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Head to Head: Respecting the decision of the Michael Brown case

Cartoon by Catherine Lin

Cartoon by Catherine Lin

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The shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson this summer has spurred controversy throughout the nation, resulting in debates, protests and even violent rioting.

Brown was shot on Aug. 9 by Officer Wilson, who testified that he feared for his life during his confrontation with Brown. After considering all of the gathered evidence, including autopsy reports, forensic evidence and the testimony of dozens of witnesses, the grand jury decided not to indict Wilson for criminal charges. This is a decision that should be respected by the public.

The evidence presented to the 12-member grand jury panel was substantial and highly detailed. The grand jury did not consider the evidence hastily; it took the members 25 days of analysis and debate to reach its decision, according to ABC News. Much of the evidence was contradictory, and the credibility level of the witnesses varied wildly.

None of this is unusual or surprising. Evidence and testimony in criminal cases are often contradictory. There are issues of bias and dishonesty from eyewitnesses, but even honest witnesses can be mistaken.

A Newport Beach police officer (whose name is withheld pursuant to department policy) said that in his experience, many witnesses are “trying to help, but they don’t have an accurate description of all the action leading up to it. A lot of eyewitnesses tend to not be overly credible.”

Our system of justice therefore relies upon the grand jury to carefully consider and weigh all of the evidence before arriving at a decision. In this case, there is no indication that the grand jury acted improperly. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the grand jury, which was empaneled months before the incident occurred, represented a racial and socio-economic cross-section of St. Louis County, which is approximately 24% black and 68% white.

The grand jury had a difficult job. There is, however, no indication or evidence that the grand jury was biased, had improper motivations or failed in any way to properly or carefully consider the case. Absent evidence of wrongdoing by the grand jury, its decision should be respected.

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Head to Head: Respecting the decision of the Michael Brown case