Ferguson burns as racist cop walks free

Once again the people of Ferguson have had to display their righteous anger in protest over the death of Michael Brown. This time it was provoked by the announcement that Brown’s killer, Officer Darren Wilson, would not face any indictment. This was compounded by Wilson’s remorse-free announcement that his conscience was clear. What feeling breathing person, faced with this injustice and contempt, could easily restrain themselves from venting their anger? The furious people of Ferguson burnt cars and businesses and fought the police. In response the ‘Civil Rights’ fire brigade showed up to pour cold water on the popular rebellion, to condemn rioting and insist that all protests be peaceful, ie ineffectual. But their efforts at collaboration were themselves ineffectual as justice-minded people across the United States and internationally protested against this travesty of justice. In California, roads were blocked for three consecutive nights and hundreds arrested as they marched through Oakland and Los Angeles.

The St Louis county prosecutor is Bob McCulloch. McCulloch’s father, brother, nephew and cousin were all – officers. In 1964 his father Paul, died in a gun battle with kidnapper Eddie Glenn. Glenn was black. His father’s death was a major theme in McCulloch’s political ads when he first ran for office. McCulloch was invited to withdraw, but instead he took the very political decision to punt the decision to indict to a grand jury. Why would he do this instead of following the typical route: hold a preliminary hearing and have a trial court judge make the decision about whether to indict?

Since there is no grand jury system in Britain, it is worth reviewing what this institution is in the US and what’s wrong with it. Jurors are not vetted for bias or other improper factors, so the process is unbalanced from the start. The prosecutor controls its proceedings, drafting charges and deciding which witnesses should or should not appear. There is no obligation to present evidence in defence of anyone being investigated or in their favour. It hears evidence ex parte (ie without participation of the subject or subjects of investigation). While the subject can appear as a witness before a grand jury, they are not allowed any legal representation, nor can they confront or cross-examine other witnesses. Failure to appear before the grand jury is liable to contempt of court charges, punishable by incarceration for the remaining term of the jury. Basically, the jury only hears the prosecutor’s side of the story and, without rebuttal, this can naturally seem very persuasive, leading grand juries almost always to indict or not indict people on the prosecutor’s recommendation: one chief judge complained that a prosecutor could get a grand jury to ‘indict a ham sandwich’. It should really be called the Prosecutor’s Private Jury!

McCulloch dumped thousands of pages of the investigation into the grand jury’s lap and invited them to make a decision. He spun his decision as enabling a free, fair and impartial process without his involvement. How ridiculous! He knew before he started that the chances of indicting Wilson by this route were remote and this is clearly why he chose it. Wilson killed Brown, but McCulloch murdered any chance of justice.

This experience is repeated in dozens of cases, week after week across the United States. Just days before the Ferguson grand jury verdict, police in Cleveland, Ohio were suspended for shooting dead 12-year-old Tamir Rice in a playground after he was seen brandishing a fake gun. We remember how Officer Johannes Mehserle shot unarmed Oscar Grant at point blank range as he was restrained lying face-down on an Oakland subway platform. This murder was captured ‘live’ in dozens of videos, in front of scores of witnesses and prosecutors had no choice but to charge Mehserle with murder. Even so, Mehserle got off with the wrist-slap of a two-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter. In Missouri, with no video evidence and the usual institutionalised racism perpetuated by scum like McCulloch, Michael Brown stood no chance of receiving any justice. In the United States, it is basically open season on black males for police officers, without fear of any serious consequence, a monstrous state of affairs. Yet the United States government has the nerve to lecture other people about supposed injustices they have perpetrated? What hypocrisy!

Justice for Michael Brown!
End state violence against people of colour!

Steve Palmer

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 242 December 2014/January 2015


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