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Oct. 15, 2014

Darren Wilson likely to escape punishment

by Nicholas Shereikis, Grand Vizier
Roughly two months have passed since Michael Brown was brutally shot and murdered in Ferguson, Missouri. Officer Darren Wilson, responsible for the death, testified in court for almost four hours on Tuesday, Sept. 9. The grand jury has now delayed the decision of his indictment another 60 days, in addition to the four-month period already given, and it looks as though Wilson will be acquitted. This speaks volumes about the ineffectiveness of our legal system, especially in certain states.

Let's start from the beginning. Eighteen-year-old Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head. He was unarmed, and there is no question that it was Wilson who killed him. According to Dorin Johnson, who was with Brown at the time of his death, and other eyewitnesses, the police officer ordered Brown and Johnson to "get the f**k on the sidewalk," followed with "I'm gonna shoot you" when they didn't comply. After his death, Brown was left on the street until authorities found him hours later. Wilson was placed on paid administrative leave.
A protester in Ferguson, Missouri, advocates for Wilson's conviction. Courtesy of the Russian Times
A protester in Ferguson, Missouri, advocates for Wilson's conviction.

Wilson enters his trial with a considerable advantage: he's a policeman. Although everyone's supposedly treated equally under the eyes of the law, jurors tend to favor policemen in court cases. Many jurors readily admit to giving more credential to police officers than others, and a study by the National Law Journal shows that 64 percent believe that police officers usually tell the truth when they testify. This will tilt the scales heavily in Wilson's favor.

The fact that Wilson murdered Brown is beyond reasonable doubt, which in most states is enough to prosecute the defendant. Once that's established, it becomes the defendant's job to persuade the jury that their actions were justified. If he can provide an affirmative defense that the circumstances were exceptional, the defendant can reduce his consequences or get off. In Missouri, however, this is not the case. Here, the prosecution must prove not only beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime, but they must also disprove any justification from the defendant. If there is any reasonable doubt as to whether the crime was committed in self-defense, for example, state law requires the acquittal of the defendant. This means that Wilson, as long as he maintains that he was acting in self-defense, has a high chance of escaping punishment.

Wilson will also likely charge Brown with evading arrest or assault. This includes everything from running to threatening an officer, and will be difficult to disprove. With that in mind, Darren Wilson's chances of being acquitted of the murder just keep getting higher.
Prosecutor Robert McCulloch will also play an important role in the decision. McCulloch's father was a cop who was killed while on duty when he was young, which will surely influence his opinion on the case. McCulloch also has a history of acquitting white officers charged with killing black citizens, as he did in a case in 2000.

However, the principle reason Wilson will most likely get off is because of his race. A 2012 study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics found that "defendants of each race do relatively better when the jury pool contains more members of their own race." That being said, the trial is taking place in St. Louis County, whose population is 70.3 percent white. This means that there is a high chance the jurors are white, increasing Wilson's chances of escaping charges. Research done by the National Law Journal also indicates that Americans more readily believe that young African-American men have displayed violent behavior than young white men.

It's absurd that a man who has clearly murdered another human would ever escape consequences for his actions. However, because of state laws and bias towards profession and race, it has become the norm in many parts of the country. States like Missouri gift the defendant a heavy advantage before the trial even starts in a huge perversion of federal law. The rare case where a situation calls for killing, and where there is no need for the justification of murder, has a name: war. And it has no place in the middle of Ferguson, Missouri.

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  • Justwow on October 16, 2014 at 11:36 AM
    Most biased article ever when it comes to opinions.
    • what. on December 7, 2014 at 2:11 PM
      isn't that the point?

      it's an op-ed..

      well-predicted, btw
  • Patricia Lewis (View Email) on October 16, 2014 at 5:14 PM
    I do not understand your insistence that a Police officer is guilty of murder. I find it hard to believe the man who was with Mr. Brown. He left too much out in the first telling. The video of their actions just a few minutes before the confrontation is very telling. If young men in my neighborhood acted like that in a local store I would expect my police department to stop them. If two young men were walking down the middle of the street I would expect my police department to detain them. If two young men do not obey the instructions from the police they will also not obey laws that help us all live together. This young man was willing to confront an armed police officer. What chance do I have if I disagree with him. The police officer may well of overreacted to his perceived danger and that is something that is to be determined by objective people. Not mobs who demand we change our laws for them. The sad part of this whole mess is that I don't think that the people of Ferguson realize they picked the wrong person to hang their complaints on. The young man was not innocent. I do think some changes are needed, but if you look at the opinions from the USA in total, the public is not with them. Too many questions about the young man. The media is not going to make rational thinking people get on this bandwagon, no matter how matter articles and opinions you put in newspapers and online. Have you realized that major media is giving this very little coverage. Do you Know the outrage that was directed at them by the public. We were outraged at their bias and they got the message loud and clear. Mr. Brown was not an innocent person that was targeted by the police. He drew the police to him by his actions not his color and he reacted in a totally wrong manner. You will not find my name on sites that argue this nor will you find any ugly racist comments from me anywhere. I make this comment here only because I can tell you my opinion and not be subject to being called names and told that my opinion is solely based on my color. My opinion is based on what I expect my police department to do to keep my neighborhood safe and I do not want young people, black or white to push a store owner, take things that do not belong to them, or walk down the middle of the street. I do not want the police to kill someone for these offenses, and if Mr. Brown had complied with the officer he would still be alive. I want to live in a neighborhood where parents teach their children to obey the police and challenge them court if they think the are wrong. I do not want thugs running the streets where I live.
    • You've got to be kidding me... on October 18, 2014 at 11:58 AM
      Yes, Michael Brown stole some cigarettes from a convenience store. Yes, Darren Wilson had the prerogative to stop him. No one's questioning that, as you seem to believe.

      What's in dispute is Wilson's response to Brown putting his hands up and exclaiming "Don't Shoot!" Any other police officer would have simply taken Brown into custody, but Wilson instead somehow felt the need to plant six rounds straight into Brown's back. Generally, killing someone without cause is called "murder."

      You complain that the people of Ferguson shouldn't be so worked up about this. But you don't know what they've dealt with. For decades, America's urban African-American population has suffered from the brutality and profiling of racist, white officers, who are almost always cleared of all wrongdoing whenever there is an attempt to hold them to account for their actions.

      The Michael Brown case has just been the final straw for so many frustrated people, who feel as if going through the normal legal channels just isn't going to work and just want to live in a community safe from both criminals and rogue police officers.

      If you really want thugs off your streets, then you'd support bringing Darren Wilson to justice.
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