By IONA BATCHELDER
On the night of November 24, Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson was not charged in the murder of unarmed black teen Michael Brown. The decision was made by a grand jury of 12 people, made up of 9 white jurors and 3 black jurors, and was announced by St. Louis prosecutor Bob McCulloch.
The shooting of Brown took place on August 9 earlier this year. Officer Wilson, spotting Brown and an accomplice as he drove through Ferguson, thought that Brown matched a suspect for a robbery that had just occurred, so he began talking to him. Brown struggled with the officer through the window of Wilson’s car and, according to Wilson’s witness testimony, tried to reach for his gun. The struggle ended, and Michael Brown was leaving the scene when Wilson got out of his car and began to pursue Brown. He fired ten shots at Brown; six hit him, and he was killed. His body stayed in the street for four and a half hours after his death.
Since Wilson was not wearing a body cam or a body microphone, nobody will ever have a fully unbiased and accurate account of the events. Nevertheless, several things are clear because of multiple autopsy reports and verified eyewitness accounts. Michael Brown did struggle with Officer Wilson in the officer’s car, although the nature and reason behind the struggle is not completely known. Wilson did fire ten shots at Brown once they were both out on the street. And Michael Brown was an unarmed 18 year old, and his dead body was left out on the street on a hot midsummer day. At this moment in time, I am ashamed of the verdict this jury reached. I am not suggesting that Michael Brown was innocent, and neither am I suggesting that the officer should have been charged for murder.
However, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them. Darren Wilson could and should have been charged with at least involuntary manslaughter. Even though Michael Brown did struggle with him in his car and, according to Wilson’s testimony, attempted to grab his gun, there is a concept in this country known as “innocent until proven guilty.” If Michael Brown had been arrested, he could have been tried for robbing the convenience store and even for assaulting Officer Wilson. Then he could have been put in jail, if necessary, serve his term there and continue on with his life. Instead, an unarmed 18-year old boy’s dead corpse was left lying on a hot sidewalk for four and a half hours.
The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating possible civil rights violations in this case and has not come to a verdict yet. Hopefully, federal charges will be levied against Darren Wilson. Regardless of the Department of Justice’s verdict, one fact is shockingly clear: America is no more the “land of the free.”