Quote of the Day: Grand Jury Decision Aftermath Edition

Scott Shackford over at Reason made an excellent point in the wake of the grand jury decision finding insufficient probable cause to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown.

Based on the information [St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Robert P.] McCulloch described tonight it may seem unlikely Wilson would have convicted, and perhaps that would have been the right decision by a criminal jury. That raises yet another question, though: Should we be upset at the amount of deference and effort made to find reasons not to indict Wilson in this case or should we be upset that the same doesn’t happen to the rest of us? Is the outrage that a grand jury didn’t indict Wilson or is the outrage that the grand jury indicts just about everybody else?

As far as I’m concerned, my outrage is that grand juries indicts just about everybody else. This jury heard the evidence with all the conflicting testimony and the rest of us have not. I cannot say whether this is a just outcome or not and neither can anyone else at this point. We will most likely never know for sure what happened that fateful day.

I imagine that at least a few of the protesters in Ferguson who have themselves (or know someone who has) been indicted with very little evidence then either strongly encouraged to take a plea deal or were convicted. It’s not to hard to see why some might feel that the criminal justice system works one way for the police and a different way for everyone else, regardless of the specific circumstances in this case (the specific circumstances in this case being all the grand jury should have been concerned about).

  • SABRMatt

    We have enough information through the press that I feel reasonable confident that Brown was no innocent “gentle giant” and that Wilson believed he was defending himself (we know, for example, that the tip of Brown’s finger was apparently shot off in a wound that was so close that it had to be that the finger was over the barrel opening when Wilson’s gun fired…strongly suggesting that Brown was trying to get the gun). Whether Wilson was justified in firing the lethal shots is less clear…but I am inclined not to be “outraged” at this decision at all. Be outraged if you hear a story of a grand jury pressing charges when it’s clear that the evidence was not strong, and I’ll understand that. But I believe this case was correctly decided.

  • Stephen Littau

    My outrage isn’t so much about this case. The grand jury probably made the right call. My outrage is that regular suspects are not given the same consideration as they too are supposed to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Consider the following from this article http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/ferguson-michael-brown-indictment-darren-wilson/ :

    “U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them.

    Wilson’s case was heard in state court, not federal, so the numbers aren’t directly comparable […].


    Cases involving police shootings, however, appear to be an exception. As my colleague Reuben Fischer-Baum has written, we don’t have good data on officer-involved killings. But newspaperaccounts suggest, grand juries frequently decline to indict law-enforcement officials. A recent Houston Chronicle investigationfound that “police have been nearly immune from criminal charges in shootings” in Houston and other large cities in recent years. In Harris County, Texas, for example, grand juries haven’t indicted a Houston police officer since 2004”

    11 indictments out of 162,000 cases for non-cops vs. 0 indictments against Houston cops since 2004? Something appears to be a little off to me.

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