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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Collaterall damage from timing of the Ferguson Missouri Grand Jury ruling still unresolved

To say the timing of the reading of the Ferguson, Missouri Grand Jury ruling by prosecutor Robert McCulloch was a mistake is a classic "no brainer".  

While the international media and the public waited....and waited, the St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch was, no doubt, practicing how to read the 20 minute script he prepared, whereby the Grand Jury's ruling was finally made public.  In other words, McCulloch's curious timing turned this tragedy into a catastrophe.

At this point, the Grand Jury's ruling not to prosecute (no probable cause) was anti-climactic. It's probably not a surprise to learn from the Grand Jury that they did not find sufficient evidence to rule there was probable cause to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the killing of the Black man Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri in August 2014.  

What's mystifying, however, is how the prosecutor was allowed to control the Grand Jury without benefit of cross examination of Police Officer Wilson. Worse, why did McCulloch wait until late into the evening to make a grandstanding oration about the ruling?

Here's what BBCNews in Great Britian is reporting by Anthony Zurcher:

The announcement that a St Louis County grand jury would not indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown came a little after 20:00 (9 o'clock) - St. Louis, local time, under the cover of darkness.

What followed next was something protestors and law enforcement officials had assured the public they were dedicated to avoiding. Riot-gear-clad police officers and armoured vehicles cleared the streets with tear gas and smoke canisters, as looters smashed store windows and cars burned - a night of chaos and violence.

The outcome was tragic - but did the timing of the announcement contribute to the conflagration? The grand jury reportedly had reached their decision by early afternoon.

No official explanation has been given - Governor Jay Nixon threw up his hands when asked in a press conference, as if to say it was out of his control. One official in St Louis mentioned to reporters that rush hour played a part in the delay, the implication being that it would give people time to get home safely from work or school. 

But on the streets of Ferguson, some residents were concerned that the verdict was coming after nightfall - they would have preferred a morning announcement. 

According to the Washington Post's Wesley Lowery, the timing of the announcement wouldn't have made a difference.  "Protesters were going to protest, day or night." But, as dawn broke on a shattered town the morning after, many didn't see it that way.

"Irresponsible" and "unnecessarily provocative", said activist Al Sharpton.

"Foolish and dangerous", said legal analyst Jeffery Toobin.

"Here's the thing about that time of night: it's dark.  Anyone - anyone! - should have known that the decision in the Brown case would have been controversial. A decision not to indict, which was always possible, even likely, would have been sure to attract protests, even violence. Crowd control is always more difficult in the dark," said Toobin.

Everything about the announcement - the timing, the condescending tone, the weeks of militarised vehicles patrolling the roads - seemed designed to inflame and incite the region” Sarah Kendzior Politico Magazine

The decision on when to reveal the non-indictment was "inscrutable" and only likely to increase the possibility of violence, said The New Yorker's Jelani Cobb. 

But, he adds, that it was all part of a larger lack of preparation on the part of law enforcement.

"Despite the sizable police presence, few officers were positioned on the stretch of W Florissant Road where Brown was killed," he writes. "The result was that damage to the area around the police station was sporadic and short-lived, but Brown's neighbourhood burned. This was either bad strategy or further confirmation of the unimportance of that community in the eyes of Ferguson's authorities."

St Louis-based freelancer Sarah Kendzior agrees.

"Everything about the announcement - the timing, the condescending tone, the weeks of militarised vehicles patrolling the roads - seemed designed to inflame and incite the region," she wrote for Politico Magazine. "And it did."

Joe Scarborough, on MSNBC's Morning Joe show, said it was "mind-boggling" that authorities continued to mishandle public relations in the case.

A daylight announcement would (in my opinion "could" is more accurate) have encouraged peaceful protests, he said.

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