MY TAKE ON THE FERGUSON GRAND JURY DECISION NOT TO INDITE OFFICER DARREN WILSON

FergusonOn Monday, November 24, 2014, Ferguson Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch announced to the world in a press conference that the grand jury had declined to indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed, black 18-year-old whose fatal shooting sparked weeks of protests and inflamed deep racial tensions between many African-Americans and police. I don’t believe that anyone was surprised that officer Wilson was not charged in the killing of Michael.

 

 

 

It appears that Prosecuting Attorney McCulloch led the grand jury in a manner that I believe was designed to indict Michael rather than the man who shot him. Even at the start, many doubted whether the grand jury process would be fair since McCulloch had strong ties to the Ferguson Police Department and there had never been an indictment of any Ferguson police officer. In addition, McCulloch’s father was a St. Louis police officer killed in the line of duty by a black man when McCulloch was 12; his brother, nephew and cousin all served with the St. Louis police; and his mother worked as a clerk for the force for 20 years. Given these possible biases, there were many calls for McCulloch to recuse himself from the grand jury proceedings, but he refused. Even Governor Jay Nixon refused to relieve McCulloch as the prosecuting attorney and appoint a special counsel as many folks requested.

 

 

The way McCulloch conducted the grand jury investigation was anything but ordinary. Evidence is usually presented in a manner most favorable to the prosecution; the main purpose is to seek an indictment and then determine guilt or innocence at trial. McCulloch presented both sides of the case in great detail basically asking grand jurors to function as adjudicators of the facts. During his news conference, McCulloch was very clear that he believed the eye witnesses who supported Wilson’s version of events were more credible than those who did not. In fact, the only witness worthy of him quoting was Witness Number 10.

 

 

On August 11, 2014, when detectives interviewed Witness Number 10, a detective asked, “Would you just retell your account of what took place?” We all know that retell means that this witness had already told his story at least on one previous occasion without being recorded, so there is no way of knowing just how consistent his police statement was with his testimony before the grand jury. Here is what witness 10 said on August 11th: “I seen the two young guys walking down the street on the same sidewalk that I was on…”. Six weeks later during his testimony before the grand jury while under oath, Witness Number 10 changed his story. He then said, “I seen Mike Brown and his friend walking down the street close to the curb, not on the sidewalk.”

 

 

McCulloch also stated during his press conference that witnesses were changing their story before the grand jury on Wilson getting out of the car to chase Brown. Here is what Witness 10 said, “[Michael Brown] stopped. He did turn, he did some sort of body gesture. I’m not sure what it was, but I know it was a body gesture, and I could say for sure he never put his hands up after he did his body gesture, he ran towards the officer full charge.” When asked by the assistant prosecuting attorney in the grand jury room what he meant by body gestures, Witness Number 10 said, “I can’t say for sure what sort of body gesture, I cannot fully recall. All I know it was not in a surrendering motion of I’m surrendering, putting my hands up or anything, I’m not sure if it was like a shoulder shrug or him pulling his pants up, I’m not sure.” McCulloch’s favorite witness is saying, “I can’t recall,” “I’m not sure?” The only thing he is sure of is that Michael Brown did not so a surrendering motion. Yet many witnesses who came forward were consistent in saying that Michael Brown had his arms raised in a surrendering position.

 

 

The assistant prosecuting attorney then asked: “Let me ask you how is your vision?” Witness 10, “pretty good.” Question: “Okay, do you wear glasses or contacts.” Witness 10, “no.” The assistant prosecuting attorney did not ask when was his last eye examination or had he ever had his eyes examined. We do not know how old this witness is, but we do know that his eyes must be perfect to offer the grand jury the precise observations that he did. During his police interview on August 11, 2014, two days after the killing of Michael Brown, Witness 10 was asked how far away he was from the confrontation between Michael and Wilson, and he said, “…To guess maybe 100 yards, I would say. Maybe less.” However, on September 23, 2014, six weeks later, when asked under oath in the grand jury room, how far away he was, he said, “I would give it 50 to 75 yards.” Witness 10 reduced the distance in half while under oath before the grand jury, but the grand jury was not told by the assistant prosecutors what he said previously. Witness 10 changed his testimony while under oath.None of us know anything about witness 10 because he never came forward publicly, but he turns out to be the only witness to fully support Wilson’s version of what happened. I believe that the prosecutors willfully did nothing to help the grand jury judge the reliability of witness 10.

 

 

Prior to Wilson’s testimony to the grand jury, Ms. Kathi Alizadeh, one of the assistant prosecutors presenting the case, said this to the grand jury on September 16, 2014: “I’m going to pass out to you all, you all are going to receive a copy of a statute. It is Section 563.046, and it says law enforcement officers use of force in making an arrest, and it is the law on what is permissible, what force is permissible and when in making an arrest by a police officer.” Ms. Alizadeth then handed the jury a copy of a 1979 Missouri law that was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1985. Ms. Alizadeth handed the grand jury a copy of an unconstitutional law that said incorrectly that it is legal to shoot fleeing suspects simply because they are fleeing. By handling the grand jury that outdated law, Ms. Alizadeth deliberately lowered the legal standard upon which Wilson could be judged. With that law, she was telling the grand jury that Wilson had the legal right to shoot and kill Michael Brown as soon as Michael started to run. She was also informing the grand jury that Wilson did not have to believe that his life was being threatened by Michael.

 

 

That portion of the Missouri law, Chapter 563.046 says,“….Justified in the use of such physical force as he or she reasonable believes is immediately necessary to effect the arrest or to prevent the escape from custody.” As stated previously, that portion of the law was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 1985. The grand jury then listened to Wilson’s testimony based on the belief that his shooting of Michael was fully justified because of that law since Michael ran away from Wilson.

 

 

What is equally astonishing about how this case was presented is that several weeks after Wilson testified and as the grand jury was about to consider whether or not to indict Wilson, Ms. Alizadeth told the grand jury on November 21, 2014 the following: “Previously in the beginning of this process I printed out a statute for you that was the statute in Missouri for the use of force to effect an arrest. So if you all want to get those out, that we have discovered, and we have been going along with this during research, is that the statute in the state of Missouri does not comply with the case law. This doesn’t sound probably unfamiliar to you that the law is codified in a written form in books and they’re called statutes, but courts interpret those statutes, and so the statute for the use of force to effect an arrest in the state of Missouri does not comply with Missouri Supreme, I’m sorry, United State Supreme Court cases. So the statute I gave you, if you want to fold that in half just so that you know don’t necessarily rely on that because that is a portion of that that doesn’t comply with the law.” How can the grand jury understand such legal jargon when they are not attorneys?

 

 

Ms. Alizadeth then gave the grand jury the revised law dealing with police use of force and then she said, “That does correctly state what the law is on when an officer can use deadly force in effecting an arrest, okay. I don’t want you to get confused and don’t rely on that copy or than print-out of the statute that I’ve given you a long time ago. It is not entirely incorrect or inaccurate, but there is something initially that’s not correct, ignore it totally.” The grand jury then asked, “The Supreme Court, Federal court overrides Missouri statutes?” Instead of a simple yes, Ms. Alizadeth said, “Just don’t worry about that. As far as you need to know, just don’t worry about that.” Ms. Whirley, the other assistant prosecutor added, “We don’t want to get into a law class.” Neither assistant prosecutors explained what was incorrect about the Missouri law nor did any of them inform the grand jury what the correction was.

 

 

I believe that this case was fraught with a blatant attempt by McCulloch to obtain a decision not to indict by the grand jury for several reasons: (1) the grand jury consisted of twelve (12) people, 9 white and 3 black jurors; only 9 votes were required for decision; (2) McCulloch did not present the case to the grand jury as most prosecutors do; two of his female assistants had the honor, which is generally inconsistent with how prosecutors use the grand jury process; (3) it is unheard of for a possible defendant to testify before a grand jury. Wilson testified for over 4 hours giving his side of what happened; (4) the only witness that passed McCulloch’s “credibility” test was witness 10, the only witness to support Wilson’s testimony. Remember, this witness saw everything clearly at originally 100 yards but changed that to 50 years during his testimony, but the grand jury was never informed about the his previous statement; and (5) McCulloch’s staff initially presented the grand jury with an old Missouri law on an officer’s use of force on September 16, 2014, that was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 1985, but they deliberately withheld the correct law from the grand jury until November 21, 2014, when it was about to render a decision.

 

 

Except what the family may do in a civil court, what happens now will depend on the outcome of the U.S. Department of Justice investigation on whether Wilson violated Michael Brown’s civil rights as well as the overall conduct of the entire Ferguson Police Department in its policing efforts against the Ferguson African American community. If McCulloch wanted an indictment, he could have obtained it as most prosecutors do when convening a grand jury. It was never McCulloch’s intention to seek an indictment nor did he want to blemish his perfect record for never indicting any Ferguson police officer, but that’s just my take.

 

 

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MY TAKE ON SHAMEFUL REPUBLICAN LIES AND SCARE TACTICS ABOUT EBOLA

EbolaOn October 24, 2014, during a committee hearing, Darrell Issa, Republican Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, stated on the record that the new Ebola outbreak occurred in Guyana, South America. Issa also referred to Ebola as Eboli. In spite of his “expert Ebola knowledge,” Issa should have known that Guyana, South America, has nothing to do with Ebola because Ebola occurred in Guinea, Western Africa, a continent away. So much for artificial intelligence.

 

Issa also stated on the record during that hearing that the doctors at the Centers for Disease Control were lying when they said that you can’t catch Ebola on the subway since Dr. Craig Spencer, a recent Ebola patient, was riding on the subway (not sure which medical school Issa attended). While Issa’s comments were apparently made to instill fear in his Republican base in time for the November 2014 elections, it was a blatant lie–Ebola cannot be contracted on a subway. To debunk Issa’s lies and to counter some Ebola false statements, New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo both decided to take a ride on the New York subways.

 

Issa is not the only Republican employing lies and scare tactics about Ebola – New York Republican Representative Peter King went on Long Island News Radio on October 16, 2014, and said the following:

 

“The doctors were absolutely certain that this [Ebola] was not airborne.” “it’s time for the doctors to realize that they were wrong.” “Maybe this is a mutated form of the virus.”

 

So Representative King’s theory is that the Ebola virus mutated and is in the air that we breath? Yet another Republican who knows more about Ebola than the doctors. I guess King gets most of his Ebola information from Isaa and Paul.

 

But still more – another Republican “Ebola expert,” Dr. Rand Paul, said that “you can get Ebola at a cocktail party.” Dr. Paul is a self-certified Ophthalmologist and nothing in his medical background suggests that he has any knowledge about Ebola, but facts don’t matter when it comes to some right-wing radical Republicans like Paul.

 

Ebola has not mutated and is not in the air that we breath, nor can it be contracted on the subway or even a cocktail party. Competent medical experts agree unanimously that the only way that Ebola can be contracted is through the passing of bodily fluids. Perhaps Issa, King, Paul and others should check out the facts before engaging their mouth.

 

Nurse Nina Pham was the first recorded US case of someone contracting Ebola. Nurse Pham was one of the medical professionals attending to Thomas Eric Duncan who died because of the disease. She tackled one of the toughest jobs any nurse could take on — treating a highly contagious Ebola patient. And somehow along the way, she contracted the deadly virus herself. Nurse Pham was transferred from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas to the National Institutes of Health for treatment, and on Friday, October 25, 2014, she was publicly declared cured of the Ebola disease. To head-off any right-wing comments about whether or not she was “really cured,” the doctor that treated Nurse Pham deliberately gave her a public hug to further prove that she has been cured and is no longer contagious. That same day, Nurse Pham was invited to the Oval office at the White House and there was greeted by President Obama who also gave her a huge hug. Medical authorities also say that she is now immune from that disease.

 

Ebola is a terrible disease that has taken the life of thousands of African men, women and children. It is shameful and unfortunate that there is such a partisan divide in response to Ebola where some Republicans are attempting to gain cheap political points through the use of lies, fabrications and scare tactics to excite their base for the elections. In all likelihood, many Republicans who are fixated on Fox News and similar “so-called” news outlets will continue to buy-in to bogus theories about Ebola and will act accordingly, but that’s just my take.

 

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MY TAKE ON VOTING IN THE 2014 MID-TERM ELECTIONS - FINAL PART

voting rights2I believe that the stakes in this election are as high as they ever have been when considering the vast differences between the parties and what they bring to the table. While neither party offers remedies to fit every situation or problem, as Americans, we have an obligation to choose the political party that best supports our view of how our nation should be governed. Therefore, I offer the following perspectives:

 

1. If you believe that every American should have access to quality healthcare, then that is what the Democratic Party has embraced by passing the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare). Over 9 million people now have affordable healthcare. The House Republicans voted fifty-one (51) times to repeal the Health Care law without offering any viable alternative. If Republicans control both legislative branches, there will be no hesitancy in a major attempt to repeal that law.

 

2. If you believe that the minimum wage should be raised from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, then that is what the Democratic Party has embraced since it was mentioned in the President’s 2014 State of the Union Address. Raising the minimum wage nationwide would increase earnings for millions of workers, and boost the bottom lines of businesses across the country. Even though congressional Republicans continue to block the President’s proposal saying, among other things, that it would be a “job killer” for companies, a number of state legislatures and governors, mayors and city councils, and business owners have answered the President’s call and raised wages for their residents and employees. Thus far, none of these officials were Republicans.

 

3. If you don’t believe that the economy has significantly improved since President Obama took office in January 2009, here are the facts attributable to his economic policies: (a) businesses have created more than 9.7 million private sector jobs in the past 52 months; (b) after nearly collapsing, the US auto industry has added nearly 250,000 jobs-the fastest past of job growth in more than a decade; and (c) American manufacturers have added more than 500,000 jobs since January 2012, the strongest period of job growth since 1989. All of these actions occurred without any help from congressional Republicans.

 

4. If you believe that we should have a comprehensive immigration system, that has been embraced by Democrats and some Republicans. In fact, the Senate sent bi-partisan immigration legislation to the House, but Speaker Boehner refuses to bring it up for an up or down vote. Sadly, Boehner is being influenced by a small Tea Party faction and he is more concerned with alienating part of his caucus rather than doing the job that he was sent to congress to do.

 

5. If you believe that every women has the right to make her own medical decisions concerning her body, that has been embraced by Democrats. It seems that a majority of Conservative Republicans, especially men, are more interested in passing legislation requiring women to undergo unnecessary Transvaginal Ultrasounds and other invasive procedures when a woman is contemplating abortion rather than allowing women to make personal decisions about their body with their doctor. On one hand, Republicans complain about too much government intervention in the affairs of the people and yet, they are the party that continues to exploit women’s rights including shutting down state abortion clinics despite the fact that abortions are legal.

 

6. If you believe in a government that should be responsive to the needs of the people, the Democrats embrace that. Because of Republican actions over the past few years by targeting agencies like the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for catastrophic budget cuts, there is every possibility that a cure for Ebola could have been found. In addition to these drastic budget cuts, you may recall that the Republican Party shut down the entire government for about two-weeks costing taxpayers 25 billion dollars, and Boehner has recently initiated a frivolous law suit against the President for doing his job that will cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

 

7. If you believe in sensible gun control legislation, the Democrats embrace that. Although I am a firm believer of the 2nd Amendment, I do not understand why any US citizen would need an assault rifle. When the founding fathers adopted the 2nd Amendment, I do not believe that they had any idea that high-grade military weapons would be in the possession of citizens. Such weapons are designed for war, not for citizen protection. Law enforcement leaders who met with President Barack Obama in January urged him to focus on strengthening gun purchase background checks and mental health systems which is something that Republicans oppose.

 

8. If you believe that school teachers should be trained and armed and, according to the National Rifle Association (NRA), then able to intervene with fire power if situations occurred similar to Sandy Hook Elementary School or Oregon where a freshman student had an AR-15 type rifle, a semi-automatic handgun, nine loaded magazines capable of holding several hundred rounds, and a large knife, then you should vote Republican. I believe that teachers should teach and law enforcement personnel should deal with law enforcement issues.

 

The November 2014 elections are very important, and each of us should not hesitate to cast our vote for the candidates of our choice. I will enthusiastically cast my vote for Maryland Democrats because I believe they offer the best alternatives for our state, but that’s just my take.

 

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