Saturday, November 29, 2014


Events in Ferguson, Missouri this week have been reported everywhere at length, discussed on radio, TV and online. I stayed well away from commenting, not because I don't care, but because I decided that, unless one had been present during the struggle between Michael Brown and police officer Darren Wilson in August, it'd be impossible to come to any reliable conclusion. I do think, though, that whatever happened, and however it happened, there was no need for so many shots, at least one of them fatal, to have been fired at an unarmed man by a police officer.

Police forces in the USA these days, encouraged by ownership of hand-me-down military equipment, seem to have concluded that they are, in fact, just one degree distant from the military - the armed forces - and will act accordingly.

For anyone who is still puzzled about how events unfolded on that street in Ferguson in August, there were a couple of really good, even-handed articles by Ezra Klein at Vox this week.

Darren Wilson's Story

Dorian Johnson' Story (Johnson was Brown's friend, and present during the events).

The concept of a grand jury was puzzling to me. In Britain grand juries have not been part of the system for many decades. (See Wikipedia's page on Grand Jury). While I understand the need for some kind of preliminary hearing in certain cases, to my mind setting such hearings before a jury of laymen doesn't seem like a good thing. On the other hand, as pointed out by husband during my queries, if lawyers or other official individuals only were involved, too much opportunity for collusion, corruption etc. would arise. Hmmm - well, that says a lot about the integrity of said lawyers and officials!

These lines from a piece by Walter Brasch, Perceptions of Reality — And a Failure to Indict, at Smirking Chimp website yesterday are significant -

..........because prosecutors are the ones who control grand juries. They are the ones who present evidence, call witnesses, and create the narrative the grand jury follows. There are no defense attorneys. There are no cross-examinations.

In one city in America, a prosecutor chose his witnesses and how to question them.

In one city in America, a 12-member grand jury—each with his or her own backgrounds and perceptions—listened to what was presented to them. They struggled to determine the facts, to try to reach a just verdict. And, after the prosecutor presented what he chose to present, that grand jury decided not to indict a police officer who shot and killed a suspect.

A maxim of the way the law is practiced, not how it is written, is that if they wanted to, prosecutors could get grand juries to indict a ham sandwich.

A maxim of life is that truth will eventually emerge—no matter how long it takes.
In my opinion a full trial, with a trial jury, would have been the only just way to go in this very sad case. But, as a relative outsider still, what do I know?


mike said...

The American legal system leaves much to be desired. The same potential concerns with the grand jury are present in criminal and civil trials, too. California has been considering professional jurists, individuals trained in the legal profession as a career and paid a decent salary, as opposed to the cattle-call, civic duty of registered voters. I'm all for it.

I was called as a witness to a federal probe several decades past and I was astonished at the lawyers' ability to twist, defame, and denigrate witnesses at the hearing. It was as if the witnesses were on trial.

I've read and viewed too much about the Ferguson incident. I understand the complexities of the incident. There is not homogeneity amongst the pedestrian witnesses, so reality has been misconstrued by some...enough to taint the "beyond a reasonable doubt" of the legal requirement. Michael Brown, himself, lowered his reputation in a separate incident moments earlier that was captured on video. Neither did Brown immediately respond to the officer's request of subjugation and surrender, and this delay led to the questionable shooting. Probably not a good idea to mess with a police department that was known to have discriminatory and overly zealous methods and responses that could be interpreted as unconstitutional. My local police department has had several accusations this year alone, several caught on video, of overly zealous and aggressive officers toward white and Mexican suspects, yet there was minimal public outrage.

Racial discrepancies and militarization of our police have been in clear view, but only visible to a few. Our (half white) black POTUS and Trayvon Martin addressed our insecurities toward race. Numerous, exposed cases of police arsenals and overreach have made some Americans feel more secure, while others question forsaking freedom for security. Ferguson has become a poster-child for several ills. I personally believe that there are individuals such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson that have self-fulfilling duties to perform, which add the antithesis to Ferguson's corrupted civil servants and policies.

I guess America needs this remedial lesson. It's a pop-quiz from the mid 1960s conjunction of Uranus-Pluto, now evolved into the square aspect. Unfortunately, the current square forms a grand square against the USA natal chart, hitting natal Sun in Cancer, Saturn in Libra.

Sonny G said...

I was also called as a witness in a federal train years ago, a bank robbery. The lawyers in that case twisted the words of the witnesses to suit them or asked questions in a specific way so the answer given didnt say the whole truth and if I tried to replay My Way, objection was said loud enough to be heard out in the hall..
Then I got threatened with contempt and 48 hours in a holding cell..
seriously ~!
as for Ferguson- I knew which way that would go from day 1..
"Bubba" justice is alive and well.

mike (again) said...

P.S. - PBS' "Finding Your Roots" last Monday, 11-25-14, was an exceptional season finish, "Decoding Our Past Through DNA". It was coincidental with the Ferguson announcement, but couldn't have been more apropos. The episode highlighted the most recent advances in DNA research to determine ancestry and that some relationships, such as master-slave, were not what they seemed. The conclusion is that we are all related, as evidenced through science.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Your line Ferguson has become a poster-child for several ills is so very true! One ill compounded another, then yet another, ending in the scariest ill of all - that the US justice system itself, upon which the people ought to be able to rely 100%, is fatally infected by ill intent and corruption.

There's no doubt that Michael Brown was in the wrong on more than one count - albeit they were fairly minor wrongs as wrongs go, but Wilson's response was way, way, way over the top. His non-indictment seems to be telling police officers in general that what he did was...well - have at it with impunity guys. :-(

Twilight said...

Sonny ~ The fact that such things go on truly makes the blood run cold.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ We'll remember to watch that episode of "Finding Your Roots" on Roku. We've watched a couple of older episodes of the series on Roku already.
Not as good as "Who Do You Think You Are?" but still interesting.

DNA tests to establish various strands of ancestry - done in detail and not done with just an intent of making gobs of money from gullible family history researchers - would be a fascinating study. It must, if done in sufficient depth, inevitably draw all Earth's peoples together.

mike (again) said...

Tim Archuleta, Editor, Corpus Christi Caller Times, wrote an editorial, "Ferguson residents can use election to bring about change" (11-28-14). An excerpt:

"...Better police oversight is necessary, and this may well be the rare blue-ribbon commission [Justice Department investigation and oversight] that has an actual impact on the problem it has convened to study. For the residents of Ferguson, however, there is only one sure, small way to have an impact: They can vote.

Half of the Ferguson City Council will be up for election in April. Organizing a slate of candidates, registering voters and running election campaigns would help to channel residents' anger in a positive direction. They could also organize a recall campaign against the mayor, who just began a three-year term last spring.

Turnout in Ferguson's local elections has been running at about 11 or 12 percent, and it is lower for black residents than for whites.

... A municipal election is inadequate to the task of addressing the profound sense of racial and economic injustice that brought people to the streets in Ferguson. But it can have a real effect on the lives of the people who live there. And the vote remains the best way - maybe the only way - for Americans to bring about more lasting change."

And this from the NY Times:
"... Although about two-thirds of Ferguson residents are black, its mayor and five of its six City Council members are white. Only three of the town’s 53 police officers are black.

Turnout for local elections in Ferguson has been poor. The mayor, James W. Knowles III, noted his disappointment with the turnout — about 12 percent — in the most recent mayoral election during a City Council meeting in April. Patricia Bynes, a black woman who is the Democratic committeewoman for the Ferguson area, said the lack of black involvement in local government was partly the result of the black population’s being more transient in small municipalities and less attached to them."

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Thanks for those excerpts. Maybe this will encourage more residents of Ferguson to get out and VOTE the very next time an opportunity arises.

So few African American representatives in their police force and city authorities is just downright wrong! But it's in the power of the people to change that.

Our town of some 25,000 souls is well over 90% white population, but we still have an African American Mayor, who has been in office for many years. The town does have many and varied drawbacks, but that one fact, at least, is a plus point. I guess it depends a lot on the luck of having the right guy living in one's town, whatever his skin's colour (which should make not one jot of flippin' difference. Grrr. USA needs to grow up about race - and fast!!!!!!!!!!~!!

Twilight said...

It's being reported, now, that Darren Wilson has resigned from the police force.

mike (again) said...

Off topic - An amazing sculpture artist, Tom Eckert:

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Amazing - and beautiful too! A quick search didn't throw up his d.o.b. - that's a pity.