By Elaine Magliaro
One of the images that came to my mind when I thought about the situation faced by the Ferguson grand jury was of Pontius Pilate washing his hands. Pontius Pilate–that’s who it seemed St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch was acting like. He appeared to wash his hands of any responsibility in the case of Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. McCulloch dumped all the evidence on the the grand jury, provided no guidance to the jurors, and left the grand jury to make the decision.
Back on September 12th, Dana Milbank (Washington Post) wrote that the “latest evidence” that the fix was in had come from The Post’s Kimberly Kindy and Carol Leonnig, who had discovered that McCulloch’s office had declined to recommend any charges to the grand jury. He said that instead, McCulloch’s prosecutors who were handling the case were taking “the highly unusual course of dumping all evidence on the jurors and leaving them to make sense of it.”
On Monday, Charles Pierce wrote an article for his Politics Blog at Esquire titled Dead of the Night: The Ferguson Decision. In his piece, Pierce talked about what has been going on with some police departments in this country and the way law enforcement looks at citizens. He mentioned two specific cases–Salt Lake City where the “police had become more dangerous to the public welfare than are the local drug gangs” and to the city of Cleveland where “a 12-year-old waving a toy gun was shot and killed by a rookie officer” recently.
Did you that more Utahns have been killed by police in Salt Lake City in the past five years than by gang members…or by drug dealers…or by child abuse?
The Salt Lake Tribune:
And so far this year, deadly force by police has claimed more lives — 13, including a Saturday shooting in South Jordan — than has violence between spouses and dating partners.
As the tally of fatal police shootings rises, law enforcement watchdogs say it is time to treat deadly force as a potentially serious public safety problem.
There is something gone badly wrong in the way police are taught to look at civilians these days. This is the logic of an occupying power being employed on American citizens. Ever since 9/11, when we all began to be told that we were going to have to bend a little bit, and then a little bit more, to authority or else we’d all die, the police in this country have been militarized in their tactics and in their equipment, which is bad enough, but in their attitudes and their mentality, which is far, far worse. Suspicion has bled into weaponized paranoia, especially in the case of black and brown people, especially in the case of young men who are black or brown, but this is not About Race because nothing ever is About Race. Even the potential of a threat requires a deadly response, Dick Cheney’s one-percent idea brought to American cities and towns until Salt Lake City, of all places, winds up with cops who are deadlier on the streets than drug dealers. This is how you wind up with Darren Wilson. This is how you wind up with Michael Brown, dead in the middle of the road. This is how Darren Wilson walks, tonight, for the killing of Michael Brown. This is how you end up with an American horror story.
Then Pierce focused his attention on St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch.
Jesus Mary, this Bob McCulloch guy may be the single greasiest public servant I’ve ever encountered. I’ve never seen a DA who was so damned proud of himself for putting a grand jury on automatic pilot. (See, “Ham sandwich, indictment of.”) And I’ve never seen such a perfect mixture of condescension and willful nonfeasance in my many years of watching how law enforcement in this country operates. This, after all, is a guy who once personally wrangled a grand jury to discover the identity of a whistleblower. This is a guy who once lied through his teeth about another police shooting, this one involving a car that allegedly “charged” a couple of officers, much as Michael Brown allegedly “charged” Darren Wilson.
Pierce added that the “kindest evaluation of McCulloch’s record is that he is a very active prosecutor with a very clear sense of what he can make a grand jury do, if he chooses to do so, which he did not in this case, for reasons that are far from unclear.” Pierce continued, “In the most high-profile case of his career, prosecutor Bob McCulloch insisted he was just a feather in the wind, just gathering evidence so the grand jury could make up its own mind, not directing it at all. And then, Monday night, he hummina-hummina’ed for seven full minutes before announcing the least shocking news of the day. Darren Wilson did not commit a crime by shooting Michael Brown dead in broad daylight in the middle of the street.”
But–as Pierce noted–public servant McCulloch–knew what the real problem with this investigation was:
“The most significant challenge encountered in this investigation has been the 24-hour news cycle and its insatiable appetite for something, for anything to talk about, following closely behind with the non-stop rumors on social media.”
That’s right! That’s what the St. Louis County prosecutor actually said.
Arthur Chu (The Daily Beast) wrote that McCulloch “refused to lay responsibility at society’s inherent racism, or the brutality of Ferguson police, or even the man who put six bullets in an unarmed teen. Instead, he blamed the media.”
Regarding inherent racism: “ProPublica recently found that ‘young black men are 21 times as likely as their white peers to be killed by police,’ according to data collected between 2010 and 2012.” (Huffington Post)
Chief Judge Sol Wachtler of New York once said that if a district attorney wanted, a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich.
Peter D. Kramer (The Journal News):
Grand juries, Wachtler argued, serve the prosecutor and give the prosecutor what the prosecutor wants.
It appears that McCulloch got exactly what he wanted.
Ferguson tragedy becoming a farce (Washington Post)
DEAD OF NIGHT: THE FERGUSON DECISION (Esquire)
Killings by Utah police outpacing gang, drug, child-abuse homicides (Salt Lake Tribune)
I Blame People Who Blame the Media: Robert McCulloch’s Tone-Deaf Speech (The Daily Beast)
Ferguson: Prosecutor’s actions ‘peculiar,’ Pace professor says (The Journal News)