Ferguson Grand Jury Decision: No Indictment

Since the time that 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot multiple times and killed by Darren Wilson – a white police officer who was never charged, some of the young people in Ferguson, Missouri have been carrying signs in that town that read ‘Black Life Counts Too.’

They also began questioning the powers that be about the way that African Americans are currently treated in Ferguson and calling their attention to the fact that things have been this way for a long time and it is past time for them to change.  They say that they are regularly harassed by the police for no valid reason and are treated differently than their white counterparts.

Many in Ferguson have been calling for St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch to charge this officer so that he can be held accountable for his actions and tried by a jury in order to determine his guilt or innocence.  Instead, Mr. McCulloch chose to impanel a grand jury to determine whether Officer Wilson should be charged.  This marked the beginning of the many problems and missteps that fueled greater mistrust of the Ferguson justice system and widened the gap between some African Americans and white community members.

Because prosecutor McCulloch’s mother, father, uncle and brother had worked for the police department and his father had been killed in the line of duty by an African American man, some community members asked that he step aside and that a special prosecutor be assigned.  Their rationale was that he was tied to closely to the police department.  On the other side of the issue were those who felt that Mr. McCulloch could be fair and impartial so should not step aside.

Mr. McCulloch also felt that he could be fair and impartial so said that he would stay and do his job.  He moved forward with the grand jury proceedings and submitted evidence collected in the case to them.  This is where another problem arose that further fueled the mistrust of the system by those who had asked him to step aside.  Mr. McCulloch submitted all of the evidence to the grand jury and did not press for an indictment against Officer Wilson or object to Officer Wilson’s intention to testify before the grand jury.

According to lawyers familiar with the grand jury process it is common practice for a prosecutor to seek an indictment and, rather than presenting all evidence, present only evidence that support their reason for seeking that indictment.  They also said that it is not common practice for the accused person to appear before the grand jury and it would be up to a regular jury to look at any exculpatory evidence during trial if an indictment were handed down.

Trust was further eroded when Missouri Governor Jay Nixon suggested that Mr. McCulloch should step aside and allow a special prosecutor to handle the case and Mr. McCulloch said that if the governor wanted him to step aside he should ask him to do so.  In the wake of this, a video from a robbery of a local market in which a small amount of cigars was taken showed a person who was allegedly Michael Brown, committing that robbery just before he was killed by Officer Wilson.  Then other information was leaked piecemeal that was all favorable to Officer Wilson.

Now, more than three months after the shooting, the grand jury has made its decision.  Mr. McCulloch announced that decision to the public and in making that announcement still further fanned the flames of the lack of trust in the justice system in Ferguson by African Americans.  He gave a 20 minute speech, which sounded like that of a defense attorney, before he announced the decision that everyone already knew was coming; officer Wilson would not be charged with any of the possible charges.  In other words, it was a righteous shooting.  This is what the Ferguson shooting boiled down to in the language sometimes used by street cops and their superiors.

There is no doubt that policemen throughout the country put their lives on the line everyday to keep us safe.  But there is a code among them that they believe helps to keep them functioning as a close-knit cohesive group.  Right or wrong, many of them buy into the idea that no cop should ever break that code regardless of how it impacts on the truth.

I think that those who do not buy into this code when it distorts the truth and allows a fellow officer to get away with abuse of their power are, quite simply, afraid of the consequences they will face from other officers if they do break it.  It is easy for me to say that they should step up and break this code when necessary because it would make for a better police force and that would build trust in the community.  But for those who are cops this is a daunting task because their life often depends on the support of their fellow officers.  Break the code and that support might not be there.

All of the missteps cited in this article and the cop code are among the many reasons why I think that Officer Wilson’s guilt or innocence should have been decided in the open by a regular jury instead of by a secretive grand jury that was guided by someone who is inextricably tied to the police force and who became a prosecutor only because he could not become a cop.   I also believe that had there been a trial by a regular jury, regardless of the outcome, it could have gone a long way toward building a foundation on which the citizens of Ferguson could have at least begun to try to build some trust in the Ferguson justice system.

Eulus Dennis

Politics Anyone? You Decide

Politics can be extremely frustrating but we must all partake of this bitter-sweet potion if we are truly to be a part of our great democracy.  It is hard to look at sometimes, as we all offer our own special ingredients, while the master chef blends the mixture and continuously stirs the pot.  Blah, it tastes terrible!  The chef continues to stir and blend, adjust the temperature – add a little more conservative spices, a bit more liberal spices and a pinch of independent spices before finally; bam!  The porridge is ready.  It’s time for a taste test.  Hey, not too bad!

To some it is tasty, to others it is okay, and there will always be some who find it to simply be edible.  Odds are that no one will find it to be delicious.  Despite which category you are in, you will find solace in knowing that you contributed added-value to the final product.  The only reason why it is not delicious is because the chef neither used all of your special ingredients nor did they include them in the amount that you specified.  You can take comfort in knowing that had you provided no ingredients at all it might not even be edible; and you would be left to either starve or be force-fed until your next opportunity to participate in the porridge preparation.

Okay, maybe it is a pretty dubious analogy but most likely you got the point.  We may find many things distasteful about our democratic process but it is what it is.  Obviously a democracy is messy but it cannot function properly and efficiently without all eligible voters being responsible and regularly voting.  Just because there is a lot of squabbling going on among our politicians in Washington doesn’t mean we should shirk our responsibility as voters.  As a matter of fact, it should make us even more determined to make sure to put people in office who are going to do their very best to represent us and look out for our best interest while looking out for the overall best interest of our country.

Keep these things in mind as we move toward the 2016 elections.  I mentioned in an earlier post that the damage has already been done – or the repair has already been made depending on whether your color preference is red or blue.  Regardless of that preference, the real issue is that we not allow politicians to flaunt the fact that they believe that the majority of voters are uninformed and can be constantly used as pawns to further their political ambitions.  We must always vote and show them that we will hold them to account.

In the meantime, following this post are links to articles that you can read to help bring you up to speed on some of the most recent political talk.

WASHINGTON: Obama’s political legacy fading fast | National Politics | The State

Barack Obama was changing the political map, pushing the Democratic Party into the South and the Mountain West. He was building a new social network that would endure long after an Obama presidency. And he was building a new Democratic coalition for a new age, with greater turnout from young and minority voters.

via WASHINGTON: Obama’s political legacy fading fast | National Politics | The State.

To read this article in National Politics click on the title immediately above.

Republicans See an Upside to a Government Shutdown Over Immigration – NationalJournal.com

November 20, 2014 President Obama will act unilaterally on immigration Thursday night, a move that will spin Republicans into a frenzy as they assess their options to stop the administration from halting the deportations of millions of undocumented immigrants.

via Republicans See an Upside to a Government Shutdown Over Immigration – NationalJournal.com.

Click on the title immediately above to read the article in the NationalJournal.com.

RNC Completes ‘Autopsy’ on 2012 Loss, Calls for Inclusion but No Policy Change – ABC News

In what they called the “most comprehensive post-election review” ever made of an electoral loss, the Republican National Committee and a group of project co-chairs unveiled a report today saying that they need to open their playbook and put their “cards on the table face up” in order to win presidential elections in the future.

via RNC Completes ‘Autopsy’ on 2012 Loss, Calls for Inclusion but No Policy Change – ABC News.

Click on the title immediately above to read the ABC News article.

The Republicans’ Dilemma

After their loss in the 2012 elections the Republicans’ announced that they would revamp their Party by building a larger and more inclusive tent.  Whatever they did, it didn’t work.  So they gave up and reverted to their old ways of doing things following the extreme right-wing takeover of their Party.

It is easy for me to imagine why women and people of color would be hard-pressed to stand with or want to become a part of the GOP even if they are as conservative as any Republican.  Why, you might ask?  Here are a number of reasons why starting from the top.

Look at the rainbow of colors and great gender diversity of the Republican leadership, look at how long and hard they have fought against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) although it has helped millions of poor and middleclass people, look at how many states – most of them controlled by Republicans – have refused to expand their Medicaid program and hurt thousands of people who desperately need health insurance in an effort to derail the ACA.  And there is more.

Look at how since the ACA has become law they have continued to try to dismantle it, even pushing their challenges to it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Look at all of the roadblocks that they put up in order to prevent legitimate, eligible voters from voting in the 2014 midterm elections.

Finally, look at how they have gone after women by trying to dictate to them the choices they should make regarding their own body and how hard they have fought against equal pay for equal work.  Looking at those holding the Republican leadership positions in Washington makes it hard to imagine that they can build a larger and more inclusive tent.  If they are struggling at this level, to imagine that they can do something greater would require a perfect mastery of the imagination.  It could be compared to one’s ability to see the Andromeda Galaxy, which is the most distant galaxy that can be seen by the unaided human eye; it would be a formidable stretch even with a near perfect night sky!

There is no doubt that the Grand Ole Party has many stalwart conservative politicians who have ideas that would be beneficial in helping America to prosper and grow but those ideas are no longer put on the table and discussed because they are predetermined by those who currently control the Republican Party to not be conservative enough.

Right now the GOP is like a great ship at sea with the ability to move only straight forward or starboard.  Until this problem is corrected the Party’s future is not bright; their destiny is predetermined and eventually they will crash.  That would be a great loss to all Americans, not just Republicans.  Where are the Republican statesmen?

Eulus Dennis

To read the article by ABC News on how the Republicans planned to revamp their Party after the 2012 elections loss search “RNC Completes Autopsy on 2012 Loss, Calls for Inclusion Not Policy Change.”