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What you need to know about Ferguson

The Marshall Project has this excellent summary of the grand jury proceedings that concluded yesterday with the return of no indictment of Ferguson police office Darren Wilson for the death of teenager Michael Brown.

The summary has links to many relevant stories and sources, including legal commentary on the unusual nature of the prosecutor’s handling of the proceedings — pointing out as some experts have that prosecutors know how to get an indictment when they want one.

Referring to St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s quick release of grand jury testimony and his unusual failure to get an indictment in the case, writer Andrew Cohen says:

The release of the evidence may or may not change the minds of people around the world who have been waiting in suspense for the past 108 days for this story to come to some sort of resolution. But it is unlikely to change the view of some legal observers that McCulloch manipulated the result here by managing the process. This was not a typical grand jury proceeding in which only a few witnesses testify, the prosecutor tightly controls what grand jurors hear, and the suspect does not testify at length about why he should not be charged.

How do we know it is rare for a prosecutor to manage a grand jury in this fashion? We know because the grand jury process has become pro forma in most jurisdictions and because prosecutors almost always get an indictment from them when they want one. On the federal level, Five Thirty Eight reported last night, “U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return in indictment in 11 of them.” That’s about 0.01 percent of the time.

3 Comments


  1. Sean D Sorrentino

    November 25, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    So his complaint is that the Prosecutor did not shove the Grand Jury into indicting a person for whom there was insufficient evidence? That seems an odd complaint.

  2. Kit

    November 25, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    Sean – Don’t pretend to be so naive. It is not credible. The complaint is that the prosecutor did not present enough of the available evidence to convince the people on the grand jury to indict, when it appeared that there was ample evidence to him to get the grand jury to indict, or perhaps that relevant evidence was deliberately with held or misrepresented. Many people believe that there is enough solid evidence to get a conviction, and not merely an indictment. My suspicions lean towards believing that it was not a “good” shooting, ie. one that was justified by the facts that were available to Officer Wilson at the time. But I also know that I do not have enough information to gain a conviction. I do have enough information to fire the officer if I were his boss. If he has a concealed carry permit he should use his concealed carry permit. But I suspect that nothing anyone other than Officer Wilson could say or do that would change your mind. So I will not try.

    However, I will ask you to think about how you would feel if an officer drove up next to you as you were crossing a street, and opened his car door into your legs hard enough to knock your legs out from under you. Would you perhaps grab the car door to keep yourself from falling? If you did grab the car door to keep yourself from falling, do you think that the officer would be entitled to shoot you for doing that? Do you think that grabbing the car door to keep yourself from falling justifies the officer shooting you 9 or 10 more times,mostly in the torso and head? Or would that seem a little like overkill? Would it concern you?

  3. John

    November 26, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    Kit, I detect that you may be just another liberal that has no use for law enforcement until you become the target of a violent act yourself! Believe me, if some thug, regardless of color, starts shoving you around in a convenience store, you will want that person arrested. Brown had committed a strong arm robbery after consuming a fairly large quantity of marijuana. After departing, he was not crossing the street, but walking down the middle of the street when the officer directed him to get out of the road. Instead of complying, Brown struck the officer and tried to seize his sidearm. The first shot fired at brown was at less than one inch. That doesn’t sound like his was trying to stop himself from falling by grabbing the door of the police car!

    Kit, you need to stop buying the garbage the so called mainstream media is putting out. Use your brain and look at the facts. I spent 35 years as a State Trooper and Treasury Special Agent. That experience as provider me a unique ability to see through all the bullshit and examine the facts! While it is always sad when a young person of any color dies, Brown’s violent death was his destiny! He did not earn our sympathy or support.

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