This Thanksgiving, Daniella Gibbs Léger is reflecting on grand jury decsion and how it impacts us all.
This was going to be a column about Thanksgiving. I was going to talk about all the things I am thankful for this year, including the genius that is Shonda Rhimes. I was going to ruminate a bit on the elections and talk about how I am thankful that there are people willing to put themselves forward to be public servants, because it’s not an easy job.
But then Monday happened. To this day, I still don’t know why I was so surprised and angered by the grand jury decision in Ferguson over the killing of Mike Brown by officer Darren Wilson. For months people had been predicting that they would return no indictment. And it was clear that the state was ready for that outcome when Gov. Nixon called in the National Guard extremely early.
Yet and still, I found myself watching the TV, shocked by what I was watching. I listened to Prosecutor Bob McCullough talk for 20 minutes before actually saying that they grand jury didn’t think there was enough there to go to trial. Go to trial. That’s what gets me. The bar for getting indictments is a relatively low one. After all, the grand jury isn’t condemning someone to prison; they are simply saying that there is enough information out there to warrant further investigation in a trial. With everything we knew about this case, on its face, it is hard for many people to believe that there wasn’t enough here for a trial. This non-verdict on the heels of the death-by-cop of Eric Garner in Staten Island, Akai Gurley in Brooklyn and Tamir Rice in Cleveland is almost too much to bear.
And as the protests grew angrier and more violent on Monday, of course the false equivalencers came out in full force. There was a lot of “why don’t you people stop killing each other”, including those by former New York Mayor Rudy Guilliani. Statements like this and concerns over “black on black” crime make me oh so very angry. The majority of people are killed by people of their own race. There are many reasons for that, the most obvious one being one of proximity and our rather segregated living situations. However, the majority of people killed by cops are black.
I’m not a lawyer, but I do know something about how some legal processes should work (because I work with many smart lawyers, not because I watch HTGAWM). EVERYTHING this prosecutor did showed us that he was NEVER interested in seeing this thing come to trial. Instead of selecting the information most likely to get an indictment, as is the norm, this prosecutor dumped ALL documents and information on the jury. As the LA Times reported last night:
The tactic was a shrewd maneuver, legal experts say, in which McCulloch both deflected responsibility for his own failure to charge Wilson and — deliberately or not — created conditions in which the grand jury would not be likely to charge him either.
So what happens now? We wait for the Department of Justice to conclude their investigation. We work with folks on the ground in Ferguson to get people politically active so they can start voting out some people. We hold ALL our elected officials accountable to make sure they are holding police departments accountable for their actions. And we continue to have the depressing “talk” with our children, and pray that they all come out on the positive side of any police interaction.
Another thing I’m thankful for? The good, well-trained cops out there. Who don’t shoot first and ask questions later. Who work to build relationships with the communities they serve. Who are truly role models for young people. They exist; some of them are my friends and family members. We would all be so fortunate if we could clone them and put them on every beat in this country.
Daniella Gibbs Léger, a former special assistant to President Obama, is the Senior Vice President for Communications and Strategy at the Center for American Progress. Follow her on Twitter @dgibber123. Views expressed here and on twitter are her own.