Many years ago a clergy friend described his condition as “My trusters got busted!” I though the comment communicated very well and I suppose we all feel like that at one time or another. This is more than the discovery of the Easter rabbit or who plays Santa Claus in your house. It happens when something basic seems to get wiped away and the rules appear to no longer apply. Our system of justice has busted a lot of trusters, overloading them like the great New York circuit breakers of the power shortage of some time ago.
I have no law degree so someone with greater knowledge an easily correct my notions. I guess it starts way back with the Magna Carta and the notion that people were tried by a jury of their peers. We have seen a number of cases where a trial by jury was replaced by a grand jury. Perhaps people do not understand the difference. A very simplified definition of a Grand Jury is that it is a legal body empowered to conduct official proceedings to investigate potential criminal conduct and to determine whether potential criminal charges should be brought. We are one of the few countries using grand juries consisting of twelve to twenty-three citizens, a larger number than a trial jury. The Grand Jury Pool includes all persons living in the community under the court’s jurisdiction and the court chooses the candidates. The clerk of the court sends out a mandatory questionnaire to be completed and returned. The court selects the members of the jury on the basis of those questionnaires and the jury is summoned.
In the recent case in Ferguson, Missouri, there was no vetting of the panel. The District Attorney normally provides evidence upon which the grand jury acts. In this case, however, the District Attorney became the lawyer of the potential culprit, turning the proceedings into a jury trial with no one to contest the district attorney’s questions or the evidence presented. The bias of the jury was clearly on the side of the policeman under question and there was no cross examination of the policeman’s testimony. Who would perform the cross examination? It became a trial of the dead victim. Credibility when out the window and the stated contradictions were not addressed.
Our system of justice was compromised by these actions. This bastard process has been repeated in several other incidents. The accountability for action by the police dissolves. The stated reason for action was the policeman’s fear of the victim. He panicked. If he was afraid of large black people, why was he on duty in that neighborhood? The “offense” was that the slain person was walking in the middle of the street. In another case with video evidence, no threat was evident and the plea to allow the victim to breathe fell on deaf ears.
A goodly number of cases occur when police are not held accountable. Policemen act without good judgment and with no one available to prevent abuses. It sounds like the Mei Lei massacre all over again. And then there is the argument that the “perpetrator” might be armed. Hold the NRA accountable for weapons not used to provide a well trained militia (the Constitution’s term) but in an un-trained manner. The proliferation of weapons turns us into the gun fight at OK Corral. And then toss in a few vigilantes for good measure.
It is a horrifying reality that these actions seem more prevalent in the black community, although there are cases among the poorer white communities. Police men can and do act like bullies.
Just for grins, consider the number of persons killed by policemen in the United Kingdom. Zero. And policemen are not armed.
Toss in the 12.9.2014 Senate report on the CIA and torture. That was a Cheney/Bush/Ashcroft response to 911. We lost was more than the Twin Towers. We lost a hunk of our soul.
Lady Justice has had her skirts soiled and credibility must be restored to save us from our own self induced mobbery.