Thanksgiving is here, and Ferguson is burning again. Those that burned, enraged as they might have been, whether friends of the Brown family or outside agitators or prone to violence, only wanted to know one thing: was Darren Wilson going to be indicted? The facts, the circumstances, the credibility of some witness accounts; all that was either secondary or meaningless. They had decided the facts of the case and only wanted to know if their opinion of justice was to be carried out or not. And not an informed legal opinion, one that rests on a reasonably careful examination of the evidence, one rather based on community and history. Justice as social justice, justice as righteous revenge in their eyes, justice as violent protest in the absence of the legal outcome they felt they were entitled to.

Some have suggested that the prosecutor felt that the evidence did not rise the level necessary to justify calling a grand jury to examine it. But the prosecutor went ahead with the case and instead, left the grand jury in charge of owning the decision, if you will. The NY Times in a critical article suggested the entire grand jury process needs to be reworked. Bloomberg news gave us a history of the English origins of the grand jury as a check on unnecessary prosecutions by the state and condemned St. Louis prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch’s tactic of leaving the decision up to the grand jury rather than prosecuting vigorously or not bringing the case to a grand jury. Would a public trial, the next stage had the grand jury brought forward an indictment, have eased tensions? Would the media circus, with it’s misplaced emphasis and omissions, to not say untruths, have changed to thoughtful in-depth coverage? Would the trial have resulted in a rational, legal process free of inflaming rhetoric and community violence? The pressure will build from those who criticize the grand jury’s decision to have the Justice Department bring a civil rights case against Darren Wilson. If this does in fact occur, will Ferguson suddenly become an oasis of sombre, rational calm? Or will the media circus and the burning continue?

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