1408390089660_Image_galleryImage_Officer_DARREN_WILSON_picstlouis13n-14-webThe Grand Jury in Missouri appears to have rendered its decision in the shooting investigation Michael Brown. It is expected to be announced shortly. Below is my column in USA Today.

In anticipation of the decision on whether to indict officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, the town of Ferguson, Mo., is a virtual armed camp. Schools are closed. The National Guard was called out when the governor declared a state of emergency. The emergency? A grand jury announcement.

While most protesters have engaged in legitimate and lawful speech, others used the shooting of the black teenager by a white police officer as justification to loot the town. State and federal forces are assembling in Ferguson in expectation that some protesters will riot unless there is a criminal charge. Those who insist that “justice” can be found only in jail for Wilson are speaking not of real justice but mob justice.

After the fatal encounter on Canfield Drive, there was good reason for many to question the shooting of Brown. The 18-year-old was unarmed, and police say he had committed a minor theft before being stopped by Wilson. Given the continuing cases of the profiling and shooting of black males by police, there was ample reason for suspicion. However, there was also ample reason for caution before declaring Wilson was a murderer.

Dueling stories

Within hours of the shooting, two clear and equally plausible narratives emerged. From the police account, Brown attacked Wilson after the officer confronted him for blocking the street. In the ensuing struggle in the patrol car, Brown was shot when he grabbed for the officer’s gun and then shot repeatedly outside of the vehicle. From the account of Brown’s friend (and others), Wilson gunned down Brown after the stop without provocation, including shooting him when he had his hands in the air. Each account has one of the men acting in an unprovoked and violent manner. If either account is true, it will be determined through investigations, not demonstrations.

Rioters, who somehow rationalized looting as acts of moral outrage, weren’t willing to wait for evidence. What is surprising is that national and local leaders showed the same impatience.

220px-Jay_Nixon_cropSoon after the shooting, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon referred to Brown as the “victim” despite Wilson’s insistence that Brown attacked him. Nixon denounced the police for releasing video that they say shows Brown robbing a store and threatening the clerk as besmirching the victim. Nixon also called for the pursuit of “a vigorous prosecution” for the shooting. A governor’s foremost responsibility is to demand not prosecution but the truth from an unbiased investigation.

Premature federal role

holderericAttorney General Eric Holder was also criticized for his reaction. Holder said he shared the same experience of profiling and abuse at the hands of police. As he did in the Trayvon Martin case, Holder sent in federal civil rights investigators before the initial investigation ended. Such federal investigations are ideally launched after state trials or, at a minimum, after an investigation is complete. When the federal government steps in, it can make the process look political and ultimately fuel discontent when it too rejects charges. Even before the grand jury has rendered its decision, The Washington Post reports that Holder’s investigators failed to uncover evidence to support civil rights charges.

That’s because the evidence in this case gives Wilson a strong defense. Brown allegedly was coming from the commission of a crime where he appeared to threaten a store clerk. The forensic evidence appears to contradict those who insist that Brown was not shot in a struggle but with his hands in the air. There is evidence that Wilson was injured in a struggle, the gun was discharged in the car and Brown was shot at close quarters leaving blood on the gun. Finally, more than a half-dozen black witnesses reportedly gave testimony supporting Wilson. Other scenarios could explain the evidence, and there is still the question of why so many shots were fired. But those questions might never be answered, a reality of some criminal cases.

The law requires us to deal with facts, and when those facts do not support a criminal charge, prosecution is barred regardless of popular demand.

In the end, it rings hollow to cry “no justice, no peace” when you are rioting or looting. There can be no justice if it is merely the result of demonstrations rather than demonstrated facts. Otherwise, the scales of justice become just one more object to throw through the window of an appliance store.

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, has represented both protesters and police officers.

November 24, 2014


  1. Squeeky,
    I would want the case to handled the same way he handles the majority of his cases when going to a grand jury. By doing it this way, the evidence presented is a document dump into 12 people with out the victim’s rights being represented by an attorney and the officer’s rights being represented by an attorney, all in front of a judge and jury, in the open.

  2. Rafflaw, you did misunderstand Nancy’c comment a few days ago, I even posted a follow up comment to help you see that you were misunderstanding, but I guess I should not say what I think….as reality may be insulting to someone…ok I will be not point out your future misunderstandings.

  3. Observer,
    Nice touch with the insult. It is amazing that someone with a different opinion of yours is met with an insult. This blog is designed to discuss the issues of the day and legal issues not to insult commenters. But what do I know. I just have a tendency to misunderstand things.

  4. @Rafflaw

    Then you would be happier if somebody who the evidence indicates was innocent, was instead subjected to a trial sooo that the community would be happy??? That doesn’t seem right to me.

    My GUESS is the prosecutor never thought Wilson was guilty in the first place, but did not want to just refuse to have some sort of public review of the evidence. It sounds like it was pretty obvious from the get go that Dorian Johnson was lying like a dog.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  5. Has anyone in the administration heard of “projective identification”, God help us prevent more harm to this country in the next two years.

  6. happypappies,
    at least spell my name right.
    This situation is bigger than just Ferguson. Too many people of color are cut down by police with little or no justice for the family of the deceased. If I was in the press conference, I would have asked why Officer Wilson ran after Michael Brown after already wounding him, without back up available? I would have asked what percentage of the grand jury cases were handled in this way? I understand the grand jury system, but I have never liked them. By the prosecutor allegedly giving the jurors all of the evidence instead of the evidence he thought would produce an indictment, does it not set up a secret trial which the community would be given an excuse to not trust it. Why not try to go to trial, if there is enough evidence for an indictment if handled normally and have a public trial to air this evidence? Wouldn’t that produce a more believable result for the community as a whole?

    1. rafflaw

      I can’t spell right when I am sick unto death and emotional

      Squeeky – sorry – I am emotional

  7. @Rafflaw

    No, you are wrong. We got into this because a black guy attacked a white cop, and got shot, and the racist liberal left decided the white cop was guilty before there was any evidence.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  8. plus, did you see his speech today, could he be more condescending towards the police. Incredible, that again adds fuel to the fire !

  9. @Darren Smith

    Not only did they jump BEFORE there was evidence, some of them refuse to jump back even AFTER the evidence has come out. Megyn Kelly just interviewed some little black twerpy talking head guy, and it is like the concept of the grand jury going through the evidence never occurred. All that guy sees is “unarmed black guy” and “white cop” and that’s the whole story. Nothing else matters.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  10. Darren, I cant agree more with you. I had said the exact same thing when President (US) had bought airtime on Pakistan TV apologizing for the video and begging not to attack the embassy there. I had said to myself what the heck he is doing , he is actually inciting people to do just that, and will be responsible for even increased risk of violence. Of course there was violence and poor policemen were killed there by the protesters. There is just no area where the current president and his AG fails not to disappoint me.

  11. I hope the federal government, the Missouri governor, the opportunists, and the media are happy now because this rioting is the precise outcome that could easily have been anticipated by their actions in inflaming the issue before it was decided.

    Rather than wait until the evidence was gathered, and reviewed legitimately and quietly like any other police or grand jury investigation, they threw many logs and gasoline into the fireplace and later proclaimed they hoped that despite the matchboxes stacked up on the mantle, nobody would light a match.

    Making statements that the national guard would be called out, states of emergency, continual showing of police and troops riot geared up is just going to invite a confrontation. It happens most of the time.

    Afterwards a frank and open discussion could have transpired but when you have government officials ramping up expectations that this was a racist issue and burdening this officer with all the nation’s pent up unhappiness and legitimate issues relating issues of race in the nation where the only possible outcome could only be his lifelong incarceration there is very little chance rioting would not happen. It almost seemed they wanted the situation to end badly.

    While the press had a noble cause in reporting the matter, So many elected officials had no business in politicizing the matter without all the facts being reviewed. This is one example of what can happen when politicians become intertwined in individual criminal justice issues and use individuals and situations for their own political gain or agenda.

    1. Darren, you always write eloquently directly from your heart. This is ecacly how I feel and I am unable to express it this well. I am going to use your comment on my Facebook if you don’t mind.

    1. Squeeky, they have a job open for you in North County. I just was talking to them and they were asking for you by name 🙂

  12. Ooops, I was wrong. Gov. Nixon has already issued the State of Emergency order a week ago, and it is good for 30 days:

    WHEREAS, the City of Ferguson and the St. Louis region have experienced periods of unrest over the past three months; and

    WHEREAS, the United States Department of Justice and St. Louis County authorities are conducting separate criminal investigations into the facts surrounding the death of Michael Brown; and

    WHEREAS, the United States Department of Justice and St. Louis County authorities could soon announce the findings of their independent criminal investigations; and

    WHEREAS, regardless of the outcomes of the federal and state criminal investigations, there is the possibility of expanded unrest; and

    WHEREAS, the State of Missouri will be prepared to appropriately respond to any reaction to these announcements; and

    WHEREAS, our citizens have the right to peacefully assemble and protest and the State of Missouri is committed to protecting those rights; and

    WHEREAS, our citizens and businesses must be protected from violence and damage; and

    WHEREAS, an invocation of the provisions of Sections 44.010 through 44.130, RSMo, is appropriate to ensure the safety and welfare of our citizens.

    NOW, THEREFORE, I, JEREMIAH W. (JAY) NIXON, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF MISSOURI, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and Laws of the State of Missouri, including Sections 44.010 through 44.130, RSMo, do hereby declare a State of Emergency exists in the State of Missouri.

    I further direct the Missouri State Highway Patrol together with the St. Louis County Police Department and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to operate as a Unified Command to protect civil rights and ensure public safety in the City of Ferguson and the St. Louis region.

    I further order that the St. Louis County Police Department shall have command and operational control over security in the City of Ferguson relating to areas of protests, acts of civil disobedience and conduct otherwise arising from such activities.

    I further order that the Unified Command may exercise operational authority in such other jurisdictions it deems necessary to protect civil rights and ensure public safety and that other law enforcement agencies shall assist the Unified Command when so requested and shall cooperate with operational directives of the Unified Command.

    I further order, pursuant to Section 41.480, RSMo, the Adjutant General of the State of Missouri, or his designee, to forthwith call and order into active service such portions of the organized militia as he deems necessary to protect life and property and assist civilian authorities and it is further directed that the Adjutant General or his designee, and through him, the commanding officer of any unit or other organization of such organized militia so called into active service take such action and employ such equipment as may be necessary to carry out requests processed through the Missouri State Highway Patrol and ordered by the Governor of the state to protect life and property and support civilian authorities.

    This Order shall expire in thirty days unless extended in whole or in part by subsequent Executive Order.

    IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the Great Seal of the State of Missouri, in the City of Jefferson, on this 17th day of November, 2014.

    Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon



    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

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