Books, Pop Culture and Political Humor from J.D. Rhoades, best-selling author, attorney, and award-winning newspaper columnist.
"Like [Lee] Child, Rhoades dishes out one airtight action scene after another, mixing in just enough character-building moments and holding our interest in a full cast of nicely developed supporting players."-Booklist
The one thing that kept going through my mind as the world waited and waited and waited for the grand jury decision in the case of State of Missouri vs. Darren Wilson was, “Man, I wish every defendant got the level of due process that guy’s getting.”
Because let me tell you, folks, if it had been Michael Brown’s case — or yours or mine, for that matter — in front of that grand jury, there wouldn’t have been weeks of waiting for a decision. The grand jury would have indicted and been home before lunch.
I’ve been in Superior Court when a grand jury is meeting more times than I can count. I’ve seen a couple of hundred cases at a time handed to them. And I’ve seen those cases come back within hours with every single blessed one of them marked “a true bill.” Many of those defendants that go to trial are either exonerated or found guilty of lesser charges by the full or “petit” jury.
No less a conservative jurist than Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has explained the purpose of the grand jury as “not to determine guilt or innocence, but to assess whether there is adequate basis for bringing a criminal charge. … That has always been so; and to make the assessment, it has always been thought sufficient to hear only the prosecutor’s side.”
A typical grand jury hears only what the prosecutor wants it to hear and routinely rubber-stamps whatever the DA asks for.
The way prosecutor Robert McCulloch presented the Wilson case to the grand jury, however, was, to say the least, extraordinary. Rather than present the evidence most favorable to the state and ask for a specific charge, as it’s usually done, McCulloch decided he’d present all the evidence, good and bad, to the grand jury, and let it decide.
Sounds great, huh? I agree. I’d love it if all grand juries were like that. But they’re not. Not for the likes of you and me. Instead of the usual procedure, McCulloch transformed the grand jury into a mini-trial of the matter — which his office then proceeded to deliberately lose for the state.
If you look at the transcripts, you see DAs vigorously cross-examining the witnesses who support what would have normally been the state’s case, while treating the supposed defendant with kid gloves and accepting his story at face value. (“If he had not grabbed the gun while he was hitting you in the face, would you still have used deadly force”?)
St. Louis County Assistant District Attorneys Kathy Alizadeh and Sheila Whirley, who examined Wilson, didn’t even bother to cross-examine him on the unlikely things in his testimony. Things like Wilson’s claim that Michael Brown hit him in the face — hard enough to make Wilson fear for his life — with his right hand, a hand Wilson claimed was still holding stolen cigarillos from a convenience store robbery, and yet didn’t break or damage any of those cigarillos. (Q: “Were there any broken cigarillos or anything in your car later?” A: “No.”)
Or the claim that Michael Brown was “reaching into his waistband” as he supposedly charged Wilson, even though, since he was unarmed, there was absolutely nothing to reach for. Or Wilson’s assertion that Brown ran 20-30 feet away from the police car before turning back and charging another 10 feet back toward Wilson, when Brown (as even McCulloch later admitted in his own press conference) died about 150 feet away from the car.
Any DA would have asked these questions — if he or she was trying even halfheartedly for an indictment.
Perhaps the most stunning thing the DA’s office did in throwing this case occurred on Sept. 16, shortly before Wilson testified. At that time, Alizadeh handed the jury a 1979 Missouri statute that says that an officer has the right to use deadly force if “immediately necessary to effect the arrest or prevent the escape from custody.” Alizadeh did not, however, mention that statutes like that had been found unconstitutional six years later by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The St. Louis County DA’s office threw that hearing. And it did so as clumsily as a novice WWE wrestler taking his first dive pursuant to that night’s script.
Darren Wilson may or may not be guilty of murdering Michael Brown. One thing is undeniable, however: He did not receive something that is supposed to be so fundamental a principle of our system that it’s carved into the front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building: “equal justice under law.”
Darren Wilson got breaks from the prosecution that no one else would have. And that is why people are in the streets.
THE GOBSHITES SPEAK:
I knew this one would produce a storm of nasty personal attacks and utterly uninformed balderdash from laypeople claiming expertise in the law while managing to get everything wrong. As usual, I'm right.
Anonymous coward "pearlharbor" writes:
...are you unclear why Wilson shot Brown? Or are you unclear why this was even a story?Let me help you. Brown messed with the wrong cop. If it were me, and I was a cop and some thug reached into my car I would have shot him right then and there.
Inevitably in a story like this, some troll beats their chest and announces how they would have been big and tough and brave in this situation and busted a cap in some thug's ass. The claim of being a tough guy might be a little more credible if the person making it wasn't afraid to use their own name.
Pearl goes on: To your confusion about the grand jury. Seems like your experience as an attorney is getting in the way of your judgement. [sic] They look at the evidence and decide whether there is enough to convict.
No, they are supposed to look at the evidence and see if, weighing that evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, there is enough to go to trial.
Maybe in your little legal world defending Michael Brown types it's crystal clear. But out here in the real world average people tend to look at the facts and decide not twist them to mold the outcome they want. It's sad when an attorney loses faith in the system he's been manipulating over the years.
Thanks for the vote of confidence in my ability to manipulate the system. I'm in the phone book.
The aptly named Walter B, Bull Jr. has this to offer:
You are an Officer of the Court Dusty and when you have nothing important to say you should just "sit down and shut up."
Mr. Bull, as it turns out, "wrote and published a newspaper, “The Sandhills Pulse” that was distributed in the local community" and now stylesl himself "The Voice of NC" on a blog. Until today, neither I nor anyone I know has ever heard of either the failed "newspaper" or the blog. Those who can, do; those who can't, tell those who can to sit down and shut up.
Of course, no visit to the comments section would be complete without a visit from inveterate gobshite "Francis", he of over 1180 posts, almost all of them personal attacks on me, several of which have been outright libelous and have thus been deleted:
I would comment but it will be deleted, so I agree " just sit down and shut up ", you have no more information on this than anyone else, always trying to be more than you are.
A U.S. president, without action by Congress, takes unilateral executive action to delay deportation and grant work permits to children of undocumented immigrants who would not otherwise be eligible for citizenship.
The president: Ronald Reagan, patron saint of the right wing. The year: 1987. Cries of “tyranny!”, threats of lawsuits, and calls for impeachment: zero.
Another U.S. president expands the program to defer deportation for even more immigrants, again via executive action. The president: George H.W. Bush. The year: 1990. Cries of “tyranny!”, threats of lawsuits, and calls for impeachment: zero.
In 2014, a U.S. president takes executive action after numerous requests for Congress to do something about the broken immigration system. The president: Barack Obama. Cries of “tyranny!”, threats of lawsuits, and calls for impeachment: too many to count.
Actually, I’m sure that the “Republican leadership” (two words I can hardly put in the same sentence without laughing) breathed a huge sigh of relief after the president gave his speech announcing what he planned to do. This is exactly what they wanted. I knew this the minute the Republicans started talking about how any executive action would “poison the well,” meaning that they wouldn’t even try to take action on immigration if Obama did.
The thing is, the GOP really doesn’t want to talk about reforming immigration. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are terrified of even bringing it up. They know that any realistic immigration reform will have to include some kind of path to legal citizenship for at least some currently illegal immigrants. But they also know that that will send the Teahadist wing of the GOP into a frothing rage.
No matter how many conditions, background checks, payment of back taxes or other conditions that proposed path may require, Boehner and McConnell are very aware that the Raging Right will call anything short of mass imprisonment and automatic deportation “amnesty.” They know that they won’t be able to prevent crackpots like Louie Gohmert or Tom Coburn from saying something racist, xenophobic or condescending that will alienate Latinos even further than their party already has.
Any actual debate on immigration reform, even among the majority, would split the Republican Party and drive America’s fastest growing constituency even further away than they already have.
Immediately after the president’s speech, Boehner told the press: “With this action, the president has chosen to deliberately sabotage any chance of enacting bipartisan reforms that he claims to seek.”
This position is patently absurd. There is absolutely nothing about President Obama’s executive action that keeps Congress from passing its own bill on immigration reform. There is no provision in the Constitution or any federal law that says “should the president do something that hurts the feelings of the majority party, said party shall thenceforth be without power to pass legislation, so there.”
The only thing that’s stopping the Republicans from doing their job of passing legislation is the inability of their “leadership” (chuckle) to actually get their motley collection of nutcases, prima donnas, grifters and future Fox News hosts to fall in line, stop playing to the cameras, and, as the president challenged them in his speech, “pass a bill.”
The Obama administration’s response to every question or complaint needs to be those three words: “Pass a bill.”
“This is dictatorship!” … “Pass a bill.”
“You’re acting lawlessly!” … “Pass a bill.”
“You’re not the boss of us!” … “Pass a bill.”
“You should go to jail for this!” … “Pass. A. Bill.”
In fact, a comprehensive bipartisan immigration bill has already passed the Senate — 68-32, with 14 Republicans crossing the aisle to vote for it. It provides for increased border security, requires mandatory verification systems by employers, and yes, contains an arduous 13-year path to citizenship that could only be called “amnesty” by people completely unaware of what that word actually means. That bill was strangled in its crib by the House.
The House could take up the Senate bill or provide its own version. But that’s not going to happen. The Republicans will stomp their feet and yell and send out fundraising letters and emails. They’ll threaten and maybe even file lawsuits. They’ll threaten to shut down the government and maybe even do it. They’ll threaten to impeach, and maybe even do it. Will they do the one thing that would make this unnecessary, which is pass a bill?
We can expect more useless political theater from the party that can win a midterm where only 36.4 percent of the voters show up (a 72-year low), but which is utterly incapable of actually governing afterward.