Some Observations After Non-Indictment In Ferguson (UPDATED)

➤ No one was surprised by the Grand Jury’s decision.

Are you not sick of being unsurprised? asks one writer. Statistics site 538 points out that it’s rare for police officers to be charged for any allegations of misconduct. Grand juries almost always return an indictment, yet almost never when it’s a police officer. The governor of Missouri certainly wasn’t surprised; he declared a state of emergency and called out the national guard a full week before the grand jury’s decision was announced.

➤ Rioting, looting, and protesting are three different things.

It quickly became tiring to read news stories that melded protestors, looters, and rioters into one homogenous group. Protesting is a good thing. It’s protected by our nation’s First Amendment. (Some protestors were arrested for unlawful assembly, despite the First Amendment’s protection of assembly.) Holding signs or chanting is free speech.

Rioting isn’t condoned by any civilized society, despite the U.S. having strong historical ties to it.

And looting — in this situation — is possibly the stupidest thing anyone could have done.

➤ Darren Wilson is still being paid by taxpayers.

We as a nation need to decide how this works. Do we still get paid while awaiting murder charges, or do we not? This seems to be an exclusive reserve for the wealthy, the elected, and police. Everyone else loses their jobs in similar situations.

And he reportedly was paid “six figures” by ABC for the exclusive interview.

➤ Non-whites still get to play the “race card” any time they want.

Until we convict and imprison just one* white cop who killed an unarmed black man, you will not be able to convince the average black American that things have changed.

(* See comments below. A helpful reader provided a link to the story of the conviction of Johannes Mehserle in 2010, which I called “the exception that proves the rule.” Mehserle was also not “imprisoned” in the general sense of the word.)

Edited to add, 2015.04.08: Five months after I originally posted this entry, a white police officer was charged with murder in the killing of an unarmed black man. As of this edit, he has not yet been tried, convicted, or imprisoned.

➤ The rest of the world is watching.

Leaders around the world including in utopias like North Korea, China, and Iran, are speaking about the situation in Ferguson (and 90 other U.S. cities). They are carefully (and perhaps gleefully) pointing out the hypocrisy of the U.S. being a human rights watchdog for the rest of the world.

➤ There’s a growing list of “innocent things black people do that look suspicious.”

We know Jon Stewart was just going for a laugh in his bit about The List. But there’s truth in it. Playing with a toy gun. Pointing at someone. Shopping at Walmart. Sitting on a bench. Sitting in a car. Walking down a street. Dating a cop’s daughter. Holding a wallet. Not wearing a seatbelt.

I could go on, but you can use Google as well as I can.

➤ I’m troubled by the way the grand jury was handled.

• “Prosecutors” seemed to be trying to derail any possibility of charges. (“The prosecutor questioning that witness did not hide her skepticism of his story, highlighting contradictions in his various accounts.”)

• Prosecutor Robert McCulloch has had previous success in making sure officers aren’t prosecuted for killing unarmed black men, and his sympathies run deep: “His father was a St. Louis policeman killed in the line of duty by a black man when McCulloch was 12. His brother, nephew and cousin all served with the St. Louis police. His mother worked as a clerk for the force for 20 years.”

• McCulloch IS willing to prosecute cops, on occasion, however. Even when a cop struck a black man on the hand with a baton. When the cop is black.

• “The distance from the front wheel of the officer’s SUV to Mr. Brown’s body was 153 feet, 9 inches”. For those of you with trouble visualizing a real-world distance based on numbers, that’s about half a football field, or three times the front-to-back length of my house. This distance indicates to me: (1) either Mr. Wilson was an amazing shot with a pistol, or he advanced quite a distance toward Michael Brown, and (2) there should have been plenty of time to get back in his vehicle and radio for help while a wounded Brown was running 50 or more yards away from him.

• It’s a very rare case when the person possibly being charged gets to testify before a grand jury.

• “…it began with the struggle at the window”. This is not correct. It began prior to the struggle at the window.

Originally pubished 2014.11.25

UPDATED, 2014.11.26: Added several lines and links; added “exception that proves the rule”
UPDATED, 2015.04.07: Corrected link in first paragraph.
UPDATED, 2015.04.08: Added link to Walter Scott story, changed formatting of subheads

  1. ‘Until we convict just one white cop…’

    Did this not count?

    • Wil C. Fry says:

      Thank you. To be honest, my “just one” statement could be defined as “bait”; I couldn’t find one but assumed there might be the exception that proved the rule… I was hoping one of my diligent readers would find such a case. You did. I appreciate it.

      Johannes Mehserle (white cop) was convicted of “involuntary manslaughter” in the killing of Oscar Grant (unarmed black man), and served less than a year in a private cell in a county jail (no time in prison or with general population). There were no black persons on his jury (7 white, 4 Hispanic, 1 Asian).

      I’ve annotated my original entry above.

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