Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Court of Public Opinion Shows Its Dark Side in Ferguson, Missouri

The death of Michael Brown at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri has ignited a firestorm of debate in the media and in social media. Things became even worse when yesterday the grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson for any criminal charges in Michael Brown’s death. Everyone has an opinion as to how justice should have been served, but everybody was not at the scene at the time Wilson shot Brown. Only the grand jurors saw all the facts of the case, yet people who were not there at the time of the incident nor who sat on the grand jury seem to think they know better.

In addition to the furor over the outcome of the grand jury, there were people peacefully protesting in Ferguson (and in other cities). Peaceful protests are a good thing and can help to bring change. But these protests turned to rioting, looting, vandalism, the burning of business, and more. How many of the people engaging in the non-peaceful activities actually live in Ferguson is not known, but it is suspected that many engaging in the violet behavior are simply opportunists taking advantage of the unrest.

This whole situation is sad in more ways than one.

Social media is a wonderful thing where people can share information. But social media can also spread misinformation. Television and print media also has contributed to fanning the flames by their continuous coverage and debate on the issue when they do not have all the facts. I think it is perfectly fine to discuss and debate situations like this but we have to stop trying cases in the media and having the court of public opinion pass judgment. While the public has an appetite for as much information as possible, it is simply not fair for the public to condemn anyone – either Michael Brown or Darren Wilson in this situation – before all the facts can be presented using the due process of the law.

There is no excuse for rioting, looting, vandalism etc. It sickens me that hard working people who had nothing to do with the Brown/Wilson incident have had their business destroyed. I hope that those people arrested for this behavior face the full force of the law.

There will always be questions when a police officer shoots another person, regardless of who is shot and who is did the shooting. And there SHOULD be. I’ve always been under the opinion that shooting to kill should be the last resort, but I also understand that police officers are often faced with split second life or death decisions. While police officers are not perfect, there isn’t any human being out there that is. In order for justice to be served, the court of public opinion is not the best place to try a case.

UPDATE: Here is a link to the New York Times with all the Ferguson Case grand jury documents.

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