(Photo: Larry W. Smith/European Pressphoto Agency)
So, that’s it. As far as the possibility of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson being tried in criminal court for the killing of Mike Brown, there is none. A grand jury has decided there isn’t enough evidence to move forward with an indictment against Wilson, which means that he may still face a civil wrongful death suit and there’s still the Justice Department investigation to consider, but there’s no risk of prison time on a state murder or manslaughter charge.
A lot of people will find this an unconscionable miscarriage of justice, the antithesis of justice, in fact. While none of us was a part of the grand jury that reviewed the evidence, it’s difficult to argue against this viewpoint. This isn’t a single decision but the latest in a long line of indignities and affronts the black community has suffered through in this country and it just adds more kindling to the fires of rage that have burned for so long as well as the belief that a black life is meaningless, particularly when he or she is in the sights of a law enforcement official.
But even if you’re somebody willing to keep an open mind and consider the possibility that no matter how clear-cut things may have seemed we weren’t on Canfield Avenue in Ferguson on August 9th, this whole process should leave a terrible taste in your mouth. Whether by malice, incompetence or simply a lack of eagerness to prosecute a cop, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch thoroughly mishandled this case.
It’s said that a grand jury can indict a ham sandwich, but that’s only true if there’s a dedicated, ferocious officer of the court doing his job and actually prosecuting that ham sandwich. McCulloch punted, dumping an almost incomprehensible amount of information on his jury and leaving them to sift through and try to make sense of it rather than leading them through it with the goal of winning a trial. He didn’t ask the jury to indict, so, surprise, it didn’t.
McCulloch’s absurd and offensive moralizing in the moments leading up to officially dropping the boom — blaming the media, witnesses, basically everyone other than the person he was supposed to be prosecuting — spoke volumes about where his head was. It’s surreal to watch a man whose job it was to push for the indictment of Darren Wilson actually explaining in great detail all the reasons why he wasn’t indicted. McCulloch’s news conference was, as CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin put it, “an extended whine,” and the shots he took at social media were “entirely inappropriate and embarrassing.” That’s putting it mildly.
McCulloch wasn’t supposed to be some objective party in all of this. There’s such a low standard for issuing an indictment you have to imagine that a little guidance from McCulloch would have gone a long way. Yes, the forensic evidence needed to take precedence over everything else, but if McCulloch is to be believed, there were enough conflicting accounts of what happened that it all, at the very least, could have been presented during an actual trial. It could be argued that while the black community has faced so much injustice for so long, any debt to it shouldn’t have entered into these proceedings. But didn’t the case itself, on its own merits, at least deserve to be heard in court?
Now this whole thing moves to the feds and the civil courts, while the reaction to it moves into the streets. It’s ugly, as expected, and it’ll probably get a whole lot worse. But none of it brings justice for a dead 18-year-old kid.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.