The DA said, “The evidence should determine the outcome in this case — not threats of violence.” Well, that is true, but the fact that the grand jury did not indict is shocking to most individuals. There is an old saying that a good prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich. No defense lawyer is present and the DA gets to present whatever evidence he or she deems appropriate–as well as conversely, also what evidence NOT to present.
Many defense lawyers agree with the thrust of this article that the DA did NOT want officer Darren Wilson to be indicted, Ohio defense lawyer Jeff Gamso laid out many reasons why in his blog. Most of those reasons have been incorporated into this article.
The issue is whether Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson will be indicted for murder. (NOPE!) Here’s how it works in the hypothetical Darren Wilson grand jury: If the prosecutor wanted to charge Wilson with murder, he would send in one, maybe two witnesses. The grand jurors would hear three pieces of evidence:
—Michael Brown was unarmed.
—Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown.
—Michael Brown died from the gunshots.
The prosecutor would explain to the grand jurors that the elements of murder were satisfied. The grand jury would then charge Darren Wilson with murder. It would be done in an hour. Any defense? That’s what trials are for.
Here’s how it worked in the actual grand jury in Ferguson: The prosecutor, Paul Cassell, spent weeks bringing in witnesses who explained that:
Sure, Michael Brown was unarmed, but you have to understand the circumstances from Darren Wilson’s point of view, and here are the things that would constitute his defense, and remember that he was a cop just trying to do the best he possibly could and Michael Brown was a street punk who probably deserved it. Who’s going to keep YOU safe at night if the cops are afraid to do anything to protect themselves and YOU, lest they be charged with murder, and really the son of a b**ch deserved it; anyhow, really cops don’t get convicted, so why bother?
Now, says the prosecutor, here are the elements of murder which I suppose if you folks went out on a limb you might find, but remember all that evidence of innocence and the defense that Wilson would present and you know that he won’t be convicted anyhow and why tarnish a good man’s reputation, but if you feel that he’s guilty beyond a reasonable doubt I suppose maybe, but really, we don’t think we can prove it. (Of course, I‘m speculating, but you get the idea!)
Here’s Cassell explaining the glorious things that will happen when the grand jury returns without an indictment.
If no charges are filed, the country would have an opportunity for an important civics lesson on the presumption of innocence, the need to
avoid a rush to judgment, and possibly (depending on the evidence) the fact that a police officer did not use excessive force but was simply
defending himself in the course of trying to apprehend a violent robber — i.e., Brown.
None of that, none of it, is what grand juries do in the ordinary case. Grand juries hear a summary of evidence of guilt and return indictments. They determine not whether there’s a defense, and not whether the presumption of innocence has been overcome. They determine whether summary of evidence of guilt is sufficient to say, Gee, this guy oughta be tried. The standard of proof, probable cause, is really low, slight or marginal evidence in Nevada.
The rest, that’s all for trials. It’s from the trial, where the evidence of guilt is presented to a jury of 12 in a courtroom operating under the rules of evidence, where the evidence is challenged by cross-examination, where the defense gets to put on its witnesses (who the prosecutor can cross-examine), it’s from there that the public can learn those important civics lessons.
Cassell knows that of course. And he’s perfectly happy with the grand jury hearing a summary of evidence and then indicting in the ordinary case where it’s Michael Brown being charged with involuntary manslaughter for causing his own death by stealing the bullets that were being flung at him by an officer’s gun. But Darren Wilson?
If they’d wanted to indict him, it would have been done in an hour.
It’s been clear since the beginning that there would be no indictment.
Michael Brown’s family will sue. Maybe there will be a settlement with the city or the county or some insurance company picking up the tab.
The settlement will be confidential and everyone will move on and this will become a distant memory.
Or maybe there will be years of litigation, It will stay in the forefront of everyone’s mind. There will be protests, the race card will be played on a regular basis, then appeals and then nothing.
Michael Brown will be demonized. Any transgressions of the police will be trumpeted throughout the land as though it is the first step to totalitarianism and death to democracy and equal protection of all (including minorities!).
But, nothing will have changed. Michael Brown will still be dead. Darren Wilson will still be a free man. And Life goes on.
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