Fiat Justitia Ruat Caelum: Ferguson Burns As Darren Wilson Walks
The news is full of images of rioting in Ferguson, Missouri. The Grand Jury decided not to charge white Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of black Michael Brown. The jury – 12 members of the community (nine white, and three black) – found that Wilson acted lawfully when he shot dead an unarmed black teenager.
Darren Wilson, 28, fired six shots at 18-year-old Brown.
The grand jury’s job is not to try but to indict: to hear the government’s evidence that a crime was committed by a particular person, then to affirm, or refuse to affirm, that the government has shown “probable cause” to believe that the suspect did the deed. Only if the state clears this hurdle can it can go forward and bring the suspect to trial…
Is there a more efficient way of bringing indictments? Many states have dropped grand juries in favor of “preliminary hearings,” in which a judge considers the evidence and makes the determination as to probable cause. Since the Supreme Court has interpreted the grand jury guarantee of the Fifth Amendment as applying only to the federal government, the states are free to go their own way.
No-one is listening.
Violence ensues. The looting does no-one any favours. It’s weak. But it’s understandable.
And it spreads.
In Rockville, Maryland, a building burns down. The news crew spot the wreckage. And then an idiot passes by. ‘Carlos’ confesses to starting the fire – “Me, me. I set it on fire… I just poured gasoline on the floor, set it on fire, went to buy a drink and came back.”
It’s only chance that no-one was hurt.
As the just say in Ferguson: Fiat justitia ruat caelum.