We were dismayed by the three-month-long run up to the St. Louis County grand jury’s decision this week not to indict a white police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last August.
Too many self-styled civil rights activists seemed determined to force, by their relentless pressure, an indictment regardless of what an investigation might turn up. It appeared that in many cases they were not really interested in what actually happened but rather in making a political point about the state of relations between law enforcement officers and young black men.
In any event, the grand jury made its decision not to indict the police officer in the face of three months of demonstrations, press conferences, threats of violence, and inflammatory statements to the press. Indeed, it would have been easy for the grand jury to indict and let a trial jury sort everything out. But with the autopsy results and conflicting and constantly changing eyewitness reports, it is difficult to see how the applicable standards for a finding of guilt – “probable cause” to believe the officer violated the law “beyond a reasonable doubt” – could have been met.
Attorney General Eric Holder has said the federal investigation will continue. So the saga is not yet over. But one hopes the untimely deaths of young people like Michael Brown will not continue to be fodder for political opportunism. Above all, we should remind ourselves that in the long run, the rule of law is what protects each one of us and is not something invented to hamper community organizers from doing their thing.