Equal justice for all
Ran across something disgusting last night while reading about the riots that erupted in the wake of the grand jury decision not to indict a White police officer for killing a Black teen:
On Monday Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) called the grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown a “miscarriage of justice.”
In a statement released through the Congressional Black Caucus, which she chairs, Fudge said the decision not to indict Wilson “is a slap in the face to Americans nationwide who continue to hope and believe that justice will prevail.”
“This decision seems to underscore an unwritten rule that Black lives hold no value; that you may kill Black men in this country without consequences or repercussions,” Fudge said. “This is a frightening narrative for every parent and guardian of Black and brown children, and another setback for race relations in America.”
“My heart goes out to Michael Brown’s loved ones, and to the loved ones of all the Michael Browns we have buried in this country,” Fudge said.
The news of the grand jury’s decision came out between 6 and 7 PM PST. The time stamp on the PJMedia article behind the link is 11:23 PM PST, so 4-5 hours after the news broke, Rep. Fudge was rushing out her statement. There is no way she (or, more likely, her staff) had any chance to read the transcripts of the proceedings to consider the same evidence the jury took weeks to hear and mull over. And yet, that same night, she is sure that there had been a miscarriage of justice and this was due to some sort of “open season” rule on Blacks. (Read the rest of the piece to see how her soon-to-be successor is of the same mind.)
The congresswoman’s opinion seems to be a common one among the membership of the CBC, in fact. That same evening, my representative (hah!) tweeted this:
Why “disturbed?” The grand jury did its duty: consider the evidence and decide if there was probable cause that the suspect committed a crime. They found the evidence showed otherwise, and so they refused to return an indictment. Does Congresswoman Bass, who also could not have considered the evidence presented, know better than the grand jurors who spent weeks on the case? Is not Officer Wilson entitled to the same 5th Amendment protections as any other American — including a member of Congress, who has sworn to uphold the Constitution of the Untied States?
The Fifth Amendment states: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury.”
The Constitution does not consider the grand jury to be a rubber stamp. It is a core protection. It stands as the buffer between the government prosecutor and the citizen-suspect; it safeguards Americans, who are presumed innocent, from being subjected to the anxiety, infamy and expense of a trial unless there is probable cause to believe they have committed a serious offense.
But Representatives Fudge and Bass, and perhaps many in the CBC, really don’t care a whit about constitutional protections in this case. Not when the officer is White and the victim is Black. Were the roles reversed, would they be so quick to issue statements claiming a “miscarriage of justice?”
Call me cynic, but I don’t think so.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There have been all too many incidents of police brutality towards Blacks; it continues to this day, though I think not to the extent the race-grievance hustlers would have us believe. And that sad experience can understandably make Blacks suspicious of authorities or of ever getting justice from the system. When abuse happens, corrective action needs to be taken, including criminal legal proceedings.
But, in the specific case of Mike Brown, Officer Wilson, and a terrible day in Ferguson, Missouri, the prosecutor took the unusual step of presenting all his evidence (1) to the grand jury. Not just enough to indict a ham sandwich, but everything. And then he asked the grand jury, as representatives of the community, to decide if there was probable cause to take Officer Wilson to trial. Bear in mind that a grand jury operates on a lower burden of proof, “probable cause,” than a trial jury, which needs proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” to convict.
The grand jury worked on this case for weeks and still refused to indict. Representative Fudge notwithstanding, justice did prevail, because indicting someone without probable cause to think he had committed a crime would be the height of injustice.
Yet Fudge (who speaks for the CBC) and Bass found it “deeply disturbing” and a “miscarriage of justice” that no indictment was issued.
You know what I find disturbing? That Members of Congress, who swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, could so easily forget or ignore their duties. That members of an ethnic group that’s been subjected to terrible bigotry and awful treatment for centuries would themselves rush to demand what would be little better than a show trial, based just on the skin colors of the policeman and the victim.
They could have set examples for everyone by calling for calm and supporting the rule of law and the colorblind rights of all, perhaps even by asking people to wait and read the evidence for themselves.
But, no. They had to impugn the integrity of the legal process and feed the grievance beast, in their own petty way enabling the agitators trying to generate riots in Ferguson and elsewhere.
All because the cop was White and the victim Black.
You know what that’s called.
(1) Really, read the linked article. It’s an important education into how prosecutors and grand juries work.
UPDATE: Eugene Volokh — “The grand jury process was fair.”