I’m exhausted – mentally and physically – by the endless jabbering about the recent grand jury decisions in Ferguson and Staten Island. “The grand jury was flawed”; “the grand jury was wrong”; “the grand jury did a great job,”; yada, yada, yada.
The public’s general complete and utter misunderstanding of what a grand jury does is just downright scary. It is not, for instance, to use I term I despise, ‘fair and balanced.’ Grand juries are not called to determine guilt or innocence. They are called to indict. They are called to hear the prosecutor’s evidence to decide if probable cause exists.
They are the prosecutor’s playground. Their sole playground. A prosecutor failing to get an indictment is equivalent to Lebron James losing one-on-one to his six year old. What’s that? Aside from the Great Santini, every parent, even Lebron, let’s his kid win every once in a while?
Exactly. The only way for a prosecutor to lose in a grand jury is to throw the game. Period. And, because so many members of the public are ignorant of the grand jury process beyond Law & Order, they don’t have to be all that more subtle than a parent who trips over the foul line and dribbles off his knees a few dozen times in a row.
I’m not going to go into detail of where and how the prosecutors in Missouri and New York faked turnovers, that would not only be boring but in this environment those who think this was all on the up and up and proof ‘the system’ works, wouldn’t be dissuaded if I posted a video from McCullough going all Arnold Rothstein and bragging how he fixed the series.
However – ah, c’mon, you knew a however was implicit – tuck this little factoid away. In 2010 – the most recent year for data on this – U.S. Attorneys brought 160,000 cases to federal grand juries. They came away with 159,989 indictments.
I did not type – and you did not read – that wrong. The indictment rate for federal grand juries was 99.993728%.
We should all be concerned – very concerned – when a tool that has consistently been used to pound the living hell out of everyone from every walk of life (okay, except bankers, sorry) in a thousand, thousand different circumstances is muted when it comes to one particular group.
You know, if you let your six year old consistently win, the six year old will start believing – right up until the moment they meet an 8 year old Larry Bird on the playground and he takes your kid for his next five years lunch money.
In a democracy, it’s not all that smart to let one group – one well armed, well unioned, already empowered group – believe they are immune to something that 99.993728% of the rest of us are very much not.