Due Process Requires A Complete Investigation
The officer involved shooting (OIS) in Ferguson, MO on August 9, 2014 is sparking calls for the immediate arrest of Officer Darren Wilson. At the same time, LEOs from city, state, and federal are continuing to walk the streets interviewing witnesses and evidence such as cellphone videos. The autopsy of Michael Brown is reportedly finished but the toxicology reports, a standard inquiry in every OIS, typically take weeks to process.
Any grand jury will rightfully expect to review all of the relevant evidence. That is part of the legal process that allows everyone, including Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr., Michael Brown’s mother and father, to have confidence in the end result whether or not the grand jury votes to indict Officer Darren Wilson.
One of the many concerns of the looting and other illegal activity is the likely effect of intimidating witnesses. It can be difficult following any OIS to convince witnesses to step forward. When you add the fear that the cellphone video a witness possesses may be pivotal in the case, many witnesses will be reluctant to come forward.
As to the immediate arrest of Officer Wilson, an investigation into an OIS is different from any other criminal investigation in one critical aspect; the officer is available should charges be brought. There is no difficulty locating the person to bring charges as we have in a typical criminal case. Authorities also know the names, addresses, and contact information for the LEO’s friends, co-workers, and relatives. For these reasons, there is no reasonable concern that the subject of the investigation will flee and evade arrest should charges be brought.
This case will one day resolve. The OIS will either be ruled justified or the LEO will be prosecuted. At the conclusion, only the integrity of the process will allow anyone to have faith in the outcome. Officer Darren Wilson is entitled to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law. Rushing this case to prosecution before the investigation is complete as well as claims that Officer Wilson “executed” or “assassinated” Michael Brown will undermine the bedrock of due process that people are calling for to ensure that justice is served. Stay safe.