No Grand Jury Indictment in Ferguson Shooting of Brown

The Grand Jury is not going to indict officer Darren Wilson over the August 9 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

The shooting, which prompted outrage and protests in the region for a significant period afterwards, had been with the Grand Jury for a considerable amount of time,  and was only presented after a vocal protest from the local population. Brown’s family have asked for any actions and responses to be kept peaceful, a request local officers have not yet acknowledged.

A parallel Federal investigation into civil rights charges has also failed to return indictments.

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Ok, if you’ve read that and wondered why you’ve not seen it elsewhere, that’s because it’s not true, not YET.

As this is being written, the Grand Jury has yet to decide either way, which means it won’t indict him. And there’s a reason, because Grand Juries are things where it either happens right away, or it never does.

There’s a reason for that.

Grand juries are one sided things, a prosecutor brings evidence that a crime MAY have been committed.

The Missouri AG’s guide to the court process states a grand jury process as follows.

The prosecutor presents evidence to the 12 grand jurors, nine of whom must agree on whether a crime was committed and whether there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed it.

ONLY the prosecution presents evidence, which the grand jury is allowed to contemplate.

CC-BY Thunderchild7There are some affirmative defenses, but that’s a defense to the crime, rather than it being ‘ok’ to kill someone – police officers don’t have carte-blanche authority to punish crimes, let alone capitally [YET]. Such defenses include ‘self defense’ and in some states ‘stand your ground’. However, the day it becomes legal to kill someone is the day society dies)
That’s the first part done.

The second part, probable cause of the defendant’s involvement? Got that too. He’s admitted it, there’s countless witnesses, mountains of evidence.
That’s the second part done.

And thus, there, we have the basis for an indictment under Missouri law. All the prosecutor needed to do is present the basic facts, maybe the witnesses that say Brown had his hands up, and was not combative. Prosecution gets to decide what evidence to present.

There’s no defense representation, because it’s NOT a trial. A grand jury exists to see if there is some evidence of a crime. It’s not a judgement of the guilt of innocence of the defendant. It’s a statement that there’s a legal controversy involving this person, and so we need a trial to sort out the legal details.

And that’s why there will be no indictment. Indictments are so trivially easy to get that if it were to happen, it would have happened within an hour.Sometimes less than a minute. One North Carolina Grand Jury handed down 276 indictments in 276 cases in 240 minutes (4 hours) – 51 seconds each on average.
If it’s taking more than a day, there’s one (or more) of 3 things going on.

  1. Jurers are using outside prejudice and information to prejudice their views on the case (which is why the FPD released the video that purported to be a strongarm robbery, it wasn’t according to not just the shopkeeper, but the FULL footage). That’s trial by media, and should scare the crap out of anyone, when facts take second place to crafted narratives in court proceedings)
  2. The Prosecutor is extremely inept. Very unlikely.
  3. The Prosecutor is deliberately trying to avoid an indictment. Quite likely. After all, the prosecutors office controls what the Grand Jury sees, and what they [are supposed to] base their judgement on.

Now, let’s reiterate some things quite clearly.

  • Grand Juries are not trials.
  • The guilt or innocence of the accused is not a question for Grand Juries.
  • The Grand Jury’s job is to see if there MAY be a violation of the law. As such, it’s only concerned with the WHAT of an incident. The WHY and the HOW are for a trial court and a trial jury to decide on.

So, if Missouri law states that a police officer may shoot a person at any time, there would be no indictment, because there would be no violation of the law. If the law states that in certain circumstances a police officer may use lethal force and there is clear, coherence, and unimpeachable evidence that one (or more) of these circumstances occured, then no indictment.

If however, they can use lethal force in some circumstances, and there is a question over those circumstances occurring, then there is grounds for an indictment.

Instead of letting it go to trial, and having the evidence presented, explained, cross-examined and then letting people judge based on that, we have a group instrumental in the justice system who are afraid to let the justice system work. Either they’re of the mindset the system no longer works, or they are afraid it does and will provide an unwanted result. Thus the video release by the Ferguson PD, to confuse the issue, and paint a narrative, even while claiming that narrative had no impact ont he events, and judging by the comments on many sites, it worked.

It’s as if the police are afraid of the law. It’s just a shame they won’t, to borrow a phrase of theirs, “cooperate in the investigation” because “the innocent have nothing to fear”. That has led to a public perception that the police hold themselves to be above the law, and so become distrusted (and are really not helped when officers attempt to mislead courts when they’re being reined in for excessive violence). If they want to get some respect, then the answers simple, they just need to be more accountable.