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Monday, December 01, 2014

Hands up

Everyone is scoring the St. Louis Rams for entering the field of battle with their hands up, as a way of protesting the Grand Jury's decision (which was really prosecutor McCulloch's decision) not to indict. A lot of white people are calling this act "tasteless." Booman has this one right:
You know what ELSE is "tasteless, offensive and inflammatory"? Subverting a grand jury process so a cop doesn't have to face charges. Conducting a secret trial designed to exonerate said cop. Announcing grand jury results well after sundown and calling a state of emergency a week before the decision. Smearing the kid's parents. Burning down the kid's father's church. These are all things that, in my opinion anyway, are a lot more "tasteless, offensive and inflammatory" than a few football players expressing their opinion.
What bugs me is this: Most white people presume that Brown charged the officer. Most white people presume that Brown did not have his hands up. They make this presumption even though everyone knows that witness testimony on this score was contradictory. That's why we have trials: To allow jurors to weigh the credibility of witnesses.

Here's a fair question: How many witnesses say that Brown had his hands up? And how many say that he charged?

Turns out that there were three witnesses (not including Wilson) who spoke of charging.

Four said that he did not charge: “it wasn't fast enough to be a charge” “casually walking” “he picked up a little bit of speed” “taking two small steps.” Two said he had not fully risen. Six said that he was either turning around or had just completed the process of turning around.

And six said that Brown either had his hands up or had otherwise indicated surrender. In fact, even Wilson said that Brown had his "hands up."

Yet many white people presume the question of charging is not even in contention. He charged. Period. Wilson said it, white people believe it, and that settles it.

White "liberal" Donny Deutsch epitomized this problem when he said on Joe Scarborough's show,
"It's not a black-white situation. It's a thug-police officer situation," said Deutsch, beginning to chuckle.
This next bit is telling:
Scarborough concluded with a piece of advice to his critics:

"And by the way, if I've offended anybody by saying what I've said, trust me, 95 percent of America think just like me," he said.
If three witnesses say something that buttresses the white cop's self-interested story, and if at least ten witnesses contradict that story, the testimony of the three must outweigh that of the ten. If you say otherwise, you are being tasteless and offensive.

These days, it is now considered tasteless and offensive to insist that our justice system must allow for cross-examination.

Well, at the risk of seeming tasteless, I'll say this: There is no justice when there is no opportunity for opposing lawyers to ask the witnesses tough questions. There's a reason why we have an adversarial justice system.

Perhaps the scariest thing about the Brown/Wilson outcome is that this case pioneered a new technique which allows prosecutors to do an injustice while maintaining the pretense that justice has been done: The grand jury.

Yes, we have had grand juries for a long, long time. But I do not believe that they've been used before in the way they have been used here. This is new. This is dangerous. In the future, I fear that "justice" will be dispensed by grand juries who get to hear only one side.
The element that isn't talked about much is the routine level of overkill in these police shootings. A couple shots aren't enough, one or more cops simply empty their pistols into the usually unarmed victim. If this is routine police procedure we are all fucked. Or are these cops so agitated by their racism and amped up on adrenaline that they can't stop shooting?

Psycho-racial overkill, it's the new normal.
The grand jury decision was NOT unusual. Several articles have since pointed out grand jurie almost never indict police officers for shooting civilians.

To quote an excellent investigative series by the Houston Chronicle: "police have been nearly immune from criminal charges in shootings...In Dallas, only one police officer was indicted from 2008 to 2012, after grand juries reviewed 81 shootings involving 175 officers. The most recent Chicago police officer to be charged in an on-duty shooting was in 2007."

je, the grand jury decision was extremely unusual. In 2010 in 162,000 cases, federal grand juries declined to indict only 11 times.

Joseph, Marjorie Cohn (my source for the stat above) calls the Ferguson grand jury proceding "virtually unprecedented" in her article at truthout, "Prosecutor Manipulates Grand Jury Process to Shield Officer." Grand juries are not supposed to be triers of fact. They are supposed to be weighers of evidence to the standard of probable cause.

I have a different take or may be explanation for the over kill specially in this case. I think this officer probably is a wimp,wuss,faintheart or any other adjective along those lines. Otherwise how do explain his words like Satan, the hulk or all the nonsense he uttered during his testimony. He would probably shoot a kitten coming behind him thinking it's lion. The reason I am saying this how much harm a person with three bullet in him can do if you get inside your car lock it and call for back up. But because he is scared that wasn't an option. I think the race angle aside they should check the quality of their officers and train them better
Does anyone know if Wilson would have been eligible for a bench trial had he been indicted? An indictment would have meant a plea or a trial, but with a trial would he have had to face a jury?

Also, I've been trying to read through the actual grand jury testimony. Some of the links here link to stories that cite witness statements to investigators rather than their actual grand jury testimony. Does anyone have a link to a searchable PDF of the grand jury testimony?

It seems to me that the way the grand jury testimony was released makes it difficult to actually compare witness statements with witness testimony.

Gareth and je are correct: the aspect of overkill--one bullet is never enough; the cops seem hellbent on emptying their clips into suspects. Which means they're either ill-trained, rotten shots or they suffer from blood fever. And . . . grand jury history where police are routinely immune from criminal prosecution. We've seen this play out with FBI statistics where shootings are always considered justified, even when the circumstances are hinky [recall the strange circumstances of the 'friend' of the Boston Marathon bombers].

All of these things, erode confidence in law enforcement when the law itself is meted out unequally, when the public [particularly in poor neighborhoods] do not trust the police to protect them and when SWAT/military teams are sent out to deal with the public. Ferguson isn't a first and I doubt it will be a last example of overreach, over militarized responses.

The 'hands up' protest is a perfect, peaceful response to that. Too bad that the likes of Scarborough are offended. As a white woman I'm offended and disgusted that a 12-year old boy can be gunned down by police for playing with a toy gun. I can only imagine if I was that child's mother. Or Michael Brown's mother or the countless mothers who have lost their kids to a cop's bad judgment, poor training and/or adversarial attitude towards the public.

Serve and protect? It's become an ugly joke.

The whole thing was obviously designed to exonerate the officer. This is not something new, and the "prosecutor" (whose job is ostensibly to convince the grand jury that there is enough evidence to warrant a trial) has never gotten a cop indicted. Ever. Sounds like dereliction of duty to me. Obviously the grand jury was used for the main purpose of convincing white America that the victim was a "thug" and "demon" and deserved to die and the officer had no choice. It seems to be working so far (more or less). The militarized response to protests gets not a hint of alarm from most of America. After all, those people started the riots, right? Certainly there were no agents provocateurs, directed by the authorities, starting the "rioting" as has been documented countless times before? No, that would make people loose faith in the "justice" system in America, which has such a wonderful track record when it comes to non-whites. I just can't believe the same people who don't trust the government or the media, are swallowing the tall tales both are peddling about this incident whole, without so much as a single trace of incredulity. Now I see people on facebook claiming that what the Rams player did was the "black power" fist raise. Maybe white America still has a fear of blacks after all?
Joseph, we must have been psychically linked. I was researching and making a long post citing the testimony of the Grand Jury witnesses on charging vs walking at the same time you were for the same reasons.

My adversary could not be swayed.
A mother having a child having a "toy"gun then is considered GOOD
judgement ?
I'm shivering.
At the age of about 3 I learned
that pointing with my FINGER at a person is something one does NOT do.

Anonymous 2:48.... so I guess the kid deserved to die then, without warning from the cops, because his parents let him have a toy gun? Yeah, that makes sense.
@ Gus
Before You run, You walk.
Before I guess, I read.
Have You read my question?
Because, just in case You have,
then I would go on asking if (supposedly) MILLIONS of mothers,
cops mothers, non-cops mothers, having had their children have guns (not fingers)
pointing at other mothers children makes SENSE.
Yes or no ?
Now, instead of REFLECTING on Your own guess,
blaming me for Your OWN phantastic non-sense,
come out of Your box.
America, America !

Too many Barney Fifes, not enough Andy Taylors supervising them. :p
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