After the announcement of the St. Louis County Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson for his culpability in the shooting death of Michael Brown, much will be said, written and tweeted concerning whether justice has been served in this case. Folks will posit from all angles…well, here are my thoughts.
I tell my students at the Dallas law school where I teach that, if they expect justice, they get that in the afterlife. Here, we have the law. The two rarely complement one another. From a legal education viewpoint, this statement is sacrilege. From a religious perspective…even more so. But as a merger of the two, I think I’m spot-on.
We teach law students that there are inherent checks-and-balances that protect the citizen accused through Constitutional precedent and that those protections ensure that justice is a result of those checks-and-balances. The process might be slow, but it works. Well, it works if resources are available to that citizen-accused to fight an allegation at every level of our court system. Very few have those resources. Our courts often actively prevent those resources from being accessed by indigent defendants.
The best defense by the citizen accused is to not be charged or indicted in the first place. There is an old adage that “A prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich.” It seems that Darren Brown had a defense attorney in the grand jury room and not a prosecutor.
In the case of Darren Wilson, he wasn’t indicted. That simply means the grand jury did not find sufficient probable cause to hold Darren Wilson over for trial. It is not a finding of guilt or innocence. Is the grand jury decision the end of the story? No, the District Attorney can still charge him without the grand jury’s true bill. There is no statute of limitations on murder…a grand jury, either this one or a newly seated one can convene and hear additional testimony and review additional evidence. Additionally, despite what the District Attorney said during his announcement last night, the grand jury did not hear “all the evidence.” The grand jury only heard what the State’s attorney chose to present…without challenge or cross-examination. The other options that are still available include a Federal prosecution, as well as a civil action for either the wrongful death of Michael Brown or a 1983 action for the violation of Mr. Brown’s civil rights. Does any of these options serve justice? We will probably never know. What I feel confident in saying is that for those who loved and knew Michael Brown, none of these remedies will bring Michael back so any justice will fall short. Whatever the case, I will continue to pray for Michael Brown and his family.
From Darren Wilson’s perspective, justice was served. The ultimate Judge and jury is still out in that regard. Whatever the case, I will continue to pray for Darren Wilson and his family.
In either case, it was statute speaking…not justice.