Following Ferguson: Grand Jury 101
The grand jury has been seated, and it happens to be three-quarters white. Now what?
“The Good Wife” can only teach so much. Los Angeles Times reporter Lauren Raab breaks down the roles and responsibilities of the various actors in the room and explains the task ahead of the grand jury. In order to indict Officer Darren Wilson, Raab reports, three-quarters of the 12-member panel will need to agree to do so.
The grand jury will be bound by case law that defines when use of force by a police officer is justified, reports AP’s Eileen Sullivan. “The ‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight,” Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote in the 1989 decision of the key case Graham v. Connor.
The key question will be: Would a reasonable police officer, with a background such as Wilson’s, have responded the same way?
The answer is typically yes.
This kind of legal standard is exactly why courtrooms are an awful venue to seek justice when seemingly unwarranted police killings occur. We’ve been here before. Just four years ago in 2010, murder charges alone against the BART police officer who killed Oscar Grant were a rarity. That Johannes Mehserle was eventually convicted—even if he served a short jail sentence—was itself historic.
“In my long history being involved in police matters since 1979 and well over 30 homicides with police, never have I had a case when a police officer was convicted of any crime against an African-American male,” the Grant family attorney John Burris said when Mehserle was found guilty.
The legal debate will continue, as will the public debate. More outlets are picking up on Colorlines reporter Carla Murphy’s call to speak with white folks in the St. Louis area. What did New York Times reporter Campbell Robertson find? Indifference, anxiety, and in some cases, outright anti-black animus.
“They always want to stir up to trouble, the blacks,” said David Goad, 64, a retired movie projector operator who lives in a neighborhood bordering Ferguson. “I grew up around blacks, so I know how they are,” he said. “That’s why we had to get out in 1962, because it was getting so bad.”
NBC In Plain Sight reporter Seth Wessler explores similar terrain. Whites and blacks, unsurprisingly, seem to live in two Fergusons. Longstanding residential segregation and racial isolation contributes to white people’s inability to wrap their minds around Ferguson’s reality for black residents, as we discussed in Thursday’s roundup.
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