Reprinted from Mike Malloy
The governor of Missouri has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of a grand jury verdict on Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson MO on August 9.
The national guard has been activated to suppress any riots that might occur if the grand jury declines to indict Wilson on a wrongful death charge. If you remember, the city erupted in violence shortly after the fatal shooting when Office Wilson was not immediately arrested, but was instead placed on paid leave.
As the Washington Post reported:
"In the days that followed 18-year-old Michael Brown's death, protesters and police clashed in the streets of the St. Louis suburb, reviving a national conversation about the treatment of African Americans by law enforcement. Heavily armed police faced off with protesters for weeks. Stores were looted, hundreds arrested, the start of school was delayed and the city was left as a burned-out symbol of racial and class divisions in America."- Advertisement -
Governor Nixon is mobilizing the guard in hope of avoiding another scene like this one. Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure -- preventing officers from shooting unarmed black kids might be the best way to nip these violent clashes the bud -- y'think?
It's been four months since Brown was murdered. Why has this process taken so long? And what might happen if the jury declines to indict officer Wilson?
The CS Monitor offers this:
"Just over three months since Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown, setting off protests that gripped the nation for some two weeks. At long last, virtually all Ferguson residents -- black and white, young and old, rich and poor -- have come to agree on something: Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown this August, will not be indicted.
"That consensus -- remarkable in a town that was split on whether it even had any racial tension -- can be seen in preparations that seem better suited for an impending war: boarded-up stores, daily non-violent training sessions across town, law enforcement agencies stockpiling riot gear and tear gas, and a governor who has said the National Guard will be on standby.
"The anticipation that the grand jury process is likely to end with no indictment is not something that just seems to be based in the fears of those who quite simply don't trust the criminal justice system in these types of situation, although that is certainly a part of what has driven both the public reaction to the shooting and the anticipation of what is likely to happen in the days ahead.- Advertisement -
"As I've noted in previous posts, leaks from inside the investigation have suggested that the evidence that has been presented to the grand jury, including eyewitness testimony, tends to support Officer Wilson's version of what happened that Saturday afternoon in August. Additionally, comments to the press by unnamed officials involved in the federal government's own investigation of the matter have suggested that civil rights charges in the case are unlikely no matter what happens in the state criminal investigation. While that last part is not necessarily relevant in predicting what the grand jury may do in this case, of course, the reasoning behind the conclusions that Justice Department seems to suggest that there was very little evidence to support a criminal charge against Officer Wilson, least of all one based on the allegation that he acted with the intention of depriving Brown of his civil rights or because of Brown's race. Additionally, as I've noted before, Missouri law on the subject of the proper use of police force, which the grand jury will no doubt be instructed in as part of their process of deliberation, is broader than it is in other states:
"Under this law, a cop is justified in using deadly force 'in effecting an arrest or in preventing an escape from custody' if 'he reasonably believes' it is necessary in order to 'to effect the arrest and also reasonably believes that the person to be arrested has committed or attempted to commit a felony ... or may otherwise endanger life or inflict serious physical injury unless arrested without delay.'
"Given this statute, and the facts that we are aware of, the probability that there will be a decision not to indict Wilson at all, or to indict him on some very lesser charge, seems quite high. Taking into account both the distrust that the protests in the wake of Brown shooting clearly revealed, and the fact that these proceedings have been conducted in secret, as required by law, the prospect of protests that get out of control, either due to police overreaction, opportunistic looting by outsiders who don't really care about the issues involved in this case, or both seems to be quite high. In part, it strikes me that one way to address the threat of the reaction devolving into another round of violent protests would be to open up the process as soon as possible. The easiest way to do this, of course, would be for the district attorney and whatever other authorities need to be involved in the decision agreeing to release the transcripts of the grand jury proceedings, and the evidence that was presented to the grand jury, to the public at virtually the same time that the decision is made public. If this is done, it would give the public the opportunity to at least see what the grand jury saw and heard that led them to make the decision they did. For obvious reasons, this would only really be an option if the result of the investigation is no indictment, but that seems fine, because that would be the situation where there would be the most danger of protests that could get out of control. If Wilson is indicted, on the other hand, at least on a lesser charge, the evidence would eventually be tested at trial, and perhaps also in a pre-trial probable cause hearing in which the defense asks a judge to determine if there is indeed sufficient evidence to support the indictment to permit the case to go forward.
"In any case, as I warned in the weeks after the Brown shooting when the protests were still very much in the news, the probability of an indictment, much less a conviction if charges are brought, is far from a slam dunk. Now that the day when we'll learn whether there will even be charges against Officer Wilson seems to be very close, how the authorities handle any such announcement, and how the public reacts to that announcement, will be very interesting to watch."
And watch we will, likely from behind the safety of our telescreens. Waiting and wondering if the next "Ferguson" will be our town.