Last night, in a countdown the rivaled the Super Bowl, the media covered the St. Louis County Grand Jury’s election to not return a true bill of indictment for Officer Darren Wilson.
Couple of quick facts. A Grand Jury does not ever issued a verdict. A verdict is the decision a jury reaches after a trial. A Grand Jury is not a trial whatsoever. A Grand Jury does not render a decision on the guilt or innocence of anyone. Rather their role is to evaluate the evidence presented to it as compared to established law and determine if felony charges should be brought. The prosecution (State’s Attorney’s in Illinois) presents any and all evidence, even if said evidence has almost no chance of being admitted at trial and the Defense has no ability to offer any testimony whatsoever.
So lets learn about the Grand Jury process:
The Grand Jury, after being presented with the evidence and the law either issues an indictment (often called a ‘True Bill’) or it does not issue an indictment.
The Grand Jury in the Officer Darren Wilson situation declined to indict based on evidence.
I want to say how deeply I respect those on the Grand Jury who had to reasonably know that their lawful actions would likely cause unlawful riots. I applaud their dedication to the rule of law over the fear of the mob.
For those that are interested, the AP has posted the documents released by the St. Louis prosecutor’s office that were examined by the Grand Jury. You can see read them, examine them, download them, and try to digest them for yourself: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/nov/27/ferguson-click-here-read-grand-jury-documents-and-/ or http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/_documents/ferguson-shooting/
As an aside, I do not in any way condone the violence that followed the Grand Jury decision. It does seem that a dialog may be warranted and necessary regarding law enforcement officers and their techniques and the African American community. In my humble opinion, making a social justice icon out of Michael Brown Jr. while giving openly anti-Semitic and race baiting blow hard Al Sharpton a bully pulpit to stir up racial tensions is counter-productive. What we know of Michael Brown Jr. was that minutes before his interaction with the Officer Wilson, he committed strong arm robbery of another ethnic minority. The facts and evidence do not in any way support that Michael Brown Jr. ever had his hands up in surrender. It is clear that a tragedy occurred in that a young man lost his life, but I cannot see a racial component to this particular set of facts or circumstances.
This not to say that a discussion on race and the police could not be a productive and positive endeavor. I am hopeful that out of these events, when the protesters calm down, and the blow-hard hate mongers such as Al Sharpton finally return to their ideologically driven and poorly viewed “news” networks, that America as a whole can calmly and rationally and respectfully have an open and honest discussion about race and the law enforcement/judicial system.