It’s Hard To Indict A Cop

Amanda Taub explains why – and advocates for making it easier:

Paul Cassell, on the other hand, defends the grand jury process and criticizes some Michael Brown supporters:

Did the grand jury get it right — that is, was there insufficient evidence to indict?  A fair answer to that question can only come from reading the testimony of 60 witnesses, something that critics of the grand jury’s decision have obviously not yet bothered to do.  Yesterday I wondered whether the facts before the grand jury really mattered to some of the more vocal supporters of Michael Brown.  Today I think it is becoming increasing clear that they don’t.  For too many people, the issue of whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson was never about the process employed or the evidence collected.  But fortunately, the prosecutors and the grand jury took a different tack.

However, Noam Scheiber contends that Prosecutor Robert McCulloch’s “entire presentation implicitly conceded the need for a trial”:

McCulloch was under no obligation to discuss this evidence publicly. Nor was he under any obligation to release the evidence into the public domain following his remarks, as he repeatedly pledged to do. He presumably did these things to assure us that the decision not to prosecute Wilson was arrived at fairly and justly. The problem with this is that we already have a forum for establishing the underlying facts of a caseand, no less important, for convincing the public that justice is being served in a particular case. It’s called a trial. It, rather than the post-grand jury press conference, is where lawyers typically introduce mounds of evidence to the public, litigate arguments extensively, and generally establish whether or not someone is guilty of a crime.

Howard Wasserman asks questions:

Is it the grand jury’s role to weigh and select between conflicting evidence in deciding whether to indict? The DA made much of the conflict between the physical evidence and the testimony of witnesses, as well as the inconsistency between different witnesses and between statements by particular witnesses. But is that the issue for a grand jury determining probable cause? Or is that supposed to be left for an open trial on culpability? Is it typical for the prosecutor to point out those inconsistencies now? Or is that for defense counsel at trial? Here are two arguments on that, noting that the DA spoke of the grand jury’s job as to “separate fact from fiction.” Is that wrong?

David Feige joins the conversation:

There is no question that McCulloch is right when he says that none of us know the evidence the way the grand jury does. And it may well be that the decision not to indict Wilson was legally proper. But what’s improper about what happened was peddling the idea of grand jury independence as a cover for political cowardice.

And Scott Shackford reframes the debate:

Based on the information McCulloch described tonight it may seem unlikely Wilson would have convicted, and perhaps that would have been the right decision by a criminal jury. That raises yet another question, though: Should we be upset at the amount of deference and effort made to find reasons not to indict Wilson in this case or should we be upset that the same doesn’t happen to the rest of us? Is the outrage that a grand jury didn’t indict Wilson or is the outrage that the grand jury indicts just about everybody else?