The grand jury decision on whether or not to indict Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson came down November 24 and has been mired in controversy ever since. The decision was made to not indict Wilson, as apparently the evidence that the grand jury studied did not show that he had done anything illegal.
The grand jury system itself has been harshly criticized by many, including Rev. Al Sharpton, who said in the press that the case should have gone straight to a trial.
The prosecuting attorney on the case disagreed.
According to St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch, the physical and scientific evidence that was examined, combined with witness statements, which was supported by the physical evidence, did not show that the police officer had shot Michael Brown illegally.
McCulloch said that the grand jury conducted an exhaustive review of the evidence and deliberated for two days. He added that only the grand jurors have heard all of the evidence.
Wilson is a white police officer who shot and killed Brown, an 18 year-old black man, on Aug. 9.
The death of Brown has caused a serious national debate on law enforcement and race. The tension around the case was obvious in Ferguson, which is mostly black with a mostly white police department.
Some witnesses stated that Wilson killed Brown while he was trying to surrender. Wilson’s supporters claim that the teenager was the aggressor and attempted to take the officer’s gun while he was still in his car.
This case utilized a grand jury to determine if there was probable cause to indict Wilson. Unlike a jury trial, which convicts if there is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard of the grand jury is much lower. It merely determines if there is probable cause based upon evidence and witness testimony.
In the state of Missouri, grand jurors do not need to have a unanimous decision, as long as 9 out of 12 agree.
The grand jury could have returned an indictment on any one of the four charges it considered: first degree murder, second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. The grand jury also could have added another charge: armed criminal action.
Grand Jury System Called Into Question
Despite the decision of the grand jury to not indict, many feel that justice has not been served, and there have been protests around the country, including in Ferguson itself. Some of the loudest voices in protest have included Sharpton’s.
According to Attorney Geoffrey Nathan, who was interviewed on NewsMax TX before the decision was rendered, many Americans do not understand the need for the grand jury system. He noted in his interview that you cannot have a rush to judgement in this type of case, because that can lead to ‘a fatal mistake.’
He also harshly criticized Sharpton for making ‘inflammatory statements’ about how the case never should have even gone to the grand jury at all and gone straight to trial.
Nathan stressed that the grand jury process was critical to determine in a fair and impartial way if the officer had committed a crime.
‘’The only way to do that is to use a protected panel in secret, who hears all of evidence to make an informed decision.’
Nathan concluded his interview by noting that he has a high level of confidence in the American judicial system. He noted that we did not need a Guantanamo Bay-type justice system in the US, and he is confident that justice would be served in this case.
It still appears, after the verdict, that some believe justice was not served. But, as Nathan noted, what better option does the country have to administer justice? A grand jury sees and hears all of the evidence in a case, which the public is not privy to, and renders its decision.
A better way to render justice is hard to imagine.