A few hours ago, a Grand Jury in New York decided that the video-taped murder of an unarmed man didn’t justify a trial to determine if those, clearly seen and identified, who killed him had broken any laws. The man I speak of is Eric Garner. What struck me immediately, was the Orwellian undertones that this event has.
Grand Juries & Time Control
He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past. – George Orwell, 1984
In criminal cases brought before a Grand Jury to determine if there’s enough evidence that a person is guilty of a crime to justify being charged, the person that controls the past, is the prosecutor. Their responsibility is to present the evidence to the jury – documentation, photos, videos, testimony, etc. – to get them to bring charges, if there is enough to show guilt.
The show isn’t ran by the courts, as is the case with other parts of the justice system, but instead by the prosecutor, who has control over what the jury sees and hears. It is this power, this control over evidence, this control over the past, that allows them to, when they so choose, to take on an alternate role – defender.
In 1985, Sol Wachtler, the Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals rather famously mused that a prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich if they wanted to – and based on numbers from the federal grand jury system, that seems very accurate. In 2010, federal grand juries returned indictments in 162,000 cases – and declined to do so in only 11.
For those that are outside of the law enforcement community, it’s clear that the grand jury is just a rubber stamp process. Yet, for those inside the system, its use is more delicate, more finessed – more directed. It’s easy for a prosecutor to get a jury to indict someone – but as recent events have shown, with enough time, they can take undeniable evidence and through careful tactics, sabotage their own case. Preventing the accused from being charged at all.
Suppress useful evidence, call questionable witnesses, present confusing and unclear information, question the integrity of everything presented – there are so many options available to ensure that the jury won’t see clear guilt. With some time, the prosecutor becomes the master of the past, painting the picture that he wants the jury to see – free from disagreement or dissenting views.
Grand juries have enormous independence on paper, but almost impossible to exercise in practice. All evidence seen via prosecutor's lens.
— matt blaze (@mattblaze) December 3, 2014
Just a little doublethink…
How much time, how many confusing statements, how many character assassinations does it take before a jury can see, with their own eyes, a murder – and by the skill of a great ~~defense attorney~~ prosecutor, accept that while they saw a murder, a murder didn’t occur?
Or, in this case, not only didn’t a murder occur – no crime at all occurred. He was murdered, and he wasn’t.
It’s important to remember, this wasn’t an open trial – this was simply to determine if charges should be brought at all. In this case, the decision was that there will be no charges, no trial to determine if the killing was justified, no attempt at justice for the dead. Never will a real jury, in a court of law, hear the case and be able to make a determination based on the evidence – that determination was already made by the prosecutor.
A process that is a rubber stamp to those on the outside, becomes a free-pass for those on the inside of the system.
…and justice for all.
There is no justice in this case, nor illusion of justice. No thinly veiled farce of a trial to appease the masses. Nothing.
I must wonder, how much longer before such cases won’t even see the “light” of a secret grand jury, and just die on a prosecutors desk. When the prosecutor works to defend the accused – only when the accused is part of their system of course – why bother with the show, why even pretend to try. Justice isn’t their goal, protecting those on the inside, those that enforce is the goal.
Control, intimidation, and fierce reprisal to any that dare resist is the hallmark of enforcement today – “justice” is granted to the favored, retribution to the rest. Enforce and control has become the unspoken replacement to “protect and serve” – a statement that meant little, and now serves as an insult to those, that for one reason or another, find themselves outside of the “favored” group.
Crimes committed by LEOs should be prosecuted by a special prosecutor; the risk & impact of them acting as a defense attorney is too great.
— Adam Caudill (@adamcaudill) December 3, 2014
Who enforces against the enforcers? Who can be objective when dealing with a person inside the system that supports them? For any chance at justice, when a member of law enforcement is accused of a crime, it should be an outside prosecutor that brings the case to the grand jury. While there’s still risk of the prosecutor acting more as a defender, by appointing a special prosecutor from outside the normal system, there’s at least some chance that the grand jury will see the unaltered truth. Then, maybe, there will be a chance for real justice.
Change to the justice system in the United States is needed on many fronts, racism is rampant, intimidation and coercion have become normal, police are more militarized than the military, and the use of excess force is justified by any excuse. Killing a person should be the last, most desperate line of defense – not something excused by the slightest feeling of discomfort. Though as long as the grand jury can so easily act as a free pass, this change will never be achieved.
Things like body cameras, which the federal government is now supporting, are a step in the right direction. They eliminate questions, and allow the public to see, with their own eyes, what happens. But, no matter how many cameras are deployed to monitor law enforcement activity, if grand juries ignore evidence that’s inconvenient to a prosecutor’s goal, no crimes will be averted, no pointless deaths prevented.
The system is broken. Only by a feat of doublethink can anyone see anything else.
To my friends in law enforcement: Please don’t take this as an attack against you. You have a hard job, and at times it’s certainly dangerous. But the system is broken, you may think my view is wrong – but your perspective is likely just as tainted. To those on the outside, to those that don’t have the benefit of being protected by the system – too often feel oppressed by the system, punished unfairly and in excess of reason. Please understand that there is a perspective that you, likely, can’t see.