A grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, is expected to issue a ruling as soon as this week regarding whether or not Officer Darren Wilson will be indicted on charges relating to the murder of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has already declared a “state of emergency” in anticipation of renewed violence and protest in the Ferguson area following the decision. Police have already arrested at least six individuals for demonstrations against Wilson. The nation is obviously calling for Wilson to be indicted, and hopefully there is enough evidence for some sort of charge to be made against him. The state's preparations for protests and violence appear to indicate that such charges are not likely.
Although many pieces of the Brown case are disputable — whether or not the two were engaged in a scuffle prior to the shooting, the crimes Brown committed, if Brown’s hands were raised in surrender or if Wilson’s actions were justified under the law — the simplest fact remains: Wilson killed Brown. An unarmed teenager was murdered in the middle of the street, with little evidence suggesting Wilson had any reason to fire any shots. It’s almost impossible to imagine a scenario in which Brown threatened Wilson’s life, and it’s impossible to think of any other reason this murder could be justified. The legal workaround requires that the grand jury find probable cause to believe that Wilson committed a crime, but it’s strange when society has the potential to render an obvious murder as a non-criminal act just because it was done by a police officer. Wilson should be indicted, even on the lower charges of second-degree involuntary manslaughter. That way his case can be more fairly argued in the court of law. If he's not indicted, it's just further proof that the laws do not necessarily apply to those who enforce them.
In any high-profile case, it’s important for the jurors to deliberate over the facts and evidence rather than the ideals that the case represents to the public. But the death of Brown has become symbolic of much more than just another police officer who possibly stepped out of line. It’s become an issue of racial tension in America, but also of unfair representation in authority and abuse of power. If Wilson walks free, it will mean that the unfair structure remains in place, remains the same. It’s almost too easy to compare to the similarly high-profile case involving the death of Trayvon Martin. If George Zimmerman is not guilty, then Wilson is not guilty — and the murder of unarmed teenagers is acceptable in modern American society as long as it’s done by someone with some sort of authority. As was the case with Zimmerman, the public can’t hold the jurors responsible if they’re unable to find probable cause to charge Wilson. But it will be in the protester’s hands to demonstrate that they’re not comfortable living in a society in which abuse of power is supported and defended by the law. Not that that will necessarily change anything, but at least their voices will be heard.
If the grand jury does not indict Wilson, there is still the possibility that he could be convicted on other charges. Civil lawsuits will be expected, and the public has also been calling for the government to issue a federal civil rights lawsuit. Bringing charges against Wilson could be one of Eric Holder’s last achievements as U.S. Attorney General. The Justice Department, however, has already indicated that they may not have strong enough of a case. If Wilson is, indeed, innocent, he shouldn’t be unfairly punished or treated simply because his actions as a police officer have been the focal point of a nation’s issues with race and justice. But he did kill an unarmed teenager, and the only way to treat this case fairly on all sides is to have it argued in the court of law. Wilson needs to be indicted to prove that the country's law enforcement and judicial systems are not completely broken. It's hard to be optimistic that that'll happen.