What happens in the United States of America when a white police officer shoots and kills an unarmed black male teenager? (It is not limited to teenagers).
First, he is suspended with pay and hidden so that the public has no idea where he is. He is never officially arrested or charged with any crime.
Then the victim is publicly denigrated and his character soiled so that we can gather sympathy for the man who pulled the trigger 12 times, successfully hitting this unarmed young man 6 times.
A county prosecutor (Robert McCulloch) is assigned to the case despite his history of having close ties to the police department and being distrusted by members of the community. Requests for an impartial prosecutor to handle this case go ignored by Missouri Governor Nixon.
The prosecutor’s father was a police officer who was shot and killed by a black man. This might explain the community’s distrust of McCulloch’s impartiality.
A grand jury is convened and proceeds to hear testimony for approximately 2 months. Their decision is that there is not enough evidence to indicate that a crime was committed and that Darren Wilson should go to trial. He is not indicted for the killing of Michael Brown.
There is a saying, “A prosecutor can get an indictment on a ham sandwich.” The grand jury is known as nothing more than a prosecutor’s rubber stamp, providing him/her with whatever outcome they want.
Not being in the legal profession, I have to admit a level of naïveté. What I understand is that the grand jury does not sit in an actual trial but determines whether or not there is enough evidence to show probable cause that a crime has been committed and that a trial is necessary. Such a trial is to proceed in front of a jury of one’s peers, to determine guilt or innocence.
Therefore, it is the expectation that the prosecutor, representing the victim, would present such evidence. However, McCulloch, during the press conference to announce the conclusion of the grand jury, admitted that he presented all the evidence and allowed the grand jury to sort it out and make their determination. In effect, he ran a trial in which there was no representation for the victim and no opportunity for cross examinations leaving the decision regarding guilt or innocence to the grand jury.
So, how did McCulloch fail to get an indictment? Because he did not want an indictment and a subsequent jury trial. He didn’t fail, as many believe, he was quite successful.
Wilson’s defense team was gathered together as is his right as a red-blooded American. Who are these people?
Neil Bruntrager, a man with strong connections to the Democratic Party and the St. Louis Police Department and James Towey, a municipal court judge also connected to the Democratic Party.
I would like to add Robert McCulloch’s name to the defense team but I’ll refrain from doing so. By the way, McCulloch is also deeply connected to the Democratic machine, as is Mayor Slay, Chief Executive Dooley, Governor Jay Nixon, and Senator Claire McCaskill. In other words, there is an old boys club operating here.
So, who was looking out for and protecting the rights of Michael Brown and his family? They clearly did not have any representation or advocacy during these proceedings.
The community had spent the 2 months while the grand jury was hearing testimony demonstrating and demanding nothing more than justice. Well, they didn’t get it and the peaceful demonstrations turned into setting of fires and the violent destruction of property.
President Obama made a statement addressing the hostilities in Ferguson stating, “The jury’s decision carries ‘the rule of law’ and people must accept it. I join Michael’s parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully.”
Mr. Obama misses a major point, the rule of law does not trump justice. There was a time when slavery was legal and the rule of law, when women could not vote, when a black man could not drink from the same water fountain as a white man, etc. When laws are unjust, we have to fight to challenge those laws. It’s not only whether or not laws are just but how they are interpreted and implemented. Example, what would be the reaction of the powers that be if the cop were black and the slain teenager were white? The rule of law would have a very different outcome.
Let’s be realistic. When President Obama states that we are a nation of laws, one must interpret that statement with tongue in cheek. A nation that respects the rule of law does not break laws.
The Obama administration has not hesitated to break international laws as well as domestic laws by providing Israel with weapons and money in support of their policy of genocide of the Palestinian people; the administration has not taken action to release prisoners at Guantanamo who have been designated for release years ago; the administration has refused to prosecute members of the Bush administration who promoted a policy of torture; the administration has ignored the borders of sovereign nations in order to pursue and bomb people they designate as terrorists or potential terrorists; the administration has not hesitated to provide military aid to “rebels” in countries where we are looking for regime change; the administration has allowed and probably encouraged uncontrolled surveillance of every American citizen; the administration has allowed James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, to lie to Congress, which in itself is a crime, in order to avoid revealing how the National Security Agency is breaking the law with its surveillance policy.
What is clear is that we are a nation of laws which apply to some people and not to those with money and/or political power. We may be a nation of laws but we have not yet become a nation of justice and fairness.
Darren Wilson has now reached celebrity status. Having killed a young man, he was invited by ABC to be interviewed by George Stephanopoulos. During the interview, he was asked if he could have done anything different. Wilson’s response was chilling in that he felt that he had no other choice but to kill this unarmed young man. When asked if he will be haunted by what happened, he stated that he wouldn’t feel haunted because he performed his duty as a police officer. No regrets, no doubts.
Wilson also had a large group of civilian supporters, men and women who contributed to his defense fund. Rumor has it that he received approximately $500,000 in donations.
Some of his supporters included commentary with their donations. Here are a couple: Wilson had performed a service by removing a “savage” from the community, or referring to Wilson’s actions as “animal control.”
Living in America and it’s capitalist system where nothing is sacred and everything is up for sale, I wait breathlessly for Wilson’s book to be published and for Hollywood to bid on the movie rights.
Being a nation of laws, I would like to suggest the following guidelines for all African-Americans:
- Never run when in a predominantly white neighborhood. Wearing a suit and tie will not help protect you.
- When entering a store, immediately introduce yourself to the security guard. This may lower suspicions that you are looking to steal something.
- Never buy your child a toy gun.
- If you insist on buying a toy gun, ask the salesperson to help you and have them escort you to the cashier.
- If you own an expensive car, keep your license and registration on top of the passenger seat in full view. If stopped by the police, do not make any sudden moves, especially when the cop asks you for your license and registration.
- If you own a nice home and are stopped by police from entering, make certain there is nothing in your hands. You don’t realize how often cops mistake cell phones, house keys, car keys, or wallets as guns.
After all, this is America, the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Dave Alpert has masters degrees in social work, educational administration, and psychology. He spent his career working with troubled inner city adolescents.