Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri are asking for justice in the shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black teenager. But they have been given what I call a “run around.” After more than 12 days of protest marching, rallies and demonstrations, information concerning the Brown case has not been forthcoming.
Officials in Ferguson work in what seems to me to be secrecy. They have not been open about the ongoing investigation. What has been done shows a lack of respect for the people of Ferguson and a lack of fairness in dealing with the investigation. Because Ferguson law enforcement has not arrested Darren Wilson, a white police officer, for the shooting of Michael Brown, the secret grand jury — and the authority prosecutor Robert McCulloch has over the grand jury — is why I believe the protesters will not see justice done.
Immediately, after the shooting, Darren Wilson is given special privileges. He is on paid leave while weary, powerless protesters are kept in the dark. For days after the shooting, his identity is not revealed until later in the week. There is no mention that he was questioned or even if he has given a police incident report of the shooting. Although there are witnesses to the Brown shooting, their accounts don’t call for Wilson’s arrest. But the Ferguson Police Department makes an announcement that Darren Wilson felt endangered and acted in self-defense, which is good enough not to arrest him. Charges have not been brought against Wilson and probably never will be.
While no arrest has been made, a grand jury has been called into play to conduct proceedings in secrecy. First, there is no one to tell if wrongdoings occurred. The 12 jurors on the Darren Wilson grand jury have taken oaths to keep secret all proceedings. The court reporter also takes an oath imposing an obligation of secrecy to disclose any testimony taken or heard to the grand jury.
When the jurors begin to express their views or take their vote on the matter before them, the reporter has to leave the jury room. Second, the proceedings operate out of the public eye. This secret grand jury leads to more possibilities of a cover-up behind the scenes.
“It’s about transparency,” Brown family lawyer Benjamin Crump told CNN. “This community has distrust for the local law enforcement officials. So if you have a secret grand jury proceeding, where nobody knows what the prosecutor presents…and the grand jury comes back and says we find this (shooting) justified, I think that’s going to be very problematic for this community to accept.”
A secret grand jury is convenient for Chief Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch.
First, he can provide only evidence that puts Wilson in a not guilty light. It is said that a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. And in the Darren Wilson grand jury case, if the prosecutor is so inclined, can get a grand jury to not indict a ham sandwich.
Although in a radio interview on Aug. 19, McCulloch said, “We will be presenting absolutely everything to the grand jury, every statement that a witness has made, every witness, every photograph, and every piece of physical evidence. Absolutely nothing will be left out, so the grand jury is making their decision based upon absolutely everything and we’ll go from there.”
Some residents and community leaders of Ferguson are still not convinced that McCulloch can be impartial. Second, McCulloch can take as much time as he wants. He has changed the proceedings from early September to mid-October. Can this time change be for allowing the people of Ferguson to be less outraged in October than they were Aug 9? Last, he has the power to override a grand jury. Whatever decision the grand jury makes, McCulloch can make a different decision because he is the grand jury.