Getting a unanimous jury verdict required to convict is unlikely in most such cases because the facts usually point to conflicting interpretations of the officer’s state of mind. There is no room for ambiguity in deciding guilt. The same standard of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” that is required to convict a street criminal—a convenience store thief, for example— must apply also to an accused police officer. To do otherwise would be to permit the government to punish people without carefully proving they are actually guilty.

Furthermore, prosecuting Officer Wilson would amount to scapegoating. Unless Wilson intended to kill Brown because he was black, holding this officer personally responsible for the racially disparate impact of contemporary American policing will only compound the injustice so evident in this tragic shooting.,” “I’m sorry” and “Help me”? Sometimes just because a person looks happy, you have to look past their smile and see how much pain they may be in. To all my friends who are going through some issues right now… let’s start an intention avalanche. We all need positive intentions right now. If I don’t see your name, I’ll understand. May I ask my friends, wherever you might be, to kindly copy and paste this status for one hour to give a moment of support to all those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just need to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune…

The federal legal system has a role to play here, but it is not with prosecution. Criminal justice is quintessentially a local matter; policing, judging, and operating local jails are municipal endeavors. (There are approximately 18,000 state and local police departments in the United States.) Officials appointed in Washington have no jurisdiction to prosecute someone for homicide in Missouri. However, they can prosecute Wilson for violation of Brown’s civil rights protected by the federal Constitution. The same standard of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” would be applied to determine whether Wilson intended to kill Brown because he was black. Again, conviction on this charge is unlikely unless clear damning facts emerge. Time and vigorous investigation will tell.