It’s hard to know what else to say about the miscarriage of justice that happened when the grand jury in Ferguson decided that Darren Wilson didn’t need to be indicted for killing Mike Brown. I wish I could say I was surprised. But I’m not. Like a lot of people — though, given some of the comments I’m seeing on Twitter and Facebook, nowhere near enough people — I’m angry and disappointed and frustrated that Wilson won’t even be charged.
But it would be nice if the commentary — from all corners, and not just from the “amateur” commentators using social media — could get some basic facts straight. To be clear, lots of folks are making their voices heard in clear and intelligent ways. But there’s a lot of slop out there too. A lot of slop.
Exhibit A: People referring to the “verdict” that came down last night. There was no verdict. Verdicts happen at the end of trials. The process that came to an end last night was not a trial. It was a process to decide whether Darren Wilson should stand trial at all. It’s quite possible, of course, that an actual trial might still have resulted in Wilson being acquitted of whatever charges the grand jury decided he should face. And that, too, would have been a miscarriage of justice. Mike Brown is dead because Darren Wilson shot him over and over and over again. And there’s no version of the story I’ve seen — even from Wilson’s most eloquent defenders — where that strikes me as the way things should have ended that August afternoon. But Wilson was never on trial. There was no verdict. Merely a decision not to take things to the stage where a verdict would have happened.
Exhibit B: People referring to “the Mike Brown case.” This wasn’t — isn’t — a case about Mike Brown. We might, with good reason, talk about this as “the Mike Brown killing.” But he wasn’t the focus of the case. Not officially, anyway. To be sure, in ways that are disturbingly familiar and common, far too much of what’s been said around the shooting has been about blaming the victim. So Brown wound up on trial in all sorts of ways, even after he was dead and buried. But, especially if we’re going to try to talk about what went down on August 9 in the context of letting the justice[sic] system do what it’s supposed to do, the case at hand was about Wilson. We know he shot and killed Brown. What the system is supposed to ascertain is whether his actions ran afoul of the law in ways that merited putting him on trial. This is the Darren Wilson case.