I stayed late in the office to try to sort out some things on the website, and it just so happens that today the Grand Jury in Ferguson finally made up its mind regarding a potential indictment against Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown.
The Grand Jury’s decision was announced this evening at 8:00, so while I’ve been working, I’ve been mulling over the situation a little. I will start by admitting that I have not felt very emotionally caught up in this whole incident. Texas and Dent Counties (where I work and live) is a pretty racially homogeneous region. When I first heard that an officer had shot and killed a non-aggressive young man, I did get riled up, because one of my hot-button issues is the misuse of force by law enforcement officers.
There is an unacceptable amount of police brutality, misuse of police force, and despicable behavior by law enforcement going on in our country, and too many people give them a pass–”Well, if that [law breaker] hadn’t broken that law, they would not have been [shot/beaten/yelled at/arrested/falsely accused of a worse crime].
That said, as more and more accounts of what happened the day of the Michael Brown shooting came out, it became increasingly apparent that this was a really bad case to rally around for either the issue of (a) police misconduct in general, or (b) racist brutality against blacks more specifically.
It came as no surprise, therefore, that the Grand Jury determined that no charges should be filed against Officer Wilson.
You see, the Law and Justice are supposed to be blind when it comes to things like (a) income of parties, (b) race of the parties, (c) profession of the parties, (d) how high profiled the case is because of weeks of looting.
And when you strip away the trigger issues that make people angry or upset or sorrowful and present them (as nearly as possible) with “just the facts” you get the nearest you possibly can to “blind justice.”
If the prosecutor was doing his job, he did not try to skew his case. He did not try to argue for why Wilson was great or horrible. He did not try to argue for why Brown was great or horrible. He [was supposed to have only] presented the facts that were relevant to the question whether the shooting was lawful or unlawful.
Because no matter how furiously mad you might be that Wilson shot Brown, the truth is, it is only appropriate for the law to step in and prosecute if the act was unlawful.
Now, Missouri, like most states, applies a legal principle of self defense that allows a person to shoot and kill someone who poses a serious threat to the person’s life or limb. If someone unlawfully comes at you threatening to shoot you, you can shoot him back to save your own life. The key term here, of course, is that the attacker came at you unlawfully.
An example of this can be made out of the Brown/Wilson situation. Let us assume that Brown was unlawfully refusing resisting arrest. Let us then assume that Wilson drew his weapon. If this happens, Wilson has legally threatened Brown with a gun, and Brown does not have a self defense argument for trying to attack and maim or kill the officer. If he does attack the officer, the officer can then shoot him in “self defense.”
In addition to the general principles of self defense, Missouri has specific statutes that are even more lenient on weapons-use by police officers. Under Missouri’s laws, a civilian (non law enforcement officer) will get in trouble a lot more quickly than police officer for unlawful use of a weapon. The law grants exceptions to officers not necessarily available to civilians because officers have been tasked specifically with protecting the peace and compelling lawful behavior.
Getting back to the Grand Jury proceeding: the job of the jury members was not to ponder “Was Wilson a racist?” They should not have discussed, “But don’t you think America is becoming a police state?” They should not have wondered, “Is it necessary to prosecute Wilson as a way for Whites to pay for racism against Blacks?” The jury men and women should not have applied any race or social justice metric that they thought might have been at play in these events to determine if WHITE wilson should be prosecuted for shooting BLACK brown.
They should have been blind to all but the Law.
The Law is [supposed to be] blind. Justice is [supposed to be] blind.
But the jurors, and you, and me, and all of us, we are not to be blind. We need to see: What is right? Does Missouri LAW line up with what is right? Do YOU see people of different races, colors, or ethnic groups being “inferior” as humans to yourself? Do YOU value some people in their intrinsic human worth as being better or higher than others? Do YOU believe that just because someone is “voted into office” or hired to a certain position that the normal moral absolute principles that WE have to live by somehow does not apply?
The Grand Jury was asked to have its eyes opened very wide, and not be blind, to the very specific human beings and incident under its microscope. Darren Wilson is a man. Michael Brown is a man. Michael Brown is dead; that is a tragedy. Perhaps, if Wilson had not shot, Brown would be dead instead. Who knows. That would have been a tragedy. People have been injured and harmed in the riots. Again, tragedies.
The Grand Jury had no business trying to accomplish some vague, broad concept of justice for blacks or any racial minorities. They had no business sending a message to police officers at large to be less trigger happy with their weapons or more respectful of people’s rights. These issues are very legitimate things for you and I to focus on, or for the protesters in Ferguson to focus on. The Jury’s only business was to focus on what happened between Brown and Wilson on that fateful day in August.
But speaking of law: at the end of the day, that Grand Jury needed to make sure that murder is not legalized. I hope and pray those men and women had their moral compasses about them, because when the law grants a privilege to some to kill others for less than morally justifiable reasons, certain murders become “legal.” No human being (and the Grand Jury was made up of human beings) should ever chose man’s law over the evil of murder. Truly and properly applied, concepts of self defense justify the killing of a person to save one’s own life or the life of another. God forbid that a Law ever legally justify that which is morally murder.
Unfortunately, we outside the Grand Jury, will never know if they made the right choice. But one thing of which I am certain, at the end of the day, Justice is established by the one who is no respecter of persons (blind in all the right ways) and sees and knows all.