Cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner show the grand jury system no longer works for citizens

Dec 4, 2014, 3:45 PM | Updated: 9:09 pm

In the Ferguson/Michael Brown case, reasonable people could look at all the evidence and testimony and come to different conclusions.

The allegations of a man fresh from a crime scene, confronting a police officer, scuffling with him, eventually being chased and then shot to death left plenty of room for speculation and conjecture.

Many of our opinions on that case were driven by our own experiences, upbringing, biases, prejudices… whatever, and for that reason it divided a lot of people.

So, explain to me the Eric Garner case. Unlike Ferguson, there is no allegation that Mr. Garner was a threat to the officers (or the public), he was not fighting for control of the officer’s weapon, he was not attempting to flee nor was he being overly combative.

The reason we know all this?

There is undisputed video of the entire confrontation.

Yet, the outcome is the same. A citizen lying dead on the sidewalk, killed by a police officer.

But surely, a grand jury could look at this video, hear testimony and at least believe there was enough probable cause to send this to trial and allow for a thorough investigation of the facts, adversarial cross-examination of witness testimony and the opportunity for the family of the victim (and citizens of New York) to “get their day in court”.


To understand how rare this is, consider the numbers from the Bureau of Justice Statistics which notes that in 162,000 cases in which a prosecutor went before a grand jury, they only failed to get an indictment in 11 of them.


Someone else did the math for me, that’s 0.0067901 percent of the time.

Obviously, part of the problem is the grand jury system no longer works for citizens, at least when the accused are police officers.

The relationship between prosecutors and police prevents a vigorous attempt to secure an indictment, apparently because prosecutors NEED the cooperation of the police for the mountain of other cases they are pursuing and can’t afford to have an adversarial relationship.

This does NOT serve the public well and allows bad cops to get away with murder.


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Cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner show the grand jury system no longer works for citizens