Ferguson questions swirl: If it’s about finding facts, why no trial?

November 25, 2014

Demonstrator sits in front of a street fire during a demonstration following the grand jury decision in the Ferguson, Missouri shooting of Michael Brown, in Oakland, California

The St. Louis Prosecutor Robert McCulloch made a series of highly unusual decisions on Monday. He was reportedly seeking to defuse the highly charged situation in the wake of a white Ferguson, Missouri, police officer killing an unarmed black teenager.

He did not succeed.

Protests ignited in Ferguson, fanning flames, literal and figurative, throughout the night. Demonstrations spread from New York City to Oakland, California. Even as President Barack Obama spoke to the nation, cable news channels showed him on a split screen with the violent protests. He did not even get three-quarters of the shot.

McCulloch was continuing the string of leadership miscalculations that have been the rule for Ferguson ever since Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown on Aug. 9.

Jelani Cobb astutely analyzes this in The New Yorker’s Daily Comment on Tuesday:

From the outset, the great difficulty has been discerning whether the authorities are driven by malevolence or incompetence. The Ferguson police let Brown’s body lie in the street for four and a half hours, an act that either reflected callous disregard for him as a human being or an inability to manage the situation. The release of Darren Wilson’s name was paired with the release of a video purportedly showing Brown stealing a box of cigarillos from a convenience store, although Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson later admitted that Wilson was unaware of the incident when he confronted the young man. (McCullough contradicted this in his statement on the non-indictment.) … Despite the sizable police presence, few officers were positioned on the stretch of West Florissant Avenue where Brown was killed. The result was that damage to the area around the police station was sporadic and short-lived, but Brown’s neighborhood burned. This was either bad strategy or further confirmation of the unimportance of that community in the eyes of Ferguson’s authorities.

A protester stands in the street after being treated for tear gas exposure after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri

McCulloch fits right into this pattern. First, it was around midday when the grand jury decided not to indict. McCullough, however, waited until 8:00 p.m. Actually, 8:15, since he was late for this most important news conference. In any case CNN tweeted at 7:45 p.m. that the panel had decided it did not have enough evidence to indict.

The prosecutor then launched into a convoluted 20-minute address, opening with an attack on social media’s inflammatory role. He attempted to explain why this decision was reached, and took questions about the grand jury process. He also authorized the document dump of all grand jury testimony — particularly unsettling because it repeated the way McCulloch overloaded the grand jury with extraordinary amounts of conflicting information.

(Here’s a link to Wilson’s testimony Here’s Ezra Klein’s smart piece about why the story Wilson tells in his testimony is so bizarre that it is unbelievable. Law professor David Troutt raised similar points about the unbelievability of the confrontation soon after it happened.)

McCulloch’s address only served to convince many commentators that a trial was necessary. Noam Scheiber said as much in The New Republic:

The problem with this is that we already have a forum for establishing the underlying facts of a case—and, no less important, for convincing the public that justice is being served in a particular case. It’s called a trial. It, rather than the post-grand jury press conference, is where lawyers typically introduce mounds of evidence to the public, litigate arguments extensively, and generally establish whether or not someone is guilty of a crime.

Though many Americans viewed the decision not to indict as a sucker punch — it was actually not unexpected. The unexpected decision would have been to indict Wilson.

Ben Casselman at FiveThirtyEight explained why. First he laid out  “It’s Incredibly Rare for a Grand Jury to Do What Ferguson’s Just Did.” He presents jaw-dropping statistics. Out of 162,000 federal cases in 2010, for example, grand juries declined to indict in only 11.

A man enters a burning Walgreens drug store after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri

The big exception, though, is when a police officer is involved. Casselman listed three key reasons. One is often cited: The public almost reflexively supports police.

But Casselman emphasized the point that prosecutors depend heavily on the police, both for testimony and for information. So they may present — even unconsciously — a less compelling argument.

Talking Points Memo highlights a shocking stat that the police, not drug dealers or domestic violence, have been responsible for the most shooting deaths in Utah over the last first years. Though Utah certainly isn’t Missouri.

It is also worth reading a remarkable interview that ran in the Washington Post’s Wonkblog. Mark Peffley and Jon Hurwitz, who wrote Justice in America: The Separate Realities of Blacks and Whites, have the stats to show why “White people believe the justice system is color blind. Black people really don’t.”

The gender gap is nothing compared to this chasm. When asked, for example, if police “care more about crimes against whites than minorities,” the authors found 70 percent of blacks agree, versus only 17 percent of whites. This is stunningly relevant, though it ran in August 2013. The case in question at that time? The shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

The Justice Department is still conducting its own investigation, according to the Los Angeles Times, and various civil rights groups could file civil suits against both Wilson and the Ferguson Police Department.

So, more to come. Maybe.

 

PHOTO (Top): A demonstrator sits in front of a street fire during a demonstration following the grand jury decision in the Ferguson, Missouri shooting of Michael Brown, in Oakland, California Nov. 25, 2014. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

PHOTO (INSET 1):  A protester stands in the street after being treated for tear gas exposure after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, November 24, 2014. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

PHOTO (INSET 2): A man enters a burning Walgreens drug store after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, November 24, 2014. REUTERS/Adrees Latif 

46 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

The desired outcome was achieved. It was never meant to end well, or for there to be justice. It was good thing no one was killed. Further investigation will occur. This was simply the state procedure that was implemented. It’s always difficult to tell the difference between ineptitude and intended malice. Often it comes down to one or the other and in either case it is not good. Somewhat like what I ask myself some times, “Are Senators truly that stupid or are they corrupt, because it can’t be neither”.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive

The evidence has been presented to a jury and they have made their decision. The discovery process is complete and a decision has been made. It is not for people who are otherwise totally uninformed to try to refute that decision. It is certainly not the job of the media to further try this man in the court of public opinion.

Posted by Dragos111 | Report as abusive

We constantly hear how minorities are being picked on and bullied by law enforcement which in many cases may be true. We also hear how minorities are disadvantaged and aren’t responsible for the mistreatment by authorities. What we don’t hear is how arrogant and disrespectful that people can be toward authorities. Michael Brown robbed a store and assaulted the clerk in the store before being confronted by the police. What did Brown expect? If Brown hadn’t committed a crime and just walked down the street minding his own business this whole incident would not have happened. Both sides need to exercise control and respect.

Posted by fedupaj | Report as abusive

I’ve never been shot by a police officer. But then, I also haven’t assaulted one and tried to steal his weapon, either. Strange how that works.

Posted by guest09853 | Report as abusive

Here we go again; the press fighting fire with fuel.

Posted by Redford | Report as abusive

So in 2010, according to your facts, there were 162,000 grand jury proceedings, with only 11 not resulting in indictments. So a grand jury proceeding is very common, it is normally used in cases, and the results are there. So what should we make of this case in Ferguson? That the system was used as designed and how it is being normally used, and that the result was one that does happen, albeit rare. Why are we now saying that it was wrong, that it is false, that it resulted in the wrong outcome? Only because we don’t like the outcome, that’s why.
The system worked as designed. What people don’t like in this case, and probably similiar in the Trayvon Martin case, is that the result is not what they wanted. The system was used, it worked as designed. The outcome was based on the facts presented, which were examined, parsed over by common citizens, and the result came back as it did. So now we are going to do a public lynching of the system, because it worked as designed?
Perhaps what people need to understand, AND accept, is that perhaps the facts are true, that the incidents happened just as they were purported to have happened, and that people can’t expect to assault police officers and threaten them, without incurring risks of return assault. In the Trayvon Martin case, the man accused was not a police officer. But if the story he told, and which was backed up by multiples of physical evidence, is that he was attacked and hurt, why do we find it hard to believe he defended himself?

Posted by robertp64 | Report as abusive

“The evidence has been presented to a jury and they have made their decision. The discovery process is complete and a decision has been made. It is not for people who are otherwise totally uninformed to try to refute that decision. It is certainly not the job of the media to further try this man in the court of public opinion.

Posted by Dragos111 | Report as abusive”

1. It was a GRAND jury, not a trial jury. There was no judge presiding over the presentation of evidence.

2. How can the ‘discovery’ process be complete when the prosecutor was the only person deciding what evidence to present? That is what happens in a grand jury as opposed to a trial.

What worries me about this and the ‘stand your ground’ laws is that they put the decision to prosecute in the hands of the cops, who sometimes consult with a prosecutor. The accused does not get to/have to present their case in a court of law where a judge presides and a jury decides.

I do not understand why that does not worry the segment of our population who worry about the evil, big, bad government and its employees, the cops and prosecutor?

Posted by emm305 | Report as abusive

Another problem is this: the people who’s stores were burned and looted. Does looting and rioting of an innocent person help the matter at all? Does it equate to justice? Does it solve any systemic problems with the Justice system? Will it change a grand jury opinion that was already rendered?
Or will it put more people into poverty? Will it put more blight into a depressed neighborhood? Will it ease racial tensions, and get a better sense of cooperation with police, or government, or anyone else? Rioting, looting, burning and destroying gets nothing. It may vent anger, but it accomplishes so very little.

Posted by robertp64 | Report as abusive

The reason that a grand jury decision is acceptable to our people, is that we created the grand jury process for our judicial system. Therefore, we believe it works. If it doesn’t work, then scrap it and get another system. But it is what we use in this country, therefore we accept it.
And that is why there was no trial. Our system said that a grand jury must be convened first, then a trial if an indictment is found in the grand jury proceedings.

Posted by robertp64 | Report as abusive

The author here sounds like a sore looser. She sounds like a little kid who laments her baseball game should have gone into extra innings simply because her team lost in regulation. The author doesn’t really talk about the real evidence, only references it from other articles which only mention the physical evidence in passing and instead focus on the character of Mr. Brown by measure that he was “headed to college”, as if that is somehow extraordinary, and exercise counterfactual speculation in regards to what is actually known about the event. Nor does she mention the fact that many witnesses who made claims about the evil of Mr. Wilson’s actions were shown to be discredited and in some cases all-out liars. Finally, the author seems to put some blame on Mr. McCullough for the events after the grand jury’s decision was made, as if he was the reason buildings were burnt, shots were fired, and the people of Missouri generally embarrassed themselves. Why is it that in a story about race relations, not one sentence mentions Dr. King, who is greatest of the black civil rights leaders? It is because the looters and shooters of Missouri don’t hold a candle to Dr. King, and they are only hurting themselves. Grow up Ferguson.

Posted by militantis | Report as abusive

The FBI was a full partner in the gathering and presentation of evidence to the Grand Jury. Is Allison Silver really trying to say that this is a coverup because there is no trial? The bar to overcome with a Grand Jury: Is there probable cause to believe a crime was commited and that Officer Wilsoon committed a crime. At trial, the bar is guilt proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Sad little emoti’s trying to get their pointles point across.

Posted by DennisVictor223 | Report as abusive

The opinion author only wants the worst from people, it pays her mortgage. It doesn’t matter if “Big Mike” was a thug whose very presence put people into fear of battery; that is on tape. There are many insisting that no person in authority can tell the professional victim what to do. Even many journalists believe they are above the law and no where does sit ever say that opinion pieces EVER have to have a bit of truth to them.

Posted by SixthRomeo | Report as abusive

Hi Allison. What you ask for – a trial – is what happened in Florida in the Travon Martin death. That trial came out exactly the way the police and the local DA originally called it – no crime committed due to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law. The Florida state attorney general decided to take the case. There was a trial and she lost. A better article for you to work on is why didn’t that loss cause some Florida town to be torched. There were all the same players.

CNN did a good job at 3 am today reviewing what happened to bring us to this point factually for Ferguson. It’s good to first remember how the DA came to do what he did no matter how unusual you or others think it. In August, the DA asked governor Nixon to appoint a special investigator like the state attorney general finally did in Florida. Governor Nixon declined taking over the investigation by such an appointment and committed to the local process. Governor Nixon could still do that although he promised that he would not.

You may recall that DA McCullough was asked to recuse himself because 30 years earlier his father had been killed by a black man. He declined and asked Gov. Nixon to take over the investigation who declined.

DA McCullough left the indictment to a grand jury without his personal participation so the community could know the bias he was accused of would not be a factor.

Exactly what aspect that happened did you not know would happen back in August? That would have been the appropriate time for all of the amazement of the process you and others point out.

Posted by mksimp2822 | Report as abusive

I would expect a little more responsible journalism from a respected source such as reuters.

Posted by kh88 | Report as abusive

What happened to brown is undoubtedly sad But let us put ourselves in the policemen shoes These Ameriacan blacks have a history of violence Its the brave policemen of any country keep the public safe from these laments who are too lazy to work so they find the easy way terror rising the innocent public who are weaker then them Its the truth people its happening everywhere Black americans are violent and lazy people it might be their ancestors blood Anyway we all should appreciate our beloved police force in keeping our streets safe from these ruthless bullies who can control these thugs our dear brave policemen and women so we salute you our Police brothers and sisters there maybe one or two policemen who gets carried away and might be a little racial and bully the public but not all of them

Posted by ricknash | Report as abusive

Why do you not mention the person most able to “succeed” if he wanted to. You know, the person on TV at the time. The most powerful man on the planet. An African-American himself. Head of the executive branch who appointed and works with Holder. Obama himself.

Blame someone else if you want but don’t forget to one who has the most ability to succeed, if he wanted to.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Hmmm. “Pending approval.” Let see if you are completely biased.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Several problems with this analysis.

1) Saying that the prosecutor failed to defuse the situation is problematic. There is every likelihood that had the Grand Jury returned a decision to indict, that the rioting and lawlessness of last night would have occurred, only in a crowd which felt vindicated in their belief that the “racial injustice” narrative had been upheld.

2) The entire underlying notion behind the article, “If it’s about finding facts, why no trial?”. . .is not the way our justice system works. The author seems to be suggesting that there should always be a trial, regardless of the presence or lack thereof of evidence supporting the issuance of a criminal charge. The one fact we know, for certain, is that 12 jurors unanimously determined that the facts are there was insufficient evidence to merit such a charge. Period.

3) “particularly unsettling because it repeated the way McCullough overloaded the grand jury with extraordinary amounts of conflicting information.” Wait. I thought this analysis was interested in finding the fact of the matter. That conflicting information is called evidence, and it had to be weighed. That’s part of the fact-finding process, after all. So the author is noting that it’s “unsettling” that large amounts of evidence had to be considered?!? The implication is that the author would have preferred a snap decision, without due consideration of the ‘facts’.

4) Then there is mention of a criminal statistic in Utah, wholly irrelevant to the matter at hand. It’s even thrown in in a haphazard way, as an afterthought (but one clearly designed to portray law enforcement in a negative light, even if it’s law enforcement from an entirely different state). This tends to support the notion that the author of the article isn’t truly interested in the facts at all.

Posted by Yashmak | Report as abusive

This issue is konen around the world. Terrible to see peoples reaction about this.

Posted by isisvermeer | Report as abusive

Kind of being thick there, Ms. Silver. How can you have a trial if you’re not certain a crime has been committed? All Grand Jury’s are already in place. This Grand Jury’s job was to determine if a crime had been committed. If they thought a crime had been committed, then officer Wilson would have been formally charged and sent to trial.

Only people committing crimes have trials. As this case involved a police officer and had such scrutiny, they decided to have a Grand Jury inquiry to determine whether there was ‘reasonable cause’ that Officer Wilson had committed a crime.

Also, it’s not as secretive as you claim – the full transcript of the Grand Jury proceedings is readily available here http://goo.gl/VpDjJX

Posted by J.T.Dudenhoffer | Report as abusive

Will anyone end up holding the media accountable for their pathetically biased and narrative driven coverage of the Brown shooting? They basically incited riots by dint of their wonderfully slanted and ’emotive’ coverage rather than giving the facts. Even as the grand jury has made its decision the media can’t help itself, going so far as to question the ethics of the prosecutor and the intelligence of the grand jury members. There is definitely blood on someone’s hands here and it isn’t the police officer in question; it’s the media and their sensationalized brand of info-tainment, esp TV news.

Posted by Van_Special | Report as abusive

I was on a grand jury and one of the cases on which we declined to press charges was for a guy charged with trying to sneak prescription drugs into prison in his wheelchair.

We decided not to press charges based on the facts presented by the prosecutor. We did NOT weigh the press’s right to a sensational trial and weeks of good copy in our decision.

To do so would have been improper and ridiculous. I’m glad this jury also ignored the bloodsucking press’s wishes.

Posted by ChesterFester | Report as abusive

Interesting that neither of the fragments quoted, from Cobb or Scheiber, has anything to do with the title of the piece. Cobb merely recites well worn grievances, tangential or irrelevant to the issue. Scheiber, amazingly, seems not to know what a grand jury is for, and what it is not for. Little wonder why bloggers are given scant credibility among the informed public.

Posted by hinckleybuzzard | Report as abusive

The unsung heroes of this episode are the black witnesses who testified that Michael Brown was rushing toward officer Wilson. They put their race aside and told the truth, as supported by the evidence. Our system of justice rests on people like these. To those who lied about what they saw in an attempt to get the result they wanted, they better hope they are never in a situation where their fate is decided by witnesses with an agenda.

Posted by JJHLH1 | Report as abusive

I am disgusted with all the apologies to the family of the criminal and yet not a single apology to the poor wilson family or to the poor officer himself. I also want to hear an apology from the media as well!

Posted by joamerishmp | Report as abusive

This is a FABULOUS idea!

We should indict Allison and then figure out if she is guilty of anything!

WINNING!!!

Posted by JoeThePumpernel | Report as abusive

Many attempt to take the night. A spree of tripping from one desire to the next. Swiping swishers, bullying punk clerks, jaying the streets, mocking the porkers, etc. etc.. But all highs come down. Brown overrode his luck. He thought the night was his to command. He bought the bullet. Short night. No wakeup. No rules at night.

Posted by A_Skri | Report as abusive

Wow! Reuters should place a disclaimer with this “opinion” piece! Talk about inflammatory! The author certainly knows how to incite by using unrelated, biased, emotionally charged statements and opinions as if they are authoritative facts to support her disappointment that the police officer wasn’t indicted. How about collecting statistics on how many people are shot while knowingly assaulting a person with a gun? The fact that Brown was UNARMED, yet still attacked an armed police officer is never questioned. Why? What kind of person does that? What kind of media supports that behavior, then demands “justice” – a euphemism for only one outcome, the indictment of the officer? Oh, I lost my head for a minute. That’s right, in the world of the white liberal the urban black man is always the real victim. Well, that is almost true. Yes, the urban black male is the victim alright – the victim of white liberalism. I hope some day they realize that!

Posted by beofaction | Report as abusive

Dragos111, DennisVictor223 and JJHLH1 point out what the author ignores … a process was engaged in which had evidence for and against calling for prosecution. Nothing is 100% when it comes to humans. But this was done about as well as can be expected. In fact, with all the attention, I’m sure this grand jury functioned better than most.

Those wishing to reform the police/authority structure I hope will continue the discussion. In addition, I hope there’s an equal discussion about the sub-culture which produces a Michael Brown and the tragedy that seems to play out again … and again … and again.

Posted by aeci | Report as abusive

Questions about the liberal media swirl. Dillon Taylor, an unarmed 20 YO of white and Hispanic background, was killed by a black officer in Utah – August 2014. Yet the Liberal media has largely brushed it under the rug. Brown had a grand jury trial. Taylor had nothing.
The liberal media practices its own brand of bigotry.

Posted by GeorgeMan | Report as abusive

“What worries me about this and the ‘stand your ground’ laws is that they put the decision to prosecute in the hands of the cops, who sometimes consult with a prosecutor. The accused does not get to/have to present their case in a court of law where a judge presides and a jury decides.

I do not understand why that does not worry the segment of our population who worry about the evil, big, bad government and its employees, the cops and prosecutor?”

Posted by emm305 |

Sorry,emm305. The decision to prosecute is not in the hands of the cops. The decision to prosecute is up to the District Attorney or Prosecutor. That is the purpose of the grand jury or preliminary hearing. And yes, we do have a “big, bad government” and unfortunately, it’s getting bigger all the time. How do you like it? Doesn’t sound like you do. Maybe you should be part of that “segment” of society that recognizes liberty declines as government grows.

Posted by beofaction | Report as abusive

It did not go the way you wanted it to, so the system is wrong. Get a life the grand jury has existed for hundred of years.

Posted by tiger628 | Report as abusive

I spent a year as the foreman of a county criminal grand jury about twenty years ago. Several times we found that we could not indict and returned a No Bill. However, most times the cases presented by the DAs who came before us were very well put together and the evidence was overwhelming that the person to be indicted was the person who should be indicted for the crime. We also were once requested to look at a First degree murder case the DA was questioning whether they had enough to take to jury for trial. This case was argued before us as though it were a full fledged trial, with another DA acting as a defense attorney. I acted as the judge with an attorney advising me. Witnesses were brought to California from as far away as New York to testify. While we were convinced the accused was guilty, the proof presented, and the theory of case presented, did not rise to the level of “Beyond a reasonable doubt.”

My Grand Jury told the DA that we believed the accused was the perpetrator of the murder, but they could not prove it with the case they presented to us. However, having presented the case to us, several of us came up with an alternative theory of how and where the crime occurred, which also fit the evidence and the witnesses statements, which I wrote up for the investigators and which we recommended they pursue. Five years later the county sheriff’s department arrested the same accused for the murder. The man took a guilty to the crime in a plea bargain, and during elocution, described how the crime had gone down, exactly as we had concluded it had to have been done. Sometimes, a Grand Jury can often find the truth when they are given all the facts, the evidence, and the witnesses. Grand Jurors are permitted to ask their own questions of those witnesses.

Posted by Swordmaker | Report as abusive

Confronting an officer of the law, and especially what he did was met with force. As a parent of sons, who thought this young man to rob stores and disrespect authority? It’s unfortunate, but the media including the President, contributed to this media drama. Until the inter city black community teaches their children respect and honesty, these type of incidents will continue into the future. They further inflame the situation by looting and rioting, not much has changed in the inter city in the last 50 years, the riots continue, from the 1960’s to present.

Posted by cheeze | Report as abusive

it is reported that:

In the 107 days since officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18 year old Michael Brown – 12:03pm, Saturday, August 9th – the following has taken place in Chicago:

•155 homicides (74% black males)

•725 shot & wounded

•Six (6) 18 year olds killed: Kawantis Montgomery, Kamaal Burton, Tony McIntos, Alexandra Burgos, Rayvon Little, Johnathan Cartwright
•59 18 year olds shot & wounded

•29 teenagers (13-19) killed

•244 teenagers (13-19) shot and wounded

•10 shot (5 killed) by the CPD

Posted by Alexaisback | Report as abusive

“Ferguson questions swirl” The only thing swirling is your bimbo head. There are no swirling questions about Ferguson. 99.99999999% of the people heard the outcome and are satisfied. That minute fraction of the people are unhappy. Oh well, such is life. And of course the media whores like Ms. Silver trying to stir up more hate and discontent. That’s what sells, right? Whatever happened to reporting the news, instead of creating it? The evidence was seen. The testimonies were heard. The vote was tallied. No grounds. So move on. Quit dwelling on history and stirring up the locals. If the media had not turned a local tragedy into a national circus, we would not even know Ferguson existed. Tell the truth Ms. Silver, if this had been a black police officer shot a young white man, do you think you would even notice? Let me answer. Of course not. That would not cause the media feeding frenzy you are exploiting. So I will now add my humble opinion to all nine of the other comments. The only real good I see here is that apparently no one is reading your article.

Posted by redneckrod | Report as abusive

I just love how this writer (and those she quotes) calls the Ferguson leaders incompetent (on the generous side – malevolent on the side they seem to actually believe). This writer et al fail to recognized that Ferguson is essentially a small town that was/is not equipped to deal with violence at this level, beginning with a large, enraged black man attacking a policeman through the car window. They have also failed to recognize that this violence and fear have been perpetrated throughout this small community for a long time – too long of a time by far. They have also failed to recognize that the actions of those committing this violence, mostly black, are NOT noble, noteworthy, or to be sanctioned by any civil, political or religious organization. These people are behaving like animals and the media are the circus clowns, prodding and poking the beasts to inflate the entertainment value of an extremely sleazy show. Thanks to these sorry clowns, the PERPETRATORS who are committing crime after crime with their daily violent and poisonous actions, and being molded into false underdogs so that even folks with a bit more sense are coming to their aid. PEOPLE – those engaged in the riots and marches and viperous rhetoric, as well as Michael Brown, are NOT innocent victims! Go home, there is no place in Ferguson for any of you. It cannot be said enough that in Kansas City, which is on the other side of the state for those of you without any sense, 2 small black girls on separate occasions were killed since Michael Brown’s death and NO ONE, including Jackson, Sharpton, etc., has given them a second thought or moment of attention. Apparently, black people of all ages are fair game for other black folk while white police are supposed to turn their backs on black criminals.

As to incompetent/malevolent leadership – do any of these writers recall a black mayor of New Orleans that proved himself to be both incompetent and malevolent? It is evident that not just black people excuse themselves from bad and reprehensible behavior – it seems that all other races are required to give them a pass on EVERYTHING…or they might just steal everything we own, burn down our houses, or kill us in our sleep. Or at least that is what we must believe based on what we are seeing in the media. The victims here are the black people who live productive and generous lives, who follow the rules and reject the violence we are currently seeing.

Posted by columbia93 | Report as abusive

I also would trust in a Grand Jury which covered all the facts, heard from all the witnesses (including those lying to achieve their agenda) and came to a decision not to indict the police officer.

We have seen people who should know better fanning the flames of anger and as a result, once again we have rioting, arson (a crime), and looting (another crime). Just what is any of these further crimes going to prove. All that has happened is the theft and destruction of property. It is doubtful that any of these businesses will reopen. Now the unemployment with get worse, the hopelessness will get worse. Again, just what has been accomplished?

You never see white people rioting when a black man kills a white man. Is this a reaction reserved only for the black man? It is time to stop this insane and destructive behavior while there is still something left of Ferguson.

Posted by Robert76 | Report as abusive

Excellent analysis by Silver and very helpful links. I’m distressed at the vitriol and thoughtlessness in the majority of comments on this piece. Also, the ignorance about the Grand Jury process and function is distressing, not only in the comments, but right up to the completely inappropriate actions of the so-called prosecutor, McCulloch. Moreover, people are reporting as fact one side of competing claims that were not subject to proper cross-examination as would occur in a trial. For example, Wilson was not subject to cross-examination. Rev. Sharpton hit the nail on the head when he observed what a spectacle this is, a prosecutor defending the killer, prosecuting the victim, and discrediting witnesses. McCulloch’s behavior at the press conference was that of someone who had decided at the outset how the decision should go and the only problem was how to structure the proceedings to get the desired result.

Posted by Mikelo | Report as abusive

Why in the world was this piece even written? As one of the other posters suggested, this simply adds gasoline to the flames. The police officer was doing his job in an entirely appropriate manner and for that he has been crucified by an irresponsible press. Give it a rest. Real justice prevailed.

Posted by StevenPiper | Report as abusive

Ms. Sullivan – let me answer your question (Ferguson questions swirl: If it’s about finding facts, why no trial?).

When a grand jury is convened, they determine whether or not there was even enough evidence to HAVE a trial. In this case, and they were presented with exhaustive evidence, the grand jury determined that NO TRIAL WAS WARRANTED OR NECESSARY. It’s that simple.

So – there will be no trial, because there is not enough evidence to charge Officer Wilson with a crime.

Posted by DWise | Report as abusive

Mikelo,
This whole thing is a spectacle because of people like Sharpton. It should never have made national headlines. Local news should have reported, “earlier today, a drugged up man robbed a market and roughed up the clerk. (see CCTV video) The perpetrator later assaulted a police officer in his vehicle and attempted to gain control of his service weapon. The police officer shot and killed the man. Now let’s go to sports…” This has nothing to do with race and everything to do with the fact that M. Brown broke several laws and had no respect for his own or other peoples’ lives. It’s sad, but this doesn’t happen to people who make a reasonable effort to follow the law. It’s not hard… I feel sorry for M. Brown because he obviously missed something growing up. But this isn’t cause for national protest. Yes black lives matter. Police lives matter also. Happy Thanksgiving.

Posted by ScreenName1978 | Report as abusive

We really need to demand more from our media. All reports seem to do these days is write divisive opinion pieces. All they are about is getting people to their page or channel so they can sell more ad space at a higher amount. They could careless about doing the public a service of just reporting facts.

just like before the Grand Jury’s decision we knew very few things; Brown was a thief and bully according to store video/school records, Wilson stopped Brown and his friend in the middle of road to tell them to walk on the sidewalk, some kind of altercation happened which ended with Wilson shooting Brown.

If these simple facts were laid out and it was a white cop shooting a white guy it won’t have even made the news… ok maybe a local new channel but would they have even taken sides in the matter??

The rest of Brown’s innocence and Wilson’s guilt was made up by the media just to get a bigger story. Well… If I were the citizens of Ferguson I would sue the media for incitement which led to the wholesale destruction of my community.

The media should rebuild what they had a very big part in destroying.

Posted by phaber74 | Report as abusive

Prosecutor:

“My friend in the police department here…. i mean… the accused… who killed an unarmed person because he was apparently unable to restrain him….he told us so himself…. is so innocent….. there is no need for a trial. He’s INNOCENT!”

Yeah okay.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

The evidence doesn’t matter, the officer is guilty because he is white ,down with racism? But we believed all the lies about hands up ,now we find that we were wrong and instead of backing respectfully down we fan the flames of ignorance and racism.What kind of news is this?

Posted by DonWgg | Report as abusive

Say, there, Dragos111 – before you go impugning folks for their lack of knowledge, perhaps you should educate yourself first. A grand jury is not a “jury of one’s peers.” There is also NO discovery process. A grand jury is seated to decide if there is enough evidence to proceed with prosecution, not to decide guilt or innocence. They are only presented with one side of the case – the prosecutor’s. In this case, the prosecutor is suspect. He is the presiding official of the group that received 50% of the donations to Officer Wilson. Do you suppose that there might just possibly be a conflict of interest?

Posted by shootmyownfood | Report as abusive