Column: Let due process ring
Speeding up due process in Ferguson may have unforeseen consequences and set a dangerous precedent.
Aug. 26, 2014
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
Five, six or more shots fired. One, two, now three weeks later, justice has not come.
The Ferguson Police Department outside St. Louis has remained ambiguous. Sticking to protocol and committed to conducting a thorough investigation, the FPD has yet to make an arrest in the shooting of six-foot-four African-American Michael Brown.
The community, in the absence of an arrest, has not rested. In the heart of the nation, a young man slain pulled the president from his vacation in Martha’s Vineyard to Washington, D.C., prompting the sending of Attorney General Eric Holder to the site of chaos and rioting. Since then, he has engaged in a legal situation more easily criticized then shifted through.
At the core of the Brown family’s call to action stands the principle of transparency in this investigation. Weary of the integrity of the county’s investigation, the family requested its own autopsy, as results from the primary one conducted by St. Louis County hadn’t been released some days after Brown’s passing. Sharing similar sentiment, the Federal Bureau of Investigation opened its own investigation and will conduct a rare third autopsy. The nation’s scrutiny has further pressured the handling of the case to pick up speed, with a grand jury currently examining whether or not to indict officer Darren Wilson, the FPD officer responsible for the shooting.
With a messy investigation, one may justify the civil unrest. But, while swift justice does trump no justice, thorough justice will trump swift justice. In an investigation with so much left to eyewitness testimony, convoluted by protests and further diluted by an instant news media, general sentiment undervalues thoroughness.
Even in 2014, there is no app for justice. No one can just take a photo of the crime scene, draw eyewitness testimonies from Erodr, take profile pictures of potential perpetrators and victims from Facebook, draw on a jury verdict from Twitter and in the lackadaisical tap of a finger know who did what, what they did, when they did it, why they did it, where they did it and how they did it. In 3014, that may serve as the standard for criminal processes, but for now, trust ought to be placed in the current system. At least more than two days’ worth.
At stake in Ferguson is the setting of a precedent.
Brown was shot to death at noon on a Saturday; there were riots the next night and protests by Monday. The investigation had no chance. Controversial and potentially race-charged crimes must not serve as a justification for civil unrest or for civil disobedience worthy of the National Guard’s deployment. Even as rapper Nelly took the streets denouncing the angry protest on St. Louis’ Hot 104.1 radio, saying that the weapon of anger accomplishes nothing, he was met by that same anger.
Match anger with anger and only hate will be produced. This nation stands on principles. The political and judicial systems sit built with the cast of principle. Not even an entire sack of bad seed justifies the crucifying of a system. It takes many to follow the impulse of the masses. It only takes one to uphold the integrity of the American way. There is a time for civil unrest, for consistent disobedience … at least let the trial begin.