Systemic Injustice in America
by Stephen Lendman
Monday’s grand jury exoneration of Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson didn’t surprise. Injustice triumphed.
A previous article called justice in America a four-letter word. Killer cops mock it. Nearly always with impunity. A badge lets them brutalize and kill.
Blacks, Latinos, ethnic minorities and Muslims suffer most. They’re targets of choice. Police violence occurs multiple times daily across America.
In big cities. Small ones. Urban areas. Rural ones. Militarized police make their own rules. Operating extrajudicially.
Killing with impunity. On August 9, officer Darren Wilson murdered 18-year-old Michael Brown. In cold blood. Without probable cause.
Brown was unarmed. Posed no threat. Had no criminal record. An independent autopsy showed he was shot six times.
Ferguson police lied. Claiming Brown’s shooting followed an altercation he initiated. Saying he tried to grab officer Wilson’s gun.
He wasn’t close enough to do it. No powder burns on his hands, arms or body proved it.
Forensic evidence showed Brown was either walking away from officer Wilson or had his hands raised in a “don’t shoot” position. Eyewitnesses confirmed the same thing.
At the time, ACLU staff attorney Nusrat Choudhury said killing Brown raised disturbing questions about how often police brutalize unarmed black and Latino men in America.
“(F)ar too often,” she stressed. Rarely ever are cops held accountable. More on this below.
Obama failed to express outrage. Ignored systemic police violence and brutality in America. Nearly always with impunity.
Saying “we are a nation built on the rule of law. (W)e need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make.”
“There are Americans who agree with it, and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed…”
Dismissively asking everyone protesting the grand jury’s decision “to do so peacefully.” Ludicrously “appeal(ing) to the law enforcement officials in Ferguson and the region to show care and restraint in managing peaceful protests that may occur.”
“Understand, our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day,” he said. Protecting privilege from beneficial social change. Equity and justice for all don’t matter.
Obama lied claiming “enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades.”
Jim Crow thrives. America is separate and unequal. Its human and civil rights record is by far the world’s worst.
Most unprincipled. Most dismissive of rule of law principles. Fundamental democratic values.
Responsible for virtually every crime imaginable and then some. More police state than democracy. More battleground than homeland.
Fundamental constitutionally guaranteed rights don’t matter. They’re disappearing in plain sight. Cops have license to kill.
Anyone can be arrested, charged, prosecuted, and imprisoned for any reason or none at all. Others can be detained indefinitely. Uncharged. Untried. Denied due process and judicial fairness.
Innocence is no defense. Wilson’s guilt didn’t matter. Federal, state and local authorities operate extrajudicially.
On July 2, 1964, Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. It was more hype than reality. Things today are worse than ever in modern times.
Johnson’s statement at the time rang hollow. Calling Civil Rights Act legislation a “proud triumph.”
“Americans of every race and color have died in battle to protect our freedom,” he said.
They died for imperial lawlessness. More than ever today. Johnson didn’t explain. Nor presidents succeeding him.
“Americans of every race and color have worked to build a nation of widening opportunities,” he said. For America’s rich, well-born and able alone.
“Now our generation of Americans has been called on to continue the unending search for justice within our own borders,” he added.
It’s selectively given. America has the best democracy money can buy.
“We believe that all men are created equal,” said Johnson. “Yet many are denied equal treatment.”
The vast majority today. A select few benefit. At the expense of all others.
“We believe that all men have certain unalienable rights,” said Johnson. Denied for America’s most disadvantaged.
Rule of law principles are ignored. Democracy is pure fantasy. Wealth, power and privilege alone matter. Popular needs and rights go begging. For people of color most of all.
Public outrage followed Brown’s exoneration. Center for Constitutional Rights Executive Director Vincent Warren was clear and unequivocal, saying:
“It’s difficult to see how anyone in the community can have faith in the system at this point: the failure to indict sends the clear message that it’s open season on people of color.”
“All resistance must be viewed through that lens, and the focus must remain on the injustice of a white police officer getting away – yet again – with killing a young unarmed Black man.”
“We stand with the community in anger and in mourning. We stand with the people in the streets of Ferguson…”
“(J)ust as the world stood with protesters in (Egypt’s) Tahrir Square, in Gaza,” and elsewhere. “The world must learn: Black lives matter.”
ACLU Missouri Executive Director Jeffrey Mittman said the following:
“The grand jury’s decision does not negate the fact that Michael Brown’s tragic death is part of an alarming national trend of officers using excessive force against people of color, often during routine encounters.”
“Yet in most cases, the officers and police departments are not held accountable.”
“(W)e must confront the profound disconnect and disrespect that many communities of color experience with their local law enforcement.”
Reflecting “us vs. them” injustice. A national disgrace. At federal, state and local levels.
Amnesty International USA Executive Director Steven Hawkins stopped short of condemning injustice, saying:
“Today, a St. Louis County grand jury declined to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, in August.”
“The community response to Mike Brown’s death, and the response that is likely still to come, mark a pivotal moment in the human rights movement and in US history.”
“It’s a moment of passion, of frustration, and of activism.”
“It’s within this moment that officials in Ferguson and throughout the United States must stand up to ensure that each individual’s human rights -including the right to freely express themselves in the form of peaceful protest – are respected, protected and fulfilled.”
“Amnesty is calling upon law enforcement officers to facilitate peaceful protests.”
“We are calling on them to bear in mind their role as partners and protectors of community, seeking to do no harm.”
“We are calling on them to protect peaceful assemblies, even if a small minority tries to turn a peaceful protest into a violent one.”
“That’s what human rights looks like.”
Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D. OH) expressed outrage saying:
“The Ferguson Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown is a miscarriage of justice.”
“It is a slap in the face to Americans nationwide who continue to hope and believe that justice will prevail.”
“This decision seems to underscore an unwritten rule that Black lives hold no value; that you may kill Black men in this country without consequences or repercussions.”
“This is a frightening narrative for every parent and guardian of Black and brown children, and another setback for race relations in America.”
“My heart goes out to Michael Brown’s loved ones, and to the loved ones of all the Michael Browns we have buried in this country.”
Murdered by killer cops with impunity. Michael Brown’s family expressed profound disappointment “that the killer of our child will not face the consequences of his actions.”
Family lawyer, Benjamin Crump, said other legal options will be explored going forward.
Brown’s family “do(esn’t) trust this prosecutor. They never did from the beginning.”
“And they are going to try to see if they can do something to get some positive change out of this because they understand this system needs to be changed.”
A separate federal civil rights investigation into what happened remains ongoing. Officials claim evidence so far fails to support a case against Wilson.
Doing so must show intent to violate Brown’s civil rights.
A second federal inquiry is examining whether Ferguson police violated fundamental civil rights protections.
Through excessive force. Searches and arrests. Treatment of detainees. Overall discriminatory practices.
Police in majority Black Ferguson employ a handful of minority officers only.
Brown’s family may sue. Most likely under the so-called 1983 provision of federal civil rights law.
Probably claiming Wilson deprived Brown of his constitutionally guaranteed rights. While working as an officer “under cover of state law.”
Proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” is required. Same as in criminal cases. Guilt would force Wilson to pay financial damages to Brown family members.
Hardly just compensation for Michael’s death. Losing a loved one matters most.
St. Louis prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch coordinated his efforts with White House and Department of Justice officials.
Denouncing public “speculation” of his version of what happened. Ignoring hard truths. They bear repeating.
Brown was unarmed. Posed no threat. Had no criminal record. An independent autopsy showed he was shot six times.
Ferguson police lied. Irresponsibly blaming Brown for initiating an altercation. No evidence proved it.
Truth is polar opposite. Politics trumped justice. America’s judicial system works this way.
The American Bar Association (ABA) says grand juries review evidence to determine “whether there is probable cause to return an indictment.”
Critics say they rubber stamp prosecutorial aggressiveness. They have “extraordinary investigative powers.” Developed since the 1950s. According to the ABA:
“This wide, sweeping, almost unrestricted power is the cause of much criticism.”
Prosecutors take full advantage of a rigged system they control. Manipulating proceedings for outcomes they want.
Leaving targets unfairly vulnerable to indictments. Others like police officer Wilson unjustly exonerated.
The Fifth Amendment originally applied only to federal courts in criminal cases. Supreme Court rulings included states and municipalities. Under the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause.
Grand juries originated during Britain’s early history. Reflecting deep-rooted Anglo-American tradition.
The process initially served to protect accused defendants from overly-zealous English monarchy prosecutions.
Though nominally independent, they only hear cases prosecutors choose. Able select witnesses. Exclude ones they wish.
Grant discretionary immunity. Conduct virtually all questioning. Grand jury members may ask their own after witnesses testify.
Their job is solely to judge what prosecutors present. Decide if enough evidence warrants indictments or exonerations.
Proceedings are conducted in secret. No one may disclose what goes on. Unless ordered to do so judicially.
Anyone may be subpoenaed. Must answer questions unless a specific privilege is claimed. Such as lawyer/client confidentiality or self-incrimination.
Lawyers can’t represent their clients while testifying. Double jeopardy doesn’t apply to grand juries.
If prosecutors fail to get indictments, they need Criminal Division Attorney General permission to try again. Targets remain vulnerable.
Zealous prosecutors can charge defendants on rejected charges. Or new ones. The process can continue for years.
The ABA asks, “What protection does a target have against witnesses lying to the grand jury (perhaps for leniency on existing or threatened charges), or against the use of unconstitutionally obtained evidence? None.”
Law Professor Mark Kadish says “grand jur(ies) (give) prosecutors extraordinary powers…” Providing “incredible pretrial and trial advantages…(E)specially where those powers are otherwise unavailable through authorized civil discovery tools.”
Especially post-9/11. Prosecutors want grant jury indictments. Manipulate proceedings to get them.
Leave targeted subjects vulnerable on their own. Or in the case of Darren Wilson, rig evidence for exoneration.
At fault is failed system. Rigged against justice. Convicting innocent victims. Exonerating killer cops.
Mocking judicial fairness. Denying equal protection for everyone. Showing contempt for rule of law principles.
Especially for America’s most vulnerable. For sure not in Ferguson, MO Monday night.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.