Ferguson is Burning While Questions Remain About Unusual Grand Jury

By William Peacock, Esq. on November 25, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Ferguson is burning. The first night's casualties are in: dozens of burned and looted businesses in Ferguson, two police cruisers burned, bottles and rocks tossed at police officers and reporters alike, riots, sixty-one arrests, and more National Guard troops on the way, reports CNN and The New York Times.

And the riots weren't confined to Ferguson: reports of riots and looting popped up in even the most far away places, like Oakland, California, where protestors shut down the I-580 freeway, looted, and set fires as well, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Why? The disputed tale of the death of Michael Brown, alternatively portrayed as an aggressor who attacked a police officer or as the victim of an execution-style murder. After an unusual grand jury featuring "all the evidence" and testimony from Office Darren Wilson, there is no indictment -- only pain, protests, riots, and unanswered questions.

An Unusual Grand Jury Arrangement

Perhaps someone can explain this, because quite frankly, I've never handled a grand jury -- they're so secretive that even when I worked for a judge, they kept the doors closed and the interns out.

But why did they deviate here from the standard "indict a ham sandwich" one-sided procedures that are the norm in grand juries? Why hold a full mini-trial, featuring hours of testimony from the defendant, other than as a way of doing one's best to not indict? Didn't they realize that this would only lead to even more questions about the fairness of the proceedings?

In this video, Prof. Susan McGraugh of St. Louis University and former St. Louis City Prosecutor Jerryl T. Christmas talk about the strange proceedings:

No True Bill from Stlfilmmaker on Vimeo.

Those curious about the conflicting testimony have plenty to work with: hundreds of pages of evidence have been released by the prosecutors' office. NPR has a few excerpts highlighting conflicting testimony, as well as the full cache of documents.

Inciting a Riot

There's no excuse for the widespread rioting, nationwide or in Ferguson. But still: why, besides hoping for a bigger primetime news cycle, would they wait until nighttime to make the big announcement?

If you make the announcement during the day, perhaps on a day where classes are cancelled (like today), it would stand to reason that fewer riots would happen in broad daylight. Instead, you not only wait until nighttime, but wait until late night, when everyone on every coast is already at home, to make the announcement. Why?

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