By Michael Lashley
It is our duty to demand that everyone respect The Law. It is also our right to demand that the parties officially responsible for upholding The Law be held accountable for the manner in which they have protected and served the letter and the spirit of The Law.
Some of us will never support anarchy as a political system. Our belief in organized and caring governance is too firmly rooted in our souls. With no claim to being members of the legal fraternity, we hold on to our own concept of natural justice as one of our most powerful moral, social, political and spiritual convictions.
In the exercise of our right to access information and to form an opinion, we rely heavily on media reports/analysis and on public comments. Our approach to the events in Ferguson is a case in point.
Here is an invented political “report/analysis” that advocates on behalf of “public opinion” for a series of wide-ranging charges to be laid in “court”, following the recent shooting of a black youth by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri. The names of the sources and numerous persons said to be involved are not included.
“The main charges in that very toxic trial by public opinion are two-fold: (i) murder in the first degree and (ii) conspiracy to commit murder and accessory to murder. The second category of charges is based on the allegation that the Defendants, together and/or separately, have maintained, prior to the alleged crimes, and supported, after the alleged crimes, a climate and culture of discriminatory delivery of police services.
“The evidence being presented by the Prosecution has not yet been tested in court but is, prima facie, overwhelmingly deserving of a full and formal high court trial. The evidence suggests that the victim was unarmed; a presumed eyewitness’ statement claims that the victim was not resisting detention; three autopsies revealed that the victim was shot at least six times, possibly eight times; the three separate autopsies were commissioned by the office of the St. Louis Medical Examiner, the Federal Justice Department and the family of the victim, and carry with them the consequent indication of legal reliability, objectivity, fairness and transparency; the police officer who shot the victim was not aware that the victim was alleged to have committed a crime shortly before their encounter.
“The Defendants have not yet entered a plea but it is widely reported that one of them, to wit the Ferguson Police Department, has released a video that purports to show the victim in flagrante delictu shortly before the fatal encounter, during a robbery at a convenience store apparently involving the theft of tobacco products.
“The Prosecution, having viewed the video and having heard from several sources including the Defence itself that the police officer was totally unaware of the alleged prior crime, may further argue that there has been conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by way of character assassination.”
That political presentation of the Ferguson case serves to highlight the fact that the conflict goes way beyond the central legal issue of whether or not the policeman used excessive force. The victim’s family is being aggressively supported by groups and individuals allied to the fight against racially biased policing and racially biased justice delivery systems. That alliance of “The People” against the political authorities of Ferguson has put three levels of government on trial.
Their first target in the dock of the accused is the City Council of Ferguson, in particular its head, the mayor himself. Public protest at last week’s council meeting attest to that, as do calls for the mayor to resign over past and present management of a city administration that is biased against racial minorities and poor communities. The second target is the Missouri State Government. To make matters worse, a major faux pas has just been made by the governor himself when he publicly appeared to suggest the (supposedly legitimate) possibility of a Grand Jury deciding against the legal viability of bringing criminal charges against the police officer for the shooting.
But make no mistake about it. The pro-victim alliance throughout the U.S. is targeting the federal government in which two black men hold key positions. That country’s first “Black-led federal government is being held accountable for the important task of rolling back racially based policing, racial discrimination in government and anti-poor policies nationwide.
There is ample evidence the president has got the message loud and clear and is taking strong action.