Barely Legally

Confessions of a Moot Court Bailiff

Shock and Aw Come On

The prosecutor in Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed teen was shot to death, appears to be declining to recommend any charges to the grand jury investigation. The St. Louis County prosecutor’s name is Robert McCulloch, and his family has a rich tradition of government service. His father was a police officer (killed in a shootout on duty), and he has several family members who are police officers.

This by itself doesn’t imply that McCulloch isn’t doing his job. In fact, prosecutors aren’t required to come up with charges for a grand jury. But, uh, there’s kind of a pattern here.

The Washington Post notes:

During [McCulloch’s] tenure, there have been at least a dozen fatal shootings by police in his jurisdiction (the roughly 90 municipalities in the county other than St. Louis itself), and probably many more than that, but McCulloch’s office has not prosecuted a single police shooting in all those years. At least four times he presented evidence to a grand jury but — wouldn’t you know it? — didn’t get an indictment.

The most disturbing part of that sentence isn’t the fact that there have been no prosecutions for instances where police killed someone. The fact is that police have a different legal standard to meet when proving justifiable homicide than you or I do.

The crazy part is that the Post has to guess at how many fatal police shootings there have been. The most comprehensive database for police shootings in America is run by a sarcastic sports web site instead of the Department of Justice or the FBI or something that makes sense. One of the stories on Deadspin’s homepage is “Carlos Martinez’s Twitter Favorites: A Big Ol’ Wall Of Porn.” This is the best resource we have. (For police shootings, not Twitter porn.)