CNN host Jake Tapper had some discouraging news for those who would prefer to see not only Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson go to trial but be convicted for his role in the slaying of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Getting a conviction, let alone creating a case which would see the inside of a courtroom, will be difficult for prosecutors.
In an interview with Georgetown University Law Professor Paul Brown, Tapper asked what evidentiary thresholds prosecutors must clear in order to create a strong case against Wilson. Tapper observed that the grand jury hearing the details of the case is made up of three African-Americans and nine whites, suggesting that the demographic most incensed by the teen’s killing are underrepresented.
He added that Democratic Missouri State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal has warned that, if the case does not go to trial and/or Wilson is found not guilty, Missouri should be prepared for all of Ferguson “to have looting.” Unfortunately for Missouri, murder trails do not hinge on the threats of local politicians.
“The hardest thing would be that the defendant is a police officer,” Brown said of the obstacles in the way of prosecutors. “Often jurors are extremely sympathetic to police officers.”
Moreover, the prosecutors have to prove that Wilson did not have a reasonable belief that his life was in danger, Brown said. Worse for those who are suspicious of Wilson, the testimony of those eyewitnesses who claim that the slain teen was surrendering when he was shot is not going to enjoy much credibility with the jury.
“Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable,” Brown said.
Finally, while it is possible the grand jury will decide to indict, a conviction is going to be harder to secure. The racial makeup of the grand jury, Brown said, will come into play and the preponderance of whites on the jury, who have likely had better experiences with the police than their black counterparts, may mean that Wilson gets the benefit of the doubt.