The country is seeing demonstrations in almost every city because of the acquittals of the police officers responsible for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. There are supporters on both sides of the issue, and everybody gave their opinions on the controversial jury decisions. But, the question on many people’s minds was why did a jury let these officers walk?
The misunderstandings begin when people assume that the officers were undergoing a trial. This was a grand jury prosecution; they were not deciding the officer’s guilt, but were deciding whether there was probable cause to believe there was a crime. The difference is subtle, and the process is often a formality to take the case to trial.
According to David A. Nachtigall, Attorney at Law, PLLC, the purpose of a grand jury is to check the power of the prosecutor to take anything they want to court. The jurors should be able to determine if a reasonable person can find a crime in the act based on the evidence on hand. The non-indictment in the Brown case is important for several reasons unrelated to race.
First, the prosecutors only wanted to consider five indictments, the least of which was involuntary manslaughter. This means that lesser charges such as unlawful discharge of a firearm did not come into consideration. It remains unclear why the prosecution decided to do that, and many critics of the grand jury point to that as a contentious issue.
The grand jury heard testimonies from over sixty witnesses and deliberated for around seventy hours before reaching their decision. The jury also included information from three separate autopsies, and they found no reason to believe that the officer acted recklessly in the death of Michael Brown.
Prosecutors did not elaborate on the piece of evidence the grand jury relied on to reach its decision despite the fact that Brown was unarmed and shot multiple times. For now, the case is over, but the story is not necessarily over officer Darren Wilson. If these protests continue, there might well be another chapter in this ongoing saga.