It seems as if no life is equal to the preservation of police and prosecutorial supremacy in the eyes of the grand jury. “Authority” trumps justice because fairness gets in the way of dominance. Law and order only applies to unruly minorities, the poor and anyone who has fallen out of favor with the ruling class.
In a typical indictment process the prosecutor gathers enough evidence and witness testimony to prove there is a probable cause, then presents it to the grand jury. It’s a simple procedure, and usually doesn’t take more than a few hours, but there is plenty of room for finagling. The sort that gives credence to the cliché a prosecutor has the power to indict a ham sandwich. Whatever evidence is presented to the grand jury is what the members of that secret body will believe. There is no chance for a defense attorney to object or verify the evidence.
If, for example, Robert McCulloch wanted to indict officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown it would have been easy. All the prosecutor had to do was keep the defendant out of the courtroom and present the gathered evidence like he did for every other case. The grand jury, had this been a typical day in secrecy with an average citizen charged with a crime, would have indicted Wilson for gunning down an unarmed teen from nearly a hundred feet away.
Instead, McCulloch allowed Wilson to defend himself and present testimony contrary to that of numerous witnesses. An official public trial, where the victim is represented by the state, was circumvented in favor of protecting the integrity of the policy. Only the public outcry over the lack of indictment and demonstrations around the country represented Michael Brown’s interests.
Of course this is not an isolated event.
Eric Garner was choked to death by a New York city cop. Apparently the unarmed man, who was not committing any crime and was surrounded by several cops, presented such a threat to the community the grand jury felt the officer was justified in using a banned choke hold to kill an innocent civilian.
If that was not bad enough, twelver-year-old Tamir Rice was shot dead by a Cleveland cop in the same week. I guess a boy with a toy gun is such a threat to the public the cop felt it was necessary to kill him seconds after arriving on the scene. Couldn’t he have at least told the boy to drop the alleged “weapon”? There has been no decision by the grand jury in this case yet, but current trends make it unlikely the officer will be indicted.
Have I mentioned these three victims were blacks in poor neighborhoods and their killers were white police? Is this, as Thomasi McDonald wrote, the new Red Summer of 1919?
While it may be true these are extreme cases going before grand juries under pressure by the powers that seem to favor the police, there is also an underlying culture that makes America seem more like a police state than a democracy. The indictment process is too shrouded in secrecy to be considered fair and is light years away from impartiality. The decisions made by the grand jury should be reviewable like any other decision made in the courts. There should not be a secret body available only to prosecutors for the express purpose of levelling charges. Such life altering decision should be made by a judge in the presence of a court reporter and defense attorney. Like at a preliminary hearing.
The police have a duty to serve and protect all of the public and uphold the law even when it applies to them. It is the grand jury’s duty to determine when a cop violates that ethos, and the prosecutor’s job to recognize an obvious crime when one is committed in plain view of the public. When these parties fail in their duties and are incapable of distinguishing the differences between them it’s time to reform the process and make certain criminals of every caliber are indicted – whether they wear a badge or blindly support one.