Toward breaking the impasse in our discussion of Ferguson

In the wake of the grand jury verdict in Ferguson, I’ve seen thoughtful commentators trying their best to do two things. On the one hand, they want to listen carefully to our African American neighbors who experience racial prejudice in their interface with law enforcement and with the criminal justice system. They want to give due regard to systemic racial inequality that still exists in our country. On the other hand, they also want to be fair in their evaluation of Michael Brown’s death and how his death relates to the overall racial disparity in our criminal justice system.

This has been a difficult balance to strike in the wake of events in Ferguson. Some have insisted that Michael Brown’s death is “Exhibit A” of the larger systemic issues in our country. Furthermore, they insist that failure to treat Brown’s death as an exemplar of those issues is a failure of racial sensitivity. And herein is the impasse: Not that people deny the existence of larger systemic issues, but that the shooting of Michael Brown must be viewed as an example of it. Emotions run high as all the pathos of our nation’s original sin come to the surface in these kinds of discussions. And that is why the discussion is so difficult. That is also why evangelicals have even found themselves divided on the matter.

Nevertheless, there are a growing number who are resisting the idea that Brown’s death is an exemplar of the valid grievances voiced by African Americans. Just yesterday, Charles Barkley announced that his view on Ferguson had changed after he heard some of the grand jury testimony. Barkley says he now believes that Darren Wilson acted properly in defending himself. Likewise, Joe Scarborough argued forcefully yesterday that Brown’s shooting should not be the rallying point for otherwise valid grievances. Earlier today Ross Douthat put a fine point on it:

We will never know exactly what happened in the shooting of Michael Brown, but at this point the preponderance of the available evidence suggests that this case is at the very least too ambiguous, and quite possibly too exculpatory of the officer involved, to effectively illustrate a systemic indictment of police conduct.

Likewise, John McWhorter has argued that “Ferguson Is the Wrong Tragedy to Wake America Up.” McWhorter recognizes that there was a justified “preset hostility” that led to the confrontation between Brown and Wilson, and that hostility was unambiguously racial in nature. Nevertheless, he writes,

As someone who has written in ardent sympathy with the Ferguson protests, I find this hard to write, but I have decided that it would be dishonest of me to hold back. As I have written endlessly, America will never get past race without a profound change in how police forces relate to black men. However, I’m not sure that what happened to Michael Brown — and the indictment that did not happen to Officer Darren Wilson — is going to be useful as a rallying cry about police brutality and racism in America…

We are told that this tragic sequence of actions shows that America “devalues black bodies,” as a common phrasing has it. But I fear the facts on this specific incident are too knotted to coax a critical mass of America into seeing a civil rights icon in Brown and an institutionally racist devil in Wilson…

Beyond the converted, the less committed observer will see the facts piling up and conclude that one can be fully aware of racism’s persistence and yet still feel that the part racism played in Brown’s death is too abstract to qualify as a Selma-style — or even Trayvon-style — teaching moment… Aren’t other deaths that have grieved us more useful in teaching a vast nation of people, with various levels of understanding and concern, that we have a serious problem here?

What happened to Diallo, Martin, Crawford, and also Oscar Grant is a clearer demonstration of what faces us than what happened in Ferguson. People don’t like being told to ignore facts; even fewer find ambiguity a spark for indignation… I mourn Brown as we all do, but I worry that we have chosen the wrong tragedy to wake this country up.

I don’t know that I have anything earth-shattering to contribute to this discussion. And perhaps I’m foolish for trying. But I am looking for ways to be helpful. And I want to hold out hope that maybe evangelicals in particular might reach some rapprochement and not be continually divided from one another over Ferguson. To that end, I wonder if we might consider some guidelines for ongoing discussions:

(1) Can we agree not to make condemning Darren Wilson the litmus test for racial sensitivity? The preponderance of evidence in this particular case is at the very least too ambiguous and probably too exculpatory to merit the condemnation that has been heaped on this officer. Unless some other evidence comes to light, it doesn’t make sense to make condemning Wilson a condition for dialogue and fellowship among brothers.

(2) Can we agree to listen carefully to African American brothers and sisters in their experience of racial prejudice? No matter what your opinion of the grand jury verdict, these concerns are real and need a hearing. You don’t have to have an opinion about the Ferguson grand jury verdict in order to be genuinely concerned about the larger racial issues that still bedevil our nation.

(3) Can we agree together that the violent looting of Ferguson was an unvarnished evil that has no justification whatsoever, no matter what your view of the grand jury’s verdict? For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God (James 1:20).

It matters both what we say and how we say it in conversations like this one. If you have any other constructive suggestions, I’d love to hear them. I for one welcome any insight on how we might better do those things that make for peace.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brothers to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Coming down upon the beard,
Even Aaron’s beard,
Coming down upon the edge of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon
Coming down upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forever.

-Psalm 133

98 Responses to Toward breaking the impasse in our discussion of Ferguson

  1. Ross December 2, 2014 at 10:57 pm #

    Thanks for this. It expresses very well what I’ve felt about this issue.

  2. Joe Blankenship December 3, 2014 at 12:35 am #

    Denny,

    I’m not responding to Holland’s remarks which in my opinion have been readily proven false by Thabiti, Douglas Blackmon, Michelle Alexander, Pastor Mason, etc. – I’m speaking to your comment – in particular the exoneration of Officer Wilson based on the grand jury.

    The reason many people question the justice of the grand jury’s judgment is because the process was terribly flawed. The Prosecutor (based on his background, previous case history and the process of handling and mishandling of testimony before the grand jury) seems to have played the role of defense attorney, which completely distorts the process. In this case the grand jury was asked to serve as a petit jury without the help of a judge or a prosecutor (and if you believe the DA) without a defense attorney. That does not allow for a fair decision. If evidence is presented to a jury that would be not permissible evidence in court but there is no judge present to guide the jury as to what is permissible and what is not; then the jury can’t make a right decision. If a witness gives testimony that is perjured by what he/she previously testified but there is no cross examination to bring that out; then the jury doesn’t have the right information. If a witness testifies in favor of the police officer and does so because he has a potential criminal case pending that would be more favorably dealt with based on his testimony and there is no attorney to bring that out in cross examination; then the jury hearing the “facts” can’t make a correct decision. If the basis for what constitutes criminal action is not correctly given to the jury then the jury is impaired in their ability to make a right decision.

    We know some of these errors happened, We don’t know if others did. They well might NOT have happened and the grand jury might have heard all the facts in a proper way. BUT – if you have seen the system fail repeatedly over the decades in ways that have harmed people in your community then you have a right to be skeptical – especially when the normal system of justice gets turned on its ear like it did in this case.

    I’m not saying you have to make “Officer Wilson” the test case for racial sensitivity. But if you take the position that he wasn’t in the wrong and you remain silent about Diallo, Martin, Crawford, Oscar Grant, etc. then you might be racially insensitive don’t you think?

    And if you answer the cries for change with the “he got what he deserved”, “he reaped what he sowed”, “the real problem is black on black crime” , “the real problem is fatherlessness in the black community” – then you show that you’ve not listened or thought deeply or read well on the subject. Are you loving your neighbor as yourself? Are you valuing all men as image bearers of God?

    Take some time to read “Slavery by Another Name”. Read “The New Jim Crow”. Read Thabiti’s answers to Bill O’Reilly. Read “More than just Race”; Read “Death in a Promised Land”. Read “Letters to A Birmingham Jail”. Read “Bloodlines”. And that doesn’t even include all the great stuff by John Perkins.

    Can we agree that the looting and violence was evil? yes – can we agree that it is treated as more wicked BUT SHOULD NOT BE than the looting and violence in San Francisco following the world series?

    No question – that if your response to the perceived injustice is one of hatred and violence and not a call for love, mercy, hope, help, peace, redemption for all involved (including officer Wilson) then you are not doing what is required – to DO justice, to love mercy and to walk in humility.

    I don’t know how all we should respond. We are meeting as a fairly diverse church to talk and listen and pray together on the issue this Sunday night.

    I do know in the 60’s evangelicals kept saying the best way to deal with the injustice was to wait and talk it out and be balanced and find the right issue and many never spoke until it was way too late. Maybe this isn’t the issue to cry out for justice on but if not now, when?

    Can we agree that we should ask the Lord to please help us not repeat that same error of the American church in the south in the 1800’s and in the 1900’s and in the 60’s?

    • Denny Burk December 3, 2014 at 2:08 am #

      Well, it looks like we’re not breaking through any impasses tonight. You can’t blame a guy for trying!

      Thanks, Joe. Great to hear from you.

  3. Curt Day December 3, 2014 at 1:56 am #

    Denny,
    I have some agreement with you but would modify #3. Just as with referees’ calls where some are right, some are wrong, and some are understandable, we need to realize that the violence and looting that occurred after the announcement is wrong but just might be understandable. To deny that it could be understandable would possibly be to minimize the racial divide and the systemic injustice that exists in our nation. As people continued to be harshly pushed, we need to realize that everybody has a limit, including us Christians. And after so much pushing, the violence and looting is a pushing back and a venting of anger at those some can vent anger at. I’ve seen this in the city streets before.

    And if the violence and looting, though wrong, is understandable, then we need to recognize the urgency needed in eliminating the injustices and resolving the differences.

    • Barbara Jackson December 4, 2014 at 11:44 am #

      How is it ever understandable or logical to take out one’s anger toward an entity by destroying one’s own neighbors’ (unrelated to the entity) property?

      • Brian Holland December 5, 2014 at 2:54 am #

        Or even if it was related to the entity? Even if these rioters destroyed a mostly white part of town (assuming for the sake of argument that Wilson was guilty of murder) how would that be understandable or logical? Even going after Wilson himself would be anti-biblical, vigilantism.

        The damage that the left has done to this country is truly incalculable, and even the damage done to Christianity is hard to fathom.

  4. Joe Blankenship December 3, 2014 at 2:27 am #

    Denny, I do thank you for trying and hope and pray you will keep trying. I think dialogue is important and I hope my questions are worthy of consideration, thought and discussion. I recognize that I see from one perspective but I have tried to read broadly. Please help me see where I am thinking wrong. I’m sure you want ultimately the same things I do as we strive to live out our theology. I know we live in different places, minister to different people but love and treasure the same Lord and same book. You think well and I’m thankful for your giftings. Feel well too. It is part of the gospel calling.

  5. buddyglass December 3, 2014 at 10:08 am #

    Here are three I’d add. They’re in direct response to things I’ve seen written over the last couple of weeks:

    1. Can we agree not to reflexively and dogmatically defend Wilson and, by extension, law enforcement in general, because we don’t wish to be counted with those who unfairly demonize Wilson and, by extension, law enforcement in general? Can we recognize that admitting a possible irregularity in the legal process and/or some possible wrongdoing on Wilson’s part in no way obligates us to demonize him (Wilson) or take a dim view of law enforcement in general?

    2. Can we agree not to answer the grievances of our black brothers and sisters, including claims of racially motivated mistreatment, systemic or otherwise, with a response along these lines: “We’ll look into addressing systemic racism when you guys get your act together and address the black community’s high crime rate. ‘Kay? Get your own house in order before you start criticizing ‘us’.”

    3. Can we agree not to answer the grievances of our black brothers and sisters, including claims of racially motivated mistreatment, systemic or otherwise, with a response along these lines: “Systemic racism? Pshaw. How about violent rioting, looting and destruction of property? Why aren’t you guys protesting or vocally condemning that?”

    • Denny Burk December 3, 2014 at 10:11 am #

      I think so. Especially numbers 2 and 3.

    • Brian Holland December 3, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

      On point #1, I don’t know anyone who reflexively defended Wilson. I know people, and I include myself here, who said “we have to wait until all the evidence comes in.” The protestors, on the other hand, had no idea what actually happened, and yet they marched and protested incessantly, and that’s immoral in and of itself.

      #2 Of course there’s still racism in America, and we need to work against it, but the left divides everyone up into race, class and gender, and sadly far too many blacks have bought into the anti-biblical lies of the left. The Christian Tight End for the Saints wrote about this in his FB post that went viral. It’s ultimately about sin not skin. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/11/26/im-frustrated-nfl-players-brutally-honest-reaction-to-darren-wilson-and-ferguson-takes-aim-at-humanitys-sin-problem/

      #3 Is a very similar point, but you have two sides that willing to be reasonable in order to have a real dialogue. The left always calls for a national dialogue on race, but really they want some kind of reeducation, and in reality it’s a monologue, because anyone who differs with them is either called “racist” or an “uncle Tom.” Ultimately this isn’t about race, but culture and values. It’s not about black vs white, but right vs wrong. Obviously we all have our blind spots, but we should be able to agree that racially motivated crimes like this one that occurred in St. Louis recently, where a young Bosnian man was beaten to death with hammers after people screamed “kill the white people” are wrong.

      http://www.breitbart.com/InstaBlog/2014/11/30/Black-Teens-In-St-Louis-Murder-Unarmed-Bosnian-Man-In-Brutal-Hammer-Attack

      And yes black people need to condemn this kind of violence, and the looting. Unfortunately there is usually silence and denial. Thankfully the Bosnian community there came out in force to protest against the killing. I guess they didn’t get the “white privilege” memo.

      • James Stanton December 3, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

        Brian,

        There are around 38,000,000 blacks in the United States. Only a very small minority of people are out there protesting and an even smaller number engaged in looting and acts of violence. The incident with the man who was beaten to death sounds similar to events of lynchings that were common 75 years ago. The violence, however, is orders of magnitude less severe than the riots of the 1960s.

        • Brian Holland December 3, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

          James, one the one hand your point is very well taken. But I’m talking about the forrest (the culture) not the trees (the individuals). Obviously my wife, and others like her stand against the tide of secular fundamentalism.

          In a parallel example, the percentage of muslims that are radical varies in estimate from 10-15% from estimates that I’ve heard, but it’s the silent majority that enables them by agreeing at least in part with what they do, or blaming Israel/America. Or like in Egypt, where 90% Muslims say it’s acceptable to kill someone who leaves Islam. The same phenomenon happened in Nazi Germany. I’m not comparing anyone here to Nazis, but the phenomenon is the same.

          So my question is: where is the outrage in the black community for racist, random attacks on whites, on abortion, on black on black crime, rioting etc? Where are the demonstrations? It’s a perfectly legitimate question.

          • Jane Dunn December 3, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

            Brian – Here’s a list of rallies and demonstrations by black people against crime in black communities. Just because the media from which you get your news doesn’t cover them doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. http://m.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/04/why-dont-black-people-protest-black-on-black-violence/255329/#

            • Brian Holland December 3, 2014 at 9:22 pm #

              Jane, seriously how can you compare the sporadic collection of rallies over the years in different cities to what we saw in Ferguson? If any of them were half the size of the demonstrations in Ferguson they wouldn’t be local stories, but on every news channel. You and I both know that the poverty pimps and race hustlers won’t touch these stories because 1) there’s no money in it for them and 2) the problems are much more difficult to solve rather than just whipping up racial animosity.

              Furthermore the left justifies rioting. Again, this is not a black/white issue as much as it is a left vs right issue, or a right vs. wrong issue. Hence the latest issue of Time: In Defense of Rioting

              http://time.com/3605606/ferguson-in-defense-of-rioting/

              • Jane Dunn December 4, 2014 at 12:03 am #

                Brian – First you said there weren’t any. Now you claim they’re not sufficient in numbers of rallies or numbers of protestors. They were reported by national news — just not the ones you listen too. The anger in Ferguson and now NY is because it’s the police, supposedly law enforcement, doing the killing as opposed to criminals doing the killing. I don’t think gang members will change their ways because of a protest. Protests do, however, bring about change in the law. And at least the criminals are usually vigorously prosecuted. When it’s police doing the killing a whole different standard is applied.

  6. Ryan Davidson December 3, 2014 at 10:45 am #

    Good points. There are valid criticisms to be made. The problem is that certain parties made the indictment of Wilson (or lack thereof) as a litmus test of whether those grievances had been heard. In that sense, they were setting themselves up for failure.

    I generally practice in areas of law besides criminal law. Even so, based on the evidence that was collected, it’s hard for me to imagine that most prosecutors would have even presented the case to a grand jury. That’s not because they’re racist; it’s simply because there’s little evidence that Wilson committed a criminal act.

    That doesn’t mean that Wilson didn’t act foolishly or unprofessionally under the circumstances. And it doesn’t mean that his foolishness or unprofessionalism had nothing to do with Michael Brown’s race. And while that certainly reflects a kind of injustice, it’s not the kind of injustice that our criminal laws are designed to address. This is a case for the civil courts.

    And I think Brown’s family probably knows that. Their attorney, after all, is not a criminal lawyer. He’s a fabulously successful civil plaintiffs’ attorney from Tallahassee. Call me a cynic, but I’d guess that the push for an indictment (which their attorney had to know would never come) was part of a larger strategy to drive up the dollar-figure for the forthcoming civil settlement.

    • buddyglass December 3, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

      Since you’re an attorney, what’s your opinion on how the prosecutor handled the grand jury phase? I’ve read some criticism that he didn’t do everything in his power to get the indictment.

      Note: that the prosecutor didn’t seek an indictment with sufficient “vigor” doesn’t mean Wilson is actually guilty of anything or that the evidence merits a trial.

      My feeling is that the facts of the case are such that if the prosecutor had cherry picked which evidence to present to the grand jury (which is his prerogative) then he probably could have gotten the indictment. And then the case against Wilson would almost surely have failed at the trial phase.

      Still. If the guy could have gotten an indictment and didn’t then that seems worthy of criticism.

      • Ryan Davidson December 3, 2014 at 9:42 pm #

        Sure. But it’s not an adversarial proceeding. So, in that context, it would be grossly unethical for a prosecutor to withhold evidence in his possession that tended to show that no criminal act occurred.

        I think the prosecutor handled it as best he could under the circumstances. I suspect that few prosecutors would have even sent this case to a grand jury. It only went to the grand jury because of the public furor surrounding the incident. And, in that circumstance, the prosecutor also had a duty to ensure that innocent but unpopular people are not unnecessarily subjected to criminal prosecution.

        Again, I’m not saying that to defend Wilson. The evidence shows that he handled the situation poorly. But professional incompetence doesn’t make one a criminal.

        • Jane Dunn December 3, 2014 at 10:05 pm #

          Ryan – I am an attorney also and what you’ve written is ludicrous. Prosecutors have an ethical duty to turn over all exculpatory evidence to the defense but that has nothing to do with the grand jury process. Of course a prosecutor shouldn’t seek an indictment if he/she doesn’t actually believe the suspect committed a crime but there is no duty to present all the evidence to a grand jury. They are not the trial jury. But, if you’re going to argue that all evidence must be made available to a grand jury, then you have to deal with the fact that in Wilson’s case, the prosecutors only cross examined witnesses contradicting the police but failed to cross examine the police officer himself. That is just as just as surely withholding evidence as failing to introduce a ballistics report. In Wilson’s case, the prosecutor could have indicted Wilson without a grand jury, but that would have meant that if Wilson wanted to testify he would have had to do do in public and subject to real cross examination.

          • Ryan Davidson December 3, 2014 at 10:43 pm #

            Please re-read my comment. You’re misinterpreting what I said.

            It would be patently unethical under the rules of professional conduct for a prosecutor to recommend an indictment if he had evidence in his possession that he knew would make it unlikely that he could obtain a conviction at trial. That doesn’t mean that he’s under an ethical obligation to disclose all exculpatory evidence to the grand jury. But it is a limit on how he can conduct himself under the circumstances.

            Based on the evidence that we now know, it would have been a gross injustice to indict Wilson. Under normal circumstances, the prosecutor would probably not have even bothered sending this case to a grand jury.

            • Jane Dunn December 3, 2014 at 11:07 pm #

              Ryan – Please re-read my response. I agreed a prosecutor should not seek an indictment if he/she believes he/she could not get a conviction. The evidence in Wilson’s case is nowhere near that situation.

              • Ryan Davidson December 4, 2014 at 1:38 am #

                I’m going to discontinue this dialogue, as it’s clear that your conclusions are largely based on speculations that are supported by neither the physical nor the testimonial evidence in the case.

                As I noted below, there are many who, for good reasons, were hoping that an indictment of Wilson would serve as a vehicle for addressing the racism that infects many of our policing practices. And many of them convinced themselves of Wilson’s guilt based on a few unsubstantiated narratives–narratives that turned out not to square too well with the evidence in this case.

                But there’s still a discussion that we need to have about the role of racism in policing. For example, I suspect that Wilson would not have escalated the situation in the way that he did had Brown not been black. Even so, that doesn’t make Wilson a criminal. And it doesn’t mean that he should endure a show trial as some act of political expiation. But when people engage in irrational denial of that reality, it makes it much harder to take them seriously.

                I’m not saying this because I’m satisfied with the status quo. To the contrary, I think we need to take a serious look at the role of racism in policing. But if we’re going to position ourselves to speak persuasively on these issues, we have to be honest enough to admit what the facts of the Wilson case clearly demonstrate. And those facts clearly demonstrate that there was insufficient evidence that Wilson engaged in any criminal activity.

                • Jane Dunn December 4, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

                  Ryan – Actually, I’ve referred to specific physical and testimonial evidence in support of my conclusions. You haven’t. But I do agree that it’s pointless to continue this conversation. No real dialogue is possible when one side is just spouting unsupported bluster.

  7. Jane Dunn December 3, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    Denny – Your #1 is based on a false premise. The grand jury did not decide what the “preponderance of the evidence” was or that the evidence was “probably” exculpatory of Wilson. The P of E standard is from civil law and has nothing to do with the grand jury. Further, it’s not even accurate to say that the grand jury “decided” anything because that implies that at least a majority of the grand jury agreed, which isn’t necessarily true. It’s just as possible that there were 8 jurors FOR an indictment and only 4 against. The forensic evidence did not disprove the many witnesses who said Brown had his hands up nor did the forensic evidence prove Brown had his hand on the gun. There will never be any racial reconciliation while the myths you and Ross Douthat perpetuate continue to be accepted as true and especially if you make acceptance of them your #1 requirement.

    • Ryan Davidson December 3, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

      Actually, the standard employed by the grand jury is essentially the same as the preponderance of the evidence standard in most states. Further, the testimonial and physical evidence is largely inconsistent with the allegation that Brown had his hands raised in a surrender position.

      • Jane Dunn December 3, 2014 at 9:48 pm #

        Ryan – That’s simply incorrect. Probable cause is an extremely low standard. And, while the physical evidence did not confirm that Brown had his hands up, neither did it confirm that he didn’t.

        • Ryan Davidson December 3, 2014 at 10:29 pm #

          Preponderance of the evidence is also a low standard. You seem to be suggesting that the probable cause standard is something akin to the substantial evidence standard, which is the standard used for appellate review of a jury verdict. In that sense, you are wrong. For all intents and purposes, the probable cause standard doesn’t differ in substance from the preponderance of the evidence standard.

          But bear in mind that the prosecutors are not authorized to seek an indictment merely because he or she believes that she can convince the jury to indict. The prosecutor must also consider whether that indictment will stand up at trial. The ethical standard governing prosecutorial conduct in most jurisdictions states that the “prosecutor should file charges that he or she believes adequately encompass the accused’s criminal activity and which he or she reasonably believes can be substantiated by admissible evidence at trial.” That’s why competent prosectors lose few jury trials: They don’t recommend indictment unless they have a firm belief that they can and will convict at trial.

          You seem to be upset that the prosecutor didn’t conduct himself unethically in this case. It confuses me why an officer of the court would ever hold such an opinion.

          • Jane Dunn December 3, 2014 at 11:04 pm #

            Ryan – It confuses me why you bring up so much that has so little to do with the Wilson case. The “substantial evidence” standard has nothing to do with this case. You seem upset that you can’t snow everyone with your legalese or intimidate me with your purported ethical warnings.

            • Garth Madden December 4, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

              Ryan, I think you bring up valid points. Jane, you seem to demonstrate an unusual amount of bias and seem to think you know better than the court officers and grand jury members who a) laid out all the evidence so that their work could be scrutinized b) know much more about the case than you do. Is this the kind of adversarial and disrespectful disposition that you conduct yourself in your own legal practice? Do you practice law in a courtroom setting where you would openly display this kind of disrespect and harsh skepticism towards fellow law officers? I’m curious.

              • Jane Dunn December 4, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

                Garth – You’re entitled to your own opinion as I am to mine. Suffice it to say, you’re simply incorrect. You don’t seem to understand the legal process at all. I think this conversation has run its course.

                • Garth Madden December 4, 2014 at 9:01 pm #

                  I am not an attorney, but I do know that there is a decorum that attorneys are expected to demonstrate, even when hard questions and scrutiny needs to be applied. And the attorneys I do know are a great deal more circumspect about lambasting other officers of a court on a case they don’t have first hand information about. I’ll ask again – do you practice law in a courtroom setting and if so, do you make strong accusations of fellow attorneys and judges on cases, especially on cases you haven’t had direct familiarity with?

                  • Jane Dunn December 4, 2014 at 9:46 pm #

                    Garth – I’m guessing you’ve never read any Supreme Court dissents. Some of them are far more scathing than anything I’ve said. Since I am an experienced courtroom practitioner and you aren’t, you might want to stop talking about something you know nothing about.

                    • Ryan Davidson December 4, 2014 at 9:51 pm #

                      Pot, meet kettle.

                    • Jane Dunn December 4, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

                      Garth – You obviously know nothing about courtroom decorum. The Supreme Court justices strenuously disagree with each other all the time, including those scathing dissents, and still respect and like each other. Those dissents do not exhibit a lack of decorum as you seem to think. Speaking of pots and kettles, you are the only one here making baseless accusations.

                    • Garth Madden December 4, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

                      I’m not referring to dissent or vigorous arguments. Without these things our legal system would completely fail- I get that. But there is a difference between Supreme Court justices or any officers of a court expressing disagreement they are equally familiar with (what law officers need to do) and a person not familiar with a case bloviating about misconduct (what you are doing).

                    • Jane Dunn December 4, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

                      Garth – You still don’t know what you’re talking about. The grand jury transcript is now public record. It is quite possible to read it and conclude the prosecutors acted improperly.

                    • Garth Madden December 4, 2014 at 11:18 pm #

                      I am not an attorney or trained in law and never pretended to be one. But I do know what a red herring is – and I think you’ve given us a good example of it here, Jane. You knew that I was referring to accusations of misconduct, not argumentation over case law.

                    • Jane Dunn December 4, 2014 at 11:35 pm #

                      Garth – The scathing SCOTUS dissents do not merely argue about case law. Some of them are personal and viscious. You should try reading some of them before you lecture me on decorum. In fact, I get along quite well with opposing counsel. You are not the “decorum police.”

                    • Ryan Davidson December 4, 2014 at 11:44 pm #

                      @Jane

                      I have practiced for a decade as a litigator at a large DC law firm, and spent a fair number of days in our federal district courts and appellate courts. The demeanor that you’ve displayed here would be tolerated in few, if any, of those courts. Simply put, this is not how officers of the court are to conduct themselves–either in court or out of court.

                    • Jane Dunn December 5, 2014 at 12:33 am #

                      Ryan – I have litigated for more than 20 years at a large regional law firm. Stating an opinion that an attorney has acted improperly is well within the bounds of regular discourse. I don’t say it very often but sometimes, as with the Ferguson prosecutors, the description fits. Your efforts to shut down dissent are unbecoming a professional.

  8. Christiane Smith December 3, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    It’s a good post, DENNY. You have examined the diverse reactions and tried to understand the reasons for them. You end by bringing people to a place where possibly they can find agreement on some critical points of this incident.

    My tendency is to agree with Scarborough, but then I remember hearing (with chills) from a black coworker about how her son was frequently stopped by police while driving in their own neighborhood. She was afraid for him. Her fear was real. I cannot forget her words. She was for me ‘a voice’ of the kind of pain we who are not ‘black’ need to understand, and I am grateful that she trusted me enough to share her concern for her child with me. I thought of her when Trayvon Martin was killed. I think of her now, speaking to me not as a ‘strident black woman’, but as a mother genuinely fearful for her boy.

    • Brian Holland December 3, 2014 at 9:30 pm #

      Your coworker was afraid that the cops were just going to pull over, and murder her son?

  9. Don Johnson December 3, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

    One aspect of the grand jury is that the prosecutor normally indicates what charge or charges he is trying to get the grand jury to agree with. The goal is to get 9 of 12 to agree with him that some charge or charges should be pursued under the lesser standards that apply to a grand jury than a court. The grand jury is trying to assess that some kind of minimal chance of success in the prosecution of the case exists before going to court.

    However, it is a well known finding in psychology that too many choices can lead to an analysis paralysis, it is better just to have 2 or 3 to choose from. In this example, there were more choices than that. And all it took was 4 people to think that there was not sufficient info to go forward with any form of prosecution. It might have been all 12, but all we know for sure is that at least 4 thought that there was no case.

    • Garth Madden December 3, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

      Wow, Don – you are really overanalyzing this. There wasn’t a case, simply put. The closer you look at the evidence and testimony, the clearer it becomes that Michael Brown was the clear aggressor. That becomes more clear and not less clear as you analyze the case.

      • Jane Dunn December 3, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

        Garth – Here’s all the evidence. It’s simply false to say that it’s “clear” that Brown was the aggressor. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/newly-released-witness-testimony-tell-us-michael-brown-shooting/

        And since we don’t know what the grand jury vote was, it’s just as likely that a majority of them voted FOR an indictment.

        • Garth Madden December 3, 2014 at 6:27 pm #

          I’ve seen that chart – anyone familiar with the case knows that the eyewitnesses were all over the map and that many of them were copycat reports based on media hype or based on hearsay. But when you actually sit down to look at the physical evidence and the most credible eyewitness accounts, an honest person draws the same conclusion that Denny quoted from John McWhorter.

          • Jane Dunn December 3, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

            Garth – And therein lies the problem. You can’t believe that anyone can honestly come to a different conclusion than yours. The physical evidence does not prove that Wilson’s version of events was correct. A majority of the grand jury may have, contrary to your conclusion, voted FOR an indictment.

            • Ellen Nicholas December 3, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

              Jane, which piece of physical evidence that was presented to the grand jury convinced you that that the *physical evidence* (as opposed to witness testimony) proves that Wilson acted in anything other than self-defense?

              • Jane Dunn December 3, 2014 at 11:55 pm #

                Ellen – I never said that the physical evidence “proves that Wilson acted in anything other than self-defense.” I said that the physical evidence doesn’t disprove the hands-up-don’t-shoot narrative. It also doesn’t disprove Wilson’s version of events. Thus, the physical evidence doesn’t prove or disprove either narrative.

            • Garth Madden December 3, 2014 at 6:53 pm #

              Jane, We all bring our own biases. Your point applies to your self as well, and based on the anger you’re displaying, you’re judgement is being impacted by your own emotions. I’ve tried to lay mine aside as best I can and don’t pretend to know all the facts. But I’ve read and listened to a fair bit about this case and believe that for Darren Wilson to not have stopped Brown in his tracks could have resulted in a police officer not being able to ever return to his family. He had a right to defend himself.

              • Jane Dunn December 3, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

                Garth – I’m not angry. I also never said that reasonable people couldn’t disagree. But good try at trying to shut down the conversation with the typical “you’re too emotional.” I’m just pointing out, as an attorney, that Denny and others have misunderstood what the grand jury “decided.” For all we know, a majority of the grand jury may have voted FOR an indictment. But if you’re going to use cross examination against some of the eye witnesses, it’s only fair that Wilson should have been cross examined. But he wasn’t subjected to that standard practice. You may think you have reviewed the facts but we never actually got all the facts.

                • Ryan Davidson December 3, 2014 at 10:02 pm #

                  None of the witnesses was cross-examined. They were interviewed prior to proffering testimony to the grand jury, which is standard practice. No prosecutor proffers a witness to a grand jury without interviewing the witness beforehand.

                  I don’t see what good it does to engage in idle speculation here. Sure, there are details of the incident that we will never know. But it’s unclear to me why you’re so sure that that evidence would demonstrate that an indictment was warranted. It’s just as likely that it would have supported the opposite conclusion.

                  I recognize that there are many who, for good reasons, were hoping that this case would serve as a vehicle for addressing the racism that is rampant in many of our policing practices. And the narrative that emerged in the days following the shooting seemed to suggest that this case could indeed be that vehicle. But it wasn’t. The evidence just didn’t support the hands-up-don’t-shoot narrative.

                  • Jane Dunn December 3, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

                    Ryan – The eye witnesses were challenged by the prosecutors at the hearing. Wilson was not. Had he been challenged, his testimony might have fallen apart. We’ll never know. But we do know that the evidence doesn’t **disprove** the hands-up-don’t-shoot narrative.

                    • Garth Madden December 4, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

                      Wilson granted an interview with George Stephanopolous, which many in his situation would neither be obliged nor desire to do, and I personally felt that his story increased his credibility and is validated by the most credible testimonies and the forensics. Are there still questions and unanswered questions? Sure. But I thought his interview was compelling.

                    • Jane Dunn December 4, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

                      Wilson said, in that same interview if I recall correctly, that he wanted to go on to teach the proper use of deadly force based on his experience. He’s delusional. In any event, that gentle interview made clear just how much there was left to ask Wilson that was never presented to the jury.

  10. Brian Holland December 3, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

    Jane, there was blood and DNA in officer Wilson’s car, as well as a trail of blood leading away from the car, and a trail of blood leading back to the car. This matched not only officer Wilson’s account. He took the stand, which is very unusual in these cases, but it shows how confident his attorneys were to allow him to do it. This evidence is also matched by the 6 or 7 black eyewitnesses. They were obviously afraid for their lives, and if the case had gone to trial, undoubtedly getting any of them to testify would have been nearly impossible. Did you read the eyewitness testimony for yourself? Also the standard for grand juries is “probable cause.” This clearly didn’t meet the standard, and the prosecutor would have been justified in dismissing the case, without even taking it to a grand jury.

    So racial reconciliation remains elusive unfortunately because far too many people don’t want to deal with reality. That’s the unfortunate truth.

    • buddyglass December 3, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

      For what it’s worth, if the initial encounter at the car happened exactly as Wilson described then that does not necessarily imply he isn’t still guilty of a crime.

      For instance, if, after having run off and subsequently stopped, Brown was not charging Wilson when Wilson fired the shots that killed him, then Wilson would be guilty of a crime.

      I’m not saying he is guilty of a crime; just that the presence of blood and DNA in the squad car doesn’t exonerate him of all possible wrongdoing.

    • Jane Dunn December 3, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

      Brian – The presence of blood in the car does not prove that Brown was trying to get Wilson’s gun. It only proves he got shot. Brown could have been trying to defend himself as his friend testified. It’s just as likely Wilson’s attorneys had him testify because they knew the prosecutors would treat him as a friend and not as a suspect. Yes. I read portions of the testimony myself (did you?) and am well aware of the very low standard for getting an indictment. I am an attorney. You clearly don’t understdnd how the process works because a prosecutor doesn’t “dismiss a case.” That phrase doesn’t have anything to do with a grand jury. The reality is that this grand jury heard a bunch of cases before Wilson’s and it would have been obvious to them that prosecutors handled Wilson’s differently: failing to cross examine, failing to advise on a charge, giving them the wrong law and then not explaining how the law had changed. That’s reality.

      • Brian Holland December 3, 2014 at 9:58 pm #

        Jane, I misspoke but Bob McCullough could have decided not to indict, and he probably should have, but this actually allowed for the most transparency possible in this situation ironically. I’m curious to get your reaction to this commentary on why he did the best he could with a very tough situation…

        http://thefederalist.com/2014/12/02/why-bob-mcculloch-did-the-right-thing-in-ferguson/

        Also the witnesses who didn’t discredit themselves backed up Darren Wilson’s overall account the confrontation on Aug 9th.

        http://www.thesmokinggun.com/buster/darren-wilson/witnesss-said-brown-charged-wilson-897043

        I have yet to hear any coherent rebuttal of this from anyone who thinks Wilson should have been indicted.

        • Jane Dunn December 4, 2014 at 12:44 am #

          Brian – Had McCulloch charged Wilson all of the evidence would have been made public at a preliminary hearing and a judge who understands the law would decide on probable cause. Although using a secret grand jury results in the evidence being made public if no indictment results, the prosecutors actually gave the lay jurors the *wrong* law and didn’t give them the correct law until months later and when “correcting” their error failed to actually explain the difference between the old incorrect law and the new right one. Further, with a secret grand jury, a 2-1 majority can vote for an indictment and still the result will be no true bill. Since the forensic evidence didn’t contradict the witnesses who said Brown put his hands up or that shots were fired while he was running away, there was ample basis for McCulloch to have charged Wilson.

          The Smoking Gun article is only talking about one single witness. Other witnesses contradicted him. Have you ever tried to run in flip flops, especially the slide kind, and especially wearing socks? If anything, Brown had likely tripped and was trying to catch his balance. Talk about physical evidence contradicting a witness!

      • Ryan Davidson December 3, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

        Given that you’re an attorney, I will warn you that the rules of professional conduct prohibit you from suggesting impropriety on the part of a fellow member of the bar without evidence thereof.

        • Jane Dunn December 3, 2014 at 10:58 pm #

          Ryan – You haven’t the faintest clue what you’re talking about. There is more than ample evidence that the prosecutors acted improperly. And, as public servants, they are answerable to the public for their conduct.

          • Garth Madden December 4, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

            Well Jane, if it’s as bad as you say, you should use your law license to specify what the abusive or improper prosecutorial conduct was.

            • Jane Dunn December 4, 2014 at 9:17 pm #

              Garth – I’ve already specified in other comments to this post what the prosecutors’ improper conduct was.

              • Garth Madden December 4, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

                … and my point is that if your rhetoric is accurate then put your money where your mouth is and show us all through legal channels. Until then, your rhetoric seems more like hyperbole than qualified legal opinion.

                • Jane Dunn December 4, 2014 at 9:50 pm #

                  Garth – That’s simply not how the legal process works. Again, you should probably stop talking about things you obviously know nothing about.

                  • Ryan Davidson December 4, 2014 at 10:01 pm #

                    Actually, that is how it works. If you have a subjective belief that another attorney has committed an ethical violation (and you’ve implied that Bob McCulloch has), then you are under a duty to report that ethical violation.

                    So, please let us know when you’ve drafted and filed your complaint against McCulloch with the Missouri bar. We’ll all be waiting with bated breath.

                    After all, I’m sure that an attorney of your calibre has a heavy case load, and therefore has little spare time. We’d hate it if lecturing us ignorant rubes on the ways go the law distracted you from the important task of drafting your ethical complaint against McCulloch. The nation is waiting. Justice demands that you speak!

                    • Jane Dunn December 4, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

                      Ryan – That is simply a misstatement of the applicable Missouri rule. In any event, I am not governed by Missouri law or rules nor do I answer to you.

                    • Ryan Davidson December 4, 2014 at 11:58 pm #

                      Missouri Supreme Court Rule 4-8.3(a) states: “A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects shall inform the appropriate professional authority.”

                      I’m not sure how else to interpret the phrase “shall inform.”

                      Further, every other jurisdiction in the country has an analogous rule. Further, the rule does not say that you are only required to report misconduct when it is carried out by a member the same bar of which you’re a member. So, if an Iowa lawyer has knowledge that a Missouri lawyer committed an ethical violation, then Iowa’s rules of professional conduct would require the Iowa attorney to report the Missouri attorney’s misconduct to the Missouri bar.

                      Based on your statements above, you are implying that Bob McCulloch violated Missouri Supreme Court Rule 4-8.3(a). Therefore, based on that subjective belief, the rules of professional conduct governing your practice necessarily require you to report McCulloch’s misconduct to the Missouri bar.

                      The fact that you’re unwilling to file such a complaint leads to one of two conclusions: (1) you are unethical; or (2) you have no such subjective belief and that your allegations are simply hyperbole. I’m assuming it’s the latter.

                    • Jane Dunn December 5, 2014 at 1:00 am #

                      Ryan – The rule requires “a lawyer who knows” another lawyer has committed certain ethical violations to report. In your analysis, you replaced the word “knows” with “has a subjective belief,” which isn’t the same thing. Thus, as I said, you misstated the rule. Moreover, not every instance of improper conduct rises to the level of needing to be reported. The rules governing my state do not require reporting of violations made by lawyers in other states. Such a rule would be ridiculous as is your effort, and Garth’s, to be the decorum police. I’m done responding to your nonsense.

                    • Garth Madden December 5, 2014 at 12:13 am #

                      @Ryan, you’ve been very helpful and given us a good primer on how to deal with prosecutorial misconduct. So good, in fact, that it would appear that Jane has left this discussion in order to draft her formal complaint – post haste (hopefully against McCulloch and not you!).

                    • Jane Dunn December 5, 2014 at 1:04 am #

                      Garth – Speaking of misconduct, too bad Ryan’s primer was filled with false information. Rely on it at your peril.

                    • Garth Madden December 5, 2014 at 1:16 am #

                      Well, there’s another red herring… no one said that you were “mandated” to report misconduct. We said, since you’re so certain that misconduct has occurred, put your money where your mouth is and come up with a formal complaint rather than a blog bloviation.

                    • Jane Dunn December 5, 2014 at 1:20 am #

                      Garth – Actually, Ryan said I was obligated to report. But, hey, you two keep making stuff up.

                    • Garth Madden December 5, 2014 at 9:46 am #

                      Seriously, Jane? So you’re saying that you won’t report a violation of prosecutorial misconduct against McCulloch because “you’re not mandated”, even though professional codes of conduct clearly state that you can’t look the other way when there is abuse of authority? That’s your answer? Balderdash. You won’t file anything formal because you don’t want to be a laughingstock in the legal community for allegations you’re happy to make in the court of public opinion, but realize won’t stand the scrutiny of the legal process.

                    • Jane Dunn December 5, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

                      Garth – The prosecutors’ improper actions are public knowledge. The public has a right to weigh in on their actions and conclude that they acted properly or improperly. The disciplinary process is not the appropriate channel for expressing that opinion. Your inability to understand the legal process knows no bounds. But, hey, keep making stuff up! Your righteous indignation about my opinion would be funny if it weren’t for the real harm you and your blind compatriots do, or allow to happen, to our justice system. Fortunately, you will have to answer to the ultimate Authority for that.

                    • Ryan Davidson December 5, 2014 at 9:17 pm #

                      @Jane

                      It’s a direct quote from the rules! You either know of impropriety on the part of the DA or you don’t know of impropriety on the part of the DA. Those are the two options. If the former applies, you are obligated to report the misconduct. If the latter applies, then you have nothing to say. Idle speculation about hypothetical improprieties on the part of the DA are of no good.

                      The same goes for your idle speculation about the whole hands-up-don’t-shoot narrative. Yes, it could have happened. There’s just no credible evidence to show that it did.

                    • Jane Dunn December 5, 2014 at 10:09 pm #

                      Ryan –

                      No, it’s not a direct quote from the rule when you substitute the term “subjective belief” for the word “know.” No, they don’t mean the same thing. You simply got caught misstating the rule. The disciplinary process is for knowledge of acts constituting ethical violations such as stealing from trust accounts. Those are things that can be known. The process is not for opinions regarding the manner in which other attorneys carry out their responsibilities, no matter how well-founded the opinion is.

                      And, finally, yes, there is credible evidence that Michael Brown had his hands up — the 16 eye witnesses whom you choose to ignore and whose testimony on that point is not contradicted by any physical evidence.

  11. Bill Hickman December 3, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

    Ross Douthat’s comment – the ambiguous evidence means Michael Brow’s death doesn’t illustrate an instance of police misconduct – is a frustrating example of the twisted moral thinking people are applying to Ferguson.

    Moral people agree that killing a human being is presumptively wrong. Moral people don’t see a dead body and assume the killing was justified. Moral people see a dead body and demand an explanation from the killer. The killer can overcome the presumption by showing clear evidence, for example, that he had to kill to defend himself. But the killer has the moral burden, so to speak, of proving that.

    Note that I’m not talking about legal standards here. I’m talking about the normal mental process we use to assign moral blame and apportion our moral outrage.

    When it comes to Ferguson, many are using a different mental process. They see Brown’s dead body and acknowledge the highly “ambiguous” evidence record. But then they stop short of insisting that Darren Wilson explain the dead body. They also bristle at the “condemnation that has been heaped on this officer.” This kind of reaction essentially assumes the killing was justified and requires the Brown family and their supporters to prove otherwise. This thinking, which flips normal morality on its head, is characteristic of much of the commentary and writing by white conservative Christians concerning Ferguson.

    In the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, the only morally sane assumption we can make is that Darren Wilson’s killing of Michael Brown was immoral and unjustified. Yes, the evidence is ambiguous, but contrary to Douthat’s argument, the ambiguity cuts *against* Wilson, not *for* him. The ambiguous evidence is Darren Wilson’s problem, because he’s the one who has the moral burden of explaining the dead body on the ground.

    • James Stanton December 3, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

      I think what you’re referring to is partly because of the deference we give to law enforcement. Surely the police are always justified in using force against people. I find it a bit unsettling that such cases rarely if ever go to trial. The truth is we could all potentially be victims of police abuse at one point or another. I support mandating that all officers wear body cameras. This is for their benefit and ours as members of the public.

      That being said, I don’t think I agree that Darren Wilson’s killing of Michael Brown was unjustified. I’m not sure as I wasn’t there but I find his defense plausible. Police officers do get the benefit of the doubt although this will slowly erode over time as more and more cases come to light such as the case of the illegal chokehold killing in NYC.

      • Bill Hickman December 4, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

        “I’m not sure as I wasn’t there but I find his defense plausible.”

        Saying Wilson’s defense is “plausible” is far different from saying “the evidence has convinced me the killing was justified.”

        If you weren’t there and you truly don’t know, why are you satisfied with a merely plausible explanation from a killer? I don’t think that’s the normal thought process we apply to homicides. That’s my point.

        • James Stanton December 4, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

          That’s fair. Not, it’s not merely his explanation but also the conflicting testimony from witnesses. At this point, I’m not certain what the truth is and what the evidence clearly tells us. The accused has the presumption of innocence, no? The jury decided whether or not this case would go to trial. They decided the evidence did not merit a trial so there’s not much point in me dwelling on Wilson’s actions here.

          • Jane Dunn December 4, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

            James – Please remember that the grand jury’s “decision” could represent a mere 25% (4/12) of them. It doesn’t carry anything like weight of a unanimous trial jury verdict.

            • James Stanton December 4, 2014 at 11:54 pm #

              Thanks for pointing this out but why does that matter? They made a decision. It doesn’t mean Wilson is guilty or innocent.

              • Jane Dunn December 5, 2014 at 12:41 am #

                James – I think it’s important because they didn’t really “make a decision.” That implies that it’s the “decision” of the whole group or at least a majority. In this case, the no true bill result may only represent a minority of the group. I don’t think the discussion would be the same as it has been, nor the many references to how supposedly ambiguous the evidence was, if we knew the real vote was 8-4 **in favor** of an indictment.

          • Bill Hickman December 5, 2014 at 11:47 pm #

            I’m not talking about “innocent until proven guilty.” That’s law. I’m talking about morality. Darren Wilson took a life. He better be able to give a clear and compelling explanation why the killing was morally defensible. I don’t think he has.

    • buddyglass December 5, 2014 at 1:33 am #

      “In the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, the only morally sane assumption we can make is that Darren Wilson’s killing of Michael Brown was immoral and unjustified.”

      In the absence of clear evidence we can’t assume guilt either way. Wilson provided a plausible story in which he did nothing wrong that matches with the forensic evidence and (some) of the eyewitness testimony. I can imagine other versions of what went down in which Wilson is guilty of some wrongdoing that also match with the forensic evidence and (some) of the eyewitness testimony. Since we don’t know which story is correct it would seem to be foolish to assume Wilson’s killing of Brown was “immoral and unjustified”.

      • Bill Hickman December 5, 2014 at 11:54 pm #

        In my view, killings are morally wrong in the vast majority of cases. I’m open to the idea that Darren Wilson killed Brown in self defense. But if he is going to make that argument, he better have the goods. I don’t think he does, so I have no reason to move from my initial assumption that the killing was immoral.

  12. Cornelius December 3, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

    Greetings to all,

    For what it is worth, I recently retired after 23 years with a nationally accredited, highly respected State Police agency in the Southeast. My experiences as a trooper/sergeant with human beings, and they are many, long ago allowed to me see clearly & tangibly that the human heart is deceitful & desperately wicked as Jeremiah stated. It allowed me a front row seat to see clearly that the payment (sometimes delayed) for sin is physical/spiritual death, Romans 6:23. I cannot begin to describe the horrors that men entangle themselves in due to their sins and when brought to justice (Romans 13), for a very brief moment of time would often weep like a little child with a worldly sorrow that brought no repentance, 2 Corinthians 7:10. These tears quickly dissipated as we would drive into the jail for processing.

    I am eternally grateful that I was saved by grace, through the work of Christ on the cross. It allows me to see Ferguson and its participants from a different perspective than a believer who doesn’t understand law enforcement other than what they see on “COPS.” If you look at Michael Brown & Darren Wilson from a biblical perspective they are/were on the same terrifying patch of ground, at enmity with a holy God. They both are under His perfect & righteous condemnation & they both desperately need/needed the Gospel and its saving effects. Rest assured, if Officer Wilson has not yet bowed his knee to the King, he will be dealt with perfectly one day for all of his works before a perfect and righteous Judge.

    I would submit to all of you that one of the least reached people groups in the U.S is American law enforcement. I can testify that they are one of the most disliked & despised, even by some Christians. Countless times throughout my career I have been approached by fellow believers who had an interaction with a trooper, deputy, officer, etc. and almost always the Christians default position was the officer was wrong…doesn’t he have better things to do? Yet this same believer will fly to a remote nation and build things, teach, help, serve, love a people who openly welcome them & show’s no hostility, this is easy…Luke 6:32. The American law enforcement officer has a soul just like the person in Peru, why doesn’t the Church minister & seek to make disciples of them? Suicide rates, epidemic divorce, alcoholism, the list goes on and on, I would say that my brothers/sisters in blue need the Gospel as much as anyone!

    I challenge each of you out of love to reach out, unashamed, to your local LE officers with the power of the Gospel, Romans 1:16. Or are they exempt from the same graces that have been extended to others? The Gospel is what changes young men’s heart’s/actions when confronted and it changes law enforcement officer’s hearts as well as they confront. I know this firsthand, for I have tasted His goodness.

    Jude 1:24-25 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

    • Brian Holland December 4, 2014 at 4:35 am #

      Thank you for your service, and for your truly biblical insights! We all need to respect one another, and re-humanize one another (if I can make up a term here). God help us all if we don’t experience another moral/spiritual awakening!

      • Cornelius December 4, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

        Thanks Brian! Ultimately, the only way respect ever comes, along with loving other humans is through the transforming power of the Gospel. Change men’s hearts and their actions will follow. God bless you in your walk with Christ

  13. Jane Dunn December 3, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

    Here’s an analysis in chart form of the testimony of all the grand jury testimony. It doesn’t remotely support the idea that the “preponderance of the evidence,” which isn’t the correct standard anyway, is “too exculpatory” of Wilson. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/newly-released-witness-testimony-tell-us-michael-brown-shooting/

  14. Brian Holland December 5, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    Garth and Ryan, I think it’s time to be officially Dunn with Jane. She’s thoroughly discredited herself.

    • Garth Madden December 5, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

      Dunn!

      • Ryan Davidson December 5, 2014 at 9:23 pm #

        Dunn as well! I suppose I’m done with her co-commenter, Joe Blankenship, as well, who just referred to me as a Pharisee. Pax Christi, Joe.

  15. joeblankenship December 5, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    Denny,

    How do I get out of following this thread? I signed up to be notified of comments in hopes that you would comment on some of the questions I asked. Brian, Garth and Ryan’s comments are wearying me – as they spew what comes across (to me) as Pharisaical pride that doesn’t really care about the Browns or Garners or Janes or Ferguson or NYC but that they look and sound right. C.S. Lewis’s words about pride strike me as very appropriate in regard to this dialogue. “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.” The concept of treating one another as “image bearers of God” and “loving our neighbor as ourselves” seems terribly missing from the dialogue.

    I’m burdened for and praying for ways to love and minister to racist cops, good cops, oppressive judges and compassionate judges, sinful rebels and sinful seminarians in the pursuit of the unity the cross ultimately will win in its bride – and which we will, along with all the saints, spend eternity marveling at God’s wisdom in such a plan.

    So – praying for all of you but hoping someone will tell me how to opt out of receiving the notifications that keep blowing up my phone!

    • Brian Holland December 5, 2014 at 11:18 pm #

      Brother Joe, on the email updates that you get there are links at the bottom that allow you cancel receiving any future updates, or to manage your settings.

      You are entitled to your opinion sir regarding me, and what I say, but please note that I have never even commented on the Eric Garner tragedy on here. I did tweet out the other night however “Please pray for #EricGarner’s family for peace, comfort, and healing. What a tragic, awful situation. Bad police training.” I also tweeted out that we don’t have any evidence that what took place was racially motivated, and now with the passage of time we learn that there was a black female officer who was the senior officer at the scene, and in charge of the operation. But I want more answers as to what happened in the Garner case, so please do not presume that you know where I stand on every issue, and for your own sake (and I say this as an online “friend”) do NOT slander people by putting words or ideas into their “mouths.”

      One last point, my sincerest, most heartfelt desire is to see racial reconciliation, and brotherhood among men. I want to see Dr. King’s dream become a reality. And I would say that even if my wife weren’t black, and my two sons weren’t biracial. But I don’t see any chance of any of that happening if the church is unwilling to tell some uncomfortable, inconvenient truths about race in America, and then live in a way that is truly countercultural in a world that is increasingly governed by leftist values that seek to divide everyone up into: race, class, gender, sexual orientation etc.

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