevent another Ferguson. That is, if the cops keep the batteries charged on those devices.

    Herb

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ben Field

     /  November 30, 2014

    Socioeconomic and racial injustice is alive and thriving. In the last six months in Joplin, we saw a man convicted of theft for a $958.00 fraudulent FEMA claim that was sentenced to fifteen years in prison and restitution. Then there was the local attorney that “misappropriated” over $500,000.00 of clients funds and was sentenced to 1 year and 10 months in prison without restitution being mentioned. Some police have used Game Wardens to assist in drug busts. An “anonymous” tip to the game warden, and he doesn’t need a warrant if he suspects illegal game is inside. Even more insidious is the racial side to judicial flaws. The points you mentioned above, as well as the internet memes that follow from the likes of Geoff Caldwell. Calling the POTUS monkey, saying that you could break up the protesters by passing out job applications, saying that no work apparel was stolen in riots, or saying that the burned buildings were not minority owned encourages racism to continue in society. Political correctness is a dirty word to the radical right if it interferes with their right to be ignorant and influence apartheid. I agree with the requirement that police should be required to wear body cams to record incidents as they occur and let the jury be the witnesses to what actually occurred.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well said, Ben. Also, the prisons and jails are chock-full of non-violent drug offenders and the mentally ill for whom treatment would be cheaper than confinement. I guess it proves that it’s easier to be angry at a problem than to solve it.

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  4. Antonin Scalia explicitly laid out the role of grand juries in the 1992 Supreme Court case United States v. Williams, and it is in stark contrast with what McCulloch did. Scalia wrote:

    “It is the grand jury’s function not ‘to enquire … upon what foundation [the charge may be] denied,’ or otherwise to try the suspect’s defenses, but only to examine ‘upon what foundation [the charge] is made’ by the prosecutor. Respublica v. Shaffer, 1 Dall. 236 (O. T. Phila. 1788); see also F. Wharton, Criminal Pleading and Practice § 360, pp. 248-249 (8th ed. 1880). As a consequence, neither in this country nor in England has the suspect under investigation by the grand jury ever been thought to have a right to testify or to have exculpatory evidence presented.”
    The original item was on Alternet.

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  5. ansonburlingame

     /  December 1, 2014

    Duane,

    Is our system of justice as equal as it should be equal for all Americans. Clearly the answer is no based on many different cases. Brown’s case might be one added to that data base, maybe.

    On the other hand, members of the grand jury have far more “rights” that a regular trial jury. At a minimum the grand jury can question withnesses, themselves. I suspect they can demand further explanation of any forensic evidence presented and jot just sit like dummies and await lawyers to present pro or con information. In other words grand jurors, individually can act like lawyers if they choose to do so. Did they do so, ask penetrating questions, etc.? I don’t know for sure. But should they and done so? You bet they should do so and the procedures for a grand jury allow just that.

    Our whole system of criminal justice is based on 12 honest men and women making the final decision, guilty or innocent, indict or not to indict. 12 honest men and women did that in this case. But now many want to retry the case in the media. Well if media trials are the way to go we could have “hung the cop” about a day after Brown’s death. But that is not the American way of providing justice.

    If the prosecutor is in fact guilty of malfeasance the let the system of justice prosecute HIM. But like it or not we have already found the defendant, not a defendant because charges were never charged, using our current system of justice.

    Leave the cop alone now. Leave the family of the victim alone now. If you want to improve the system of justice however, offer ideas how to do so is my call. Argue systemically if you will not just out of a sense of revenge against one cop.

    No single case can ever be judged absolutely as human behavior is being judged. But in a criminal trial we rely ultimately on a jury to decide, beyond a reasonable doubt, In this case a jury decided on probable cause, a much lesser level of proof. Given the same facts does anyone believe a jury trial would have been any different particularly with a much higher burden of proof brought to boear? I sure don’t based on forensic evidence, only briefly reviewed on my part but I am sure closely considered by 12 honest men and women that I have no reason to doubt in terms of intense effort, due dilligence on their part and close questioning on their own of conflicting testimony from withnesses.

    Oir system of justice in not as equal as it should be in my view. Fix the sytem is thus the compelling need now, not just reattacking one cop who seems to firmly believe he acted as he was trained to act and thus acted as the law allowed. The jury believed him, obviously.

    Anson

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