Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Darren Wilson Knows He Did His Job Right, Everyone Else Isn't So Sure

I know I did my job right.

Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer, Darren Wilson.

A lot of people are taking exception to that statement right now. So much so hundreds, if not thousands have taken to the streets not only in Ferguson, but other cities across the land. A few of them have decided Michael Brown's death and a grand jury's failure to indict Wilson, is a great excuse to set things on fire. Not to mention score the ultimate Thanksgiving weekend sale price on merchandise--you know--for free. That's right, nothing shows solidarity with the Brown family quite so much as smashing a store front window, grabbing as many bottles of scotch as you can, and then taking off for parts unknown.

Everything about this entire rotten affair stinks to high heaven. No one can agree on the way the shooting went down, or how the subsequent investigation was handled. Even the timing of the announcement of the grand jury's finding is coming under fire. Indeed, the verdict, if it can be called that, was reached at noon. The results weren't announced until 8pm, well after sundown, putting the police, who were charged with maintaining the peace, at a distinct disadvantage. It was a move criticized both by law enforcement experts nationwide and local officials.

It appears even the governor utterly screwed the pooch. Last week, prior to the decision, Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in Ferguson and activated units of the National Guard. Then in a move so incompetent it calls into question his higher brain functions, he didn't actually put them onto the streets of the St. Louis suburb until after things went out of control and businesses were lost. Everyone from Ferguson mayor James Knowles to community leaders bitterly complained about it yesterday.

The prosecutor who ran the grand jury, Robert P. McCulloch has been condemned and praised for the way he handled the proceedings. The New York times quoted Noah Feldman, who teaches constitutional law at Harvard, as saying, "It looks like he wanted to create the the appearance that there had been a public trial when in fact there hadn't been." He went on to add, "...the prosecutor didn't want an indictment and didn't want to be blamed for not getting one."

McCulloch bent over backward to be neutral in the presentation of evidence to the 12 person jury. Such neutrality is extremely rare when it comes to grand juries. Usually the prosecutor aggressively goes after an indictment, although there was and is nothing usual about what is happening in St. Louis County at the moment. Under normal circumstances evidence isn't presented to a grand jury until police feel they have probable cause and an arrest has been made. Wilson had not been arrested. Syracuse, New York D.A. William Fitzpatrick said because of that fact, "It absolutely should have been a neutral presentation." Others are claiming that by being neutral McCulloch was intentionally steering jurors away from an indictment.

With that in mind, McCulloch bombarded the panel of three African Americans and nine white people with 60 witnesses during 70 hours of testimony. Much of the eyewitness testimony was so contradictory the transcript reads like a story composed by Franz Kafka.

Depending on the witness, Michael Brown was described as either charging Wilson like an enraged bull, or staggering toward him with his hands out and palms up, as if offering to surrender. Others said his hands were over his head, while one went so far as to say he was on his knees. When asked why he pursued Mr. Brown, Wilson said he did it because that's what he is trained to do. In other words he wasn't going to just sit there and wait on back up while his assailant fled the scene. This despite knowing he was physically over matched and Brown was wounded and bleeding.

The autopsies, all three of them, told the jury how many times Brown was shot and approximately at what distances, but all the science in the world can't determine exactly what his intent was in that fatal moment. Even the position of the final kill shot--in the top of the head--could be interpreted in a couple of different ways.

There won't be any word on how the grand jury voted, but it would have taken nine of them to agree in order to indict. No one knows, but it could have been an eight to four vote to send Wilson to trial, or some other combination.

We do know one thing though. The grand jury was not required to find beyond a reasonable doubt the evidence proved, Officer Wilson should be indicted. An indictment is not a guilty verdict. It is simply a call for a criminal trial to take place. Then and only then, will a judge and another 12 souls, determine guilt or innocence.

The other thing we know is, at least right now, an actual trial isn't going to happen. At least not as far as the state of Missouri is concerned. Legally, they are done with Darren Wilson. What they aren't done with is the aftermath of that early Saturday afternoon in August.

sic vita est


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