Saturday, October 25, 2014
Today I explain how to rig the outcome of a grand jury investigation because I believe that is what is happening in the Michael Brown shooting case.*
I have written a series of articles about the selective leaking of information by ‘unnamed officials’ to print media about the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO that is favorable to Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed him, and I have accused Bob McCulloch, the elected Prosecuting Attorney for St.Louis County, of being responsible for the release of that information.
I also have predicted that the grand jury will decide not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown.
Let us begin by acknowledging that six independent eyewitnesses to the shooting said Wilson shot and killed an unarmed Michael Brown after he stopped running away, turned around and raised his hands in the universally understood gesture of surrender. None of them described a situation in which Wilson could reasonably be described as being in imminent danger of death or serious injury.
I used the word ‘independent’ to describe the eyewitnesses because they did not know each other, Michael Brown or Darren Wilson.
Second, no one can credibly contend that the testimony of the six eyewitnesses is not sufficient to constitute probable cause (i.e., reasonable grounds) to believe that Darren Wilson intentionally shot and killed Michael Brown.
Third, since the function of the grand jury is limited to deciding whether there is probable cause to believe that Darren Wilson intentionally shot and killed Michael Brown, the grand jury should have indicted him weeks ago.
Fourth, a grand jury proceeding is not a trial. Prosecutors run grand juries. Their goal is to present enough evidence to get an indictment and nothing more. They are not obliged to present any exculpatory evidence and they rarely do because a grand jury indictment is only an accusation that the named defendant committed a particular crime. Once indicted a defendant can plead guilty and proceed to sentencing or plead not guilty and go to trial.
Fifth, a suspect can testify before a grand jury. That rarely happens because no judge is present and the accused is on his own without a lawyer to protect him while a hostile prosecutor determined to expose his guilt peppers him with questions he would rather not answer. The better choice is to assert the right to remain silent and refuse to testify.
Sixth, we use public trials with regular juries, not secret proceedings, to decide guilt or innocence. Transparency legitimizes outcomes and builds confidence in the legal process.
We believe in due process of law and we cannot have any faith in our legal system without it.
With these six points in mind, let’s take a look at how the outcome of a grand jury investigation can be rigged.
The rare exception to the rule that targets of grand jury investigations do not testify before grand juries, which is what we are seeing here, occurs when the prosecutor is sympathetic to the accused and does not want to charge him. So he rigs the outcome of the grand jury investigation by controlling what evidence they get to hear, including leading the accused through a scripted soft and friendly appearance before the grand jury. After they decide not to charge the accused, he holds a press conference and declares that the grand jury has spoken and it’s time to move on.
In a high publicity case like this one, he arranges to have his minions selectively leak information that supports the suspect to friendly reporters who spin and publish it.
Presto Changeo. No indictment, plausible deniability for the seemingly inexplicable failure to indict that is shrouded in inviolate secrecy, and no adverse political consequences for the prosecutor who can truthfully declare, “I did the best I could.”
*H/T to GrannyStandingForTruth for the inspiration to write this post.