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PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 9:45 pm 
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Cerin wrote:
Voronwë, I'm having some trouble understanding the distinctions you made in your post above. The first thing I need to know is, in the statement below, should that last line read: 'rather than determining whether there was sufficient evidence that a jury could use to conclude that he did.' (rather than, 'did not'.)


No, although I could see why it would seem confusing. Let me try a different way.

There was a lot of different evidence submitted to the grand jury. Some of it presumably supported the idea that Officer Wilson had a reasonable basis for shooting Mr. Brown. Some it presumably supported the idea that Officer Wilson did not have a reasonable basis for shooting Mr. Brown. Mr. McCulloch seemed to be implying that the grand jury had weighed the evidence and determined that the evidence that Officer Wilson did have a reasonable basis for shooting Mr. Brown was more credible than the evidence that he did not have a reasonable basis to shoot him, and that therefore he should not be charged with a crime. However, that should not have been their job to weigh the evidence. Their job should have been to determine whether there was sufficient evidence that, if accepted, would lead to the conclusion that Officer Wilson did not have a reasonable basis to shoot Mr. Brown, regardless of what their own opinion was on the matter. It appears that they acted more like a jury in a trial than a grand jury. And by most accounts the prosecutor acted more like a defense attorney for the potential defendant, rather than as a prosecutor.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 10:25 pm 
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Thanks for explaining, Voronwë. I see where I went wrong reading your post the first time.

The basic complaint seems to be that the grand jury was given the whole story, rather than just one side of the story. I guess grand juries have become merely a rubber stamp for prosecutors, and this more thorough presentation was out of the ordinary. But if I were brought before a grand jury, I believe I would prefer them to have the full picture when deciding if there were probable cause that a crime had been committed, not just the part of the picture that supports the notion that a crime was committed.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 10:48 pm 
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But the evidence that matters in a criminal trial is the evidence that a crime was committed. It's the strength of that evidence the grand jury is supposed to assess. That's the case the state will present if they prosecute, and if it can't stand up, there should be no trial. It's one side of the story, but it's the side the state needs to know is strong enough to justify holding a trial.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 10:51 pm 
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My understanding is grand juries exist to determine whether or not a prosecutor has enough evidence to bring charges against a potential defendant, not whether or not said person is actually guilty. All an indictment does is guarantee a trial, not a result. Until about 24 hours ago I was under the impression that the potential defendant and their legal team had no involvement at all with the grand jury and that they get to tell their story during the criminal trial. I'm now getting the impression that, in Ferguson, the prosecutor was sort of doing the opposite and that that's more than a little irregular.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 10:57 pm 
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Cerin wrote:
The basic complaint seems to be that the grand jury was given the whole story, rather than just one side of the story.


No, that is not at all the basic complaint. The basic complaint is that the grand jury substituted its judgment for the judgment of trial jury.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 11:02 pm 
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But the reason grand juries give indictments 98-99% of the time is precisely that prosecutors are under no compunction to present anything remotely exculpatory, so they don't. That's one of the reasons only the US still has grand juries out of the common law countries...and why most states don't use them anymore: they're pretty much pointless wastes of resources.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 11:45 pm 
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That. Unlike the trial jury, which must weigh evidence from prosecution and defence, grand jury only listens to the prosecution. Therefore, it is unusual to say the least for the prosecution to introduce evidence for the defence, including a lengthy testimony from the defendant, which of course would be crucial at the actual trial.

http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/ferg ... en-wilson/

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 11:48 pm 
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Primula Baggins wrote:
But the evidence that matters in a criminal trial is the evidence that a crime was committed.

Yes. And what was that evidence in this case? That evidence would have to include both the result (a dead, unarmed youth), and the thing that caused the result. What caused the result? Apparently the fact that Michael Brown chose to physically engage with Officer Wilson -- which is a crime in itself, which then made it Wilson's duty to apprehend him -- to the extent that Wilson felt under threat. It seems to me this is the minimal information that would have to be presented. And the determination of whether a crime was committed has to include Missouri law pertaining to the conduct of police. The law allows police wide latitude in the use of deadly force, so that is pertinent information the grand jury has to consider, if their task is to determine if there is probable cause that Wilson committed a crime. In order to consider whether Wilson was within the law, they have to know what transpired, don't they?



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It's the strength of that evidence the grand jury is supposed to assess. That's the case the state will present if they prosecute, and if it can't stand up, there should be no trial.

But that seems to be what the grand jury decided -- that the case would not stand up, because the witness testimony was inconsistent, and inconsistent with the physical evidence.

I just don't get what it is people think should have been told to the grand jury in lieu of what was told to them.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 11:54 pm 
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The other thing is that prosecutors rely on law enforcement to build their cases, therefore they are naturally biased toward law enforcement, which is why, although grand juries are typically rubber stamps for prosecutors seeking indictments, they rarely indict police officers. Or so I hear.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2014 12:03 am 
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In response to Cerin - this is why I asked about the grand jury hearing testimony from the officer. The law apparently says a police officer can use deadly force as long as they believe their life, or the life of others, is in danger. By considering the officer's testimony, how could they possibly "rule" against him? Of course he is going to say he felt his life was in danger. The process is rigged in his favor from the beginning.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2014 3:21 pm 
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This is so depressing.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2014 2:37 pm 
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I just watched the Eric Garner video. Deeply shocking.

As is the decision not to indict the officer concerned, despite the city examiner's findings.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2014 3:48 pm 
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Upthread I said something to the effect that it's important to pick your heroes carefully. This is exactly the sort of thing I had in mind. Eric Garner really does look like a possible/likely case of police brutality and a miscarriage of justice. But, people who examined the facts of the Michael Brown case and concluded that he was a violent felon who got himself killed by assaulting the law enforcement officer who was attempting to bring him to justice hear the same people who defended him defending Garner, assume it's just more of the same, roll their eyes, and move on. In my opinion, the two cases have very little in common and it doesn't make sense to treat them like two dots in need of connecting. If you really want another case like Garner's in order to argue that there is a trend, a better choice is Dr. Sal Culosi, who was killed as he opened the door to the militarized SWAT team that was raiding his home over some football bets he made against his bar buddies.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2014 4:23 pm 
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One problem with I see with Ferguson is that a lot of different issues have become entangled together - the justice of the way the grand jury process was used to avoid indictment, the initial media reporting that exaggerrated some aspects of the case, the disproportionate police response to the protests, the recent rioting, and the question of Wilson's actual guilt.

These things should be discussed individually - just because Wilson's story might be true (I'm not entirely sure) and some parts of the initial story were wrong doesn't mean that the case shouldn't have gone to trial. And just because the police crackdown on protesting was over the top doesn't necessarily mean that Wilson is guilty of murder. But right now lots of people seem to be taking definite sides on everything together as a package deal.

And now some people are dismissing Garner, a much more clear-cut case, because they thought that Ferguson was overhyped.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2014 4:48 pm 
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What kzer said. The media has ultimately failed to "unpack" this package, and have instead gone with their tendency to create simple narratives (in the belief that this is what the American public needs in order to "make sense" of the news). This can have damning consequences, fueling more and more racism and hostility.

It's unclear whether or not Wilson acted within his authority (I, personally, am not convinced that he had to shoot Brown, but that's beside the point as I don't know enough). But it's also not clear that Brown didn't overtly threaten Wilson. So that one's in a fog. The police force in Ferguson went very, very over the top in their response to protests, and I know for a fact that there's a great deal of racism against African Americans in that town. And based on the evidence we have seen and heard thus far, it seems very clear that Eric Garner is indeed a victim of police brutality.

But these are all issues that need to be looked at separately first, and only afterwards, if there are connections, integrated into a "package."

IMO, one of the things we'll need to talk about going forward is how the media (both televised and online) is not serving the American public anymore. Rather than illuminate, it tends to merely inflame. Reminds me, on an admittedly far less horrific scale, of the role radio station(s) played in fueling the massacres in Rwanda. That was an active hate campaign, to be sure. But our media institutions don't do some soul-searching, they may inadvertently help us drift further and further into a culture of irreparable division.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2014 4:58 pm 
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Very good points, both of you!

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2014 5:04 pm 
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Passdagas the Brown wrote:
IMO, one of the things we'll need to talk about going forward is how the media (both televised and online) is not serving the American public anymore. Rather than illuminate, it tends to merely inflame.


It's something I've thought for a long time but listening to the news coverage on these cases has really highlighted to me my belief that trying to follow the news as presented by almost any news organization generally does society more harm than good. We don't need "news", we need Information, preferably with a good dose of Context, and news outlets seem to have very little interest in providing that.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2014 5:32 pm 
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More and more, news outlets are owned by media conglomerates whose job is to sell stuff. Riots and flames sell. Die-ins don't. Some fool saying something stupid as a soundbite sells. A nuanced discussion doesn't. Especially since the news cycle is around the clock so reporters are under intense pressure to just throw whatever they find out as soon as they find it, whether it's right or wrong. And once the information is out, even if it's bad or just plain false, it never goes away. Eventually some journalist will get the funding and backing for a book or a big story in a magazine and there s/he will be able to outline what actually happened but that doesn't necessarily get through the initial narrative that congealed from the first news cycle.

I honestly have no idea what to say about the Garner case. It boggles my mind that a man can be choked to death in the street, on camera, and no charges are filed. I haven't been able to make it through the video. I've seen some chatter that it happened because he wouldn't stop resisting. I've seen some chatter that if he could say "I can't breathe" then clearly he could breathe. Well, yes, technically. However, if you've ever seen someone in respiratory distress, you know that there's a wide range between moving enough air and not moving any and within that range people do things like change colors and beg for help and panic. I am thinking that Garner panicked. This is a normal reaction to not getting enough air. I am also thinking that the cop was panicking and that's where the whole "he was still resisting!" thing is coming from. If he'd let Garner go, I don't think Garner would have gone into that mythical black-man hulk mode. I think Garner would have just lain there gasping for breath and then enjoyed a raging headache. I am thinking that this case raises yet more issues with how NYPD cops are trained. Especially since it appears that the hold the cop had on Garner was not allowed in the first place.

Oddly, I'm suggesting that panic was involved knowing full well that I did not panic the two times I've been nearly choked out. But things that happen on the mat are not the same as things on the street. Despite the fact I was turning blue and my vision was going dim, I actually had consented to the sparring match and I had control over the situation in that I could tap out whenever I wanted. It only went that far because I was attempting to escape (tip: if you can't get your hand between their arm and your neck, you're done). I didn't scream but I could have, even as my vision was fading. However, I had some "fun" times while learning to SCUBA dive that did put me in that horrible can't-get-air panic mode. And, well, I've seen respiratory distress. I've seen people go from pink to grey to baby blue. They were able to talk to me while this was happening but they were in bad shape. They were afraid, too. It's a primal sort of fear, not getting enough air in. Breathe or die. The creed of the land animal.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2014 7:42 pm 
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But, people who examined the facts of the Michael Brown case and concluded that he was a violent felon who got himself killed by assaulting the law enforcement officer who was attempting to bring him to justice hear the same people who defended him defending Garner, assume it's just more of the same, roll their eyes, and move on.


I don't have a great deal of respect for that kind of dismissal.

To start with, there is no record of Brown being charged with felony, nor was he facing criminal charges at the time of his death. Apparently, a criminal record of another Michael Brown was circulated on the net and attributed to the dead man.

Second, one does not have to be an angel for their death to be wrong and possibly criminal. It is possibly unfortunate that Brown was not the perfect poster boy, that the rage and the hurt boiled out when it did, where it did, but you can't plan a death the way you can plan a protest over a bus seat, and there wasn't a planned movement that I can tell.

I used to work with a tall black guy, and I noticed how he never towered over me. Men do that, when they are around smaller women, and I have often been glad that I am not petite, that I have a certain gravity of my own (although some small women project their own bigness field, but I digress). So I always appreciated this guy for being so thoughtful, and only now did I stop to think and it's making me sick, because it probably wasn't just being a nice guy, which he absolutely is. Now I think that maybe it was something ground in with being black and large, and learning to not look threatening. Something large white guys never seem to have to worry about.

Bottom line - does anyone here actually want to live in the country where it is no big deal for an officer to shoot an unarmed person in the street?

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 07, 2014 2:28 am 
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yovargas wrote:
Passdagas the Brown wrote:
IMO, one of the things we'll need to talk about going forward is how the media (both televised and online) is not serving the American public anymore. Rather than illuminate, it tends to merely inflame.


It's something I've thought for a long time but listening to the news coverage on these cases has really highlighted to me my belief that trying to follow the news as presented by almost any news organization generally does society more harm than good. We don't need "news", we need Information, preferably with a good dose of Context, and news outlets seem to have very little interest in providing that.


Is that because people have very little interest in getting it?


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