July| Vol. 22 No. 8.02 | Christian's Chronicles © 2015 – All rights reserved.
In the continuing saga of Ferguson and the fateful encounter between officer Wilson and Michael Brown, a decision in the parallel federal investigation is forthcoming. As reported by the NY Times, and again at KQED news, the federal investigation into officer Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown is not expected to result in any charges.
The grand jury decision that failed to indict Darren Wilson on charges of murder in this much-publicized case that set off peaceful protests as well as sometimes violent riots across the country was the state counterpart to the federal investigation into possible liability arising out of the police officer’s conduct in the encounter. Whereas state law encompasses jurisdiction over crimes of homicide, such as murder and manslaughter, the federal investigation is limited to jurisdiction over criminal charges arising out of civil rights violations, arising out of conduct such as excessive force and racial discrimination.
Perhaps more noteworthy than the decision itself are some of the comments that appear below the facebook post of KQED’s version of the story. Some comments support the decisions, others disagree, and a few are undecided. But, as one post describes this outcome, likely no amount of judicial process is sufficient to satisfy some:
“Ultimately the justice department is part of the same system of oppression and exploitation. Eric Holder is a joke. Racist people think this is about Michael Brown, a young man with no criminal record who was destined for college. Those who welcome police as judge/jury/executioner should enjoy the police state they support, till it targets them, of course.”
It may be worthwhile to point out that the above quote appears to render void almost any evidence or conclusion contrary to its author’s prejudice toward the conclusion that officer Wilson must be held responsible in some manner, despite the contrary result of two processes of “the same system of oppression and exploitation.” In other words, it reflects an absolute and complete bias toward one interpretation, which does not allow for any semblance of independent, objective evaluation.
It reflects precisely the attitude we ought to avoid at all costs from entering into our system of justice.
As noted elsewhere, neither this world-renowned reporter, nor nearly all of the opinionated talking heads on one or the other side of this controversy were present. Even those who were physically present and saw (or claimed to have seen) the encounter sometimes sharply disagree on exactly what happened. That may explain why the prosecutor decided early on to present all testimony to the grand jury, so as to allow that group of individuals with no stake in the outcome to make the decision on indictment based on all available evidence. And, of course, in addition to eyewitness testimony and its notoriously unreliable nature, there was physical evidence, some of which served to discredit or corroborate certain witnesses. That is a horse beaten far beyond death by now, with no need for resuscitation.
In my view, these incidents underscore the necessity to support an adversarial justice system, regardless of how one may view the events in Ferguson. There are always at least two sides to each story. Rather than allowing the fickle passions of public sentiment or mob rule to win the day, as they have appeared to do in some of the violent rioting and looting for which this incident served as a poor excuse, a dispassionate process is necessary to sort out fact from fiction as much as possible, and as fairly as possible.
I also believe that the manner in which we receive and disseminate information nowadays tends to create an environment that is not conducive to impartial judgment or even critical thinking. The above quote is a perfect illustration. It reflects a reality wherein one’s beliefs are confirmed at every juncture, whether through suggested stories based on what one reads and shares with friends on social media, or through one’s chosen version of slant in traditional media ‘news’ outlets (be it Jon Stewart, whose comedy show has stepped into the shoes of a news service for a certain demographic, or long-time cheerleader for everything right-wing, Rush Limbaugh).
Ever the shining tower of impartiality and beacon of truth, we at The Chronicles leave it to the reader to make up his or her puny little mind. With that in mind, be an obedient little reader and take the poll below: