Murder now officially legal in America if you’re a cop
by Will Speros
Bob McCulloch, the smug-faced Prosecuting Attorney for St. Louis County, Missouri, stepped in front of cameras nearly fifteen minutes late on the night of November 24. As he began reading his statement, McCulloch made some pretty bizarre and ultimately tactless choices. In providing background of the Michael Brown case, McCulloch decided to blame the media for the social unrest and distrust toward law enforcement that resulted from Brown’s murder over the summer. “The real villain is the 24 hour news cycle,” McCulloch said. While he is not wrong that the 24 hour news cycle is inherently problematic for our society, to try and blame the media for their coverage of the highly controversial shooting when there is a dead unarmed teenager is borderline sociopathic behavior in my opinion. McCulloch then went on to say the eyewitness testimonies to Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown were “inconsistent” and “refuted by physical evidence,” though all eight eyewitness accounts include Darren Wilson shooting Michael Brown in cold blood, unarmed, with his hands up in the street.
On December 3, the Staten Island grand jury announced it would also not bring up charges against Daniel Pantaleo for choking another unarmed black man, Eric Garner, to death. The murder, which was captured on video, depicted Garner repeatedly screaming “I can’t breathe!” as Officer Pantaleo held his chokehold. Garner had been suspected of selling illegal cigarettes on the streets of Staten Island.
Tom Wolfe famously quipped that a grand jury could indict a ham sandwich if they wanted to, and the entire legal community has rallied almost unanimously in support of this assertion. What went so wrong with these cases that these juries were unable to indict Darren Wilson or Officer Pantaleo? The morning of November 25, a Foreign Ministry spokesman in North Korea released a statement referring to the United States as a “graveyard of human rights” over the previous night’s ruling. It feels quite compelling to agree with North Korea on something for a change.
It’s safe to say we all knew where McCulloch’s speech was headed, and his announcement (which he made with a fucking smile on his face) that the grand jury had elected not to prosecute Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown was something everyone had braced themselves for. President Obama himself did not seem all that shocked when he gave a speech an hour after McCulloch’s announcement, though he was visibly upset. Our very own president came right out and said “There are still problems. Communities of color are not just making this up,” amidst those ever-ignorant talking heads labeling these shootings as isolated incidents in no way related to race.
Chris Hayes from MSNBC, among others, pointed out that what McCulloch described procedurally in his statements were “so far removed from normal criminal procedure it’s unrecognizable.” Jeffrey Toobin, a lawyer and law analyst, wrote that The National Bar Association even launched an investigation into the questionable proceedings that had been described. “McCulloch gave Wilson’s case special treatment,” said Toobin. “He turned it over to the grand jury, a rarity itself, and then used the investigation as a document dump, an approach that is virtually without precedent in the law of Missouri or anywhere else.”
The same day the Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. announced that the Justice Department would be launching a federal civil rights investigation in light of the ruling. Holder referred to Garner’s murder as “one of several recent incidents across our great country that tested our sense of trust” in law enforcement. News broke recently from NBC New York that Staten Island Attorney General Daniel Donovan did not ask the grand jury to consider lesser charges in the case.
Multiple members of our Congress brought a “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” protest to the floors of Congress. Players from the St. Louis Rams took to the field during a recent game in similar protest, and defended their actions when the team’s administration tried to make a public apology for the act. Derrick Rose showed up to warm-ups before a game wearing a shirt reading “I Can’t Breathe.” Bill O’Reilly even expressed his shock that Pantaleo would not be taken to trial, as did former president George W. Bush. There is no mistaking it; something is colossally wrong.
On December 3 and 4, thousands of us took to the streets of New York and cities around the country to protest the racism, the injustice, and the violence that can no longer be tolerated. There is something truly inspiring about seeing so many of your fellow New Yorkers marching in solidarity and being cheered on by those stuck in traffic or observing from their homes. The public outcry against recent police racism, violence, and brutality has been unprecedented, and the families of victims have come forward in recent months, such as the family of Ramarley Graham (18) and Aiyana Stanley-Jones (7), both of whom were shot and killed by police officers in their respective homes were they should both have expected to be safe.
Is our country on the threshold of a major sea change? As we slowly approach 2016, we can only hope the anger and determination of the public can influence legislation in some capacity. Despite the overwhelming injustice we are standing up against, putting faith in the solidarity we maintain is something that cannot be underestimated in its ability to overpower hate.