Thursday, August 21, 2014

the sins of the fathers on overseer wilson's head...,

NYTimes |  The violence on the streets of Ferguson, Mo., abated on Tuesday night, but hundreds of peaceful protesters continue to gather each day to demand justice in the case of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was shot by a white police officer on Aug. 9. Now it’s up to local and federal officials to show that they are aggressively pursuing that demand. They have a long way to go.

Justice is a process, and it won’t necessarily result in the arrest of Darren Wilson, the officer who fired the fatal shots, as many of the demonstrators say they want. Witness accounts differ sharply on the events leading to the shooting, and it’s impossible to predict whether the grand jury that began hearing evidence on Wednesday will indict Mr. Wilson. But those in charge have an obligation to demonstrate fairness at every step, and that means there cannot be even a hint of bias in the process.
For that reason, the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, Robert McCulloch, needs to step aside or be replaced in this case with a special prosecutor by Gov. Jay Nixon. Mr. McCulloch’s parents worked for the St. Louis Police Department, and his father was killed on the job in 1964 by a black suspect while helping another officer. Last week, he gratuitously criticized Mr. Nixon’s decision to put state police officers in charge of the response to the unrest.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that after a shooting in 2000, when two detectives shot two unarmed black men in the town next to Ferguson, Mr. McCulloch failed to bring any independent evidence to the grand jury. He claimed that “every witness” testified that the detectives were defending themselves, but secret grand jury tapes showed that several witnesses did not do so. When the grand jury chose not to indict, he said he supported the decision. That’s why many black elected officials — including Charlie Dooley, the executive of St. Louis County, where Ferguson is — have called for a special prosecutor in the Brown case, and more than 70,000 people have signed an online petition to that effect.

The community will almost certainly reject a decision not to indict Mr. Wilson if the grand jury is led by Mr. McCulloch, but his office has already begun presenting evidence to the 12-person jury (which includes three African-Americans). Mr. McCulloch said Wednesday that the governor should “man up” and make a decision about who will conduct the prosecution before it proceeds too far. Despite the widespread pleas that he should do so, Mr. Nixon has said he does not intend to replace Mr. McCulloch.

The prosecutor and local police departments have shown a disdain for the public with their reluctance to release the evidence they have. For the better part of a week, they refused to release Mr. Wilson’s name or record, and they would not release the 911 tapes or full details of the county autopsy report. The Brown family commissioned its own autopsy, and Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. ordered a federal autopsy.


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