Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Prosecutor Robert McCullough
       St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch’s announcement earlier tonight that Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown was distressfully disappointing but not at all surprising, given McCulloch’s unprosecutorlike behavior with the grand jury. He has acted all along more like Wilson’s defense attorney than his prosecutor.
        That is understandable but not justifiable, in view of McCullough’s close working relationship with the Ferguson Police Department. That said, his role was to convince the grand jury that Wilson should be brought to trial. Instead, he abrogated that responsibility and inundated the grand jury with conflicting evidence that they were supposed to sort out, evidence that was obviously intended to justify the officer’s shooting of the unarmed African American teenager. In so doing the prosecutor in effect transformed the grand jury into a trial jury, whose conclusion sounded more like a verdict than a decision whether or not to indict.  
No indictment for  Ferguson 
police officer Darren Wilson 
        I was disappointed that no one at the press conference questioned McCullough about that. I was waiting for someone to ask, “Wasn’t your role as prosecutor to secure an indictment, rather than to defend the accused?” In other words, you failed to do your job, Mr. McCullough!
        I am not saying that Officer Wilson was guilty. I am saying he should have been brought to trial. There certainly was enough evidence to show probable cause. When asked how the vote went, McCullough replied that he was not privy to that information and that the law does not permit the disclosure of the voting breakdown. He did say that the decision required a three-fourths majority vote.
        That evokes another interesting observation: there were twelve jurors, only three of whom were African Americans, not enough to block the majority, if the jury had split on racial lines. I can’t image that the jury was unanimous. Indeed, I strongly suspect that the vote was nine to three!
        So once again our flawed justice system has reflected the deep-seated racism that still exists in America. If the deaths of Michael Brown, and Trayvon Martin, and all the other black teenagers and adults who have been the victims of police killings and brutality are not to be in vain, then as a nation we have to own up to the situation, renounce this trigger-happy tendency, and change the culture, and the climate, and the conditions that foster such behavior.
        In my view, that would include among other things repealing all the so-called “stand your ground” laws, passing sensible gun control legislation, and equipping police officers with body cameras. Along with these practical measures, we need a massive  education program to address the issue of racism, personal and institutional. We need to learn how to detect it in ourselves and in others, how it works on the corporate level, and how to overcome and eradicate it, wherever it exists.
        We owe that to every victim, living or dead, of the scourge of racism.

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