There's a saying in legal circles that a D.A. can get a Grand Jury to indict a cheese sandwich. It turns out that in Ferguson, Missouri, Grand Juries are apparently lactose intolerant. Then again, they seem to be extremely tolerant in many other regards.
Between the not guilty shooting death of unarmed Trayvon Martin walking home, and the now-unindicted shooting death of the unarmed Michael Brown with his hands raised -- and all shooting deaths in between -- I can't even imagine the response of much of Black America.
The riots across the country are wrenching to see. But it's difficult to have thought it wouldn't be the reaction. And while I'm sure there will be many pointing fingers at the rioters for their lawless civil disobedience, and also many urging calm, how calm can a people be believing that they have a target on them and it's open season?
Obviously that's not actually the case. Murder remains murder. The problem though is seeing how difficult it is to prove it when the victim is black, and the shooters not only are white but have laws supporting them.
I wish there weren't riots. I wish there weren't fires being set. I wish there wasn't violence across the country. And I also wish there was more legal protection and compassion that didn't make so many black people likely feel that if a white person shoots them it might be considered okay because they were scared.
They were scared?? Imagine being a black person.
For the sake of argument, maybe George Zimmerman shouldn't have been convicted of shooting the unarmed Trayvon Martin because under the law it was justified, and maybe Officer Darren Wilson shouldn't have been convinced of shooting the unarmed Michael Brown, because under the law it was justified. But even if that's the case -- imagine being a black person.
By the way, lest anyone think my opening quip was unfair, or my observations merely bleeding heart, an article on Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight website noted here that the most recent year for which data is available on the subject, 2010, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases -- and Grand juries did not return an indictment in just a mere 11 times.
In case you don't have your abacus handy, the math of that works out to District Attorneys getting an indictment in federal cases 99.99% of the time.
Let's put that another way. The odds of getting an indictment are 14,727 to 1. The chances of you being hit by lightning during your lifetime is 3,000 to 1. You are five times more likely to get an indictment in a federal case than being hit by lightning.
Is it unfair to say, "...unless you're an unarmed black man"? Maybe so. But then, it's probably even more unfair to be an unarmed black man.
And if you think it's unfair to say that -- imagine being a black person.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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