As Ferguson, Missouri waits with bated breath for the decision of the grand jury, the officer who may face indictment over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown has quietly negotiated his exit from the police force. CNN describes the talks as in its “final stages,” with Darren Wilson seeking a way to distance himself from the force, in large part to allow his former colleagues to get some distance from him. The city’s incentives to reach a deal for Wilson’s departure are painfully obvious, of course. So what’s the hold-up? Wilson wants to make sure his resignation doesn’t influence the grand jury’s decision, which is due any day:
Wilson maintains he hasn’t done anything wrong, and the resignation talks have hinged on whether a grand jury returns an indictment against him in the death of Brown, people close to the talks said.
Wilson has told associates he would resign as a way to help ease pressure and protect his fellow officers. Wilson has expressed concern about resigning while the grand jury was hearing evidence for fear it would appear he was admitting fault.
A resignation might be seen by some as an admission of guilt, although it’s not clear that it could be used in a criminal proceeding as such. CNN reports that a grand-jury indictment could scotch the whole deal. If Wilson has to face charges, he apparently wants to face them while remaining on the force — or at least not departing voluntarily.
Even if the formal resignation came after a grand jury decision that declined criminal charges, though, a resignation might be an issue in a civil wrongful-death lawsuit against the city, and against Wilson. That lawsuit will come no matter what the grand jury decides, although it’s seen more as an option to a refusal to indict. Under those circumstances, Wilson would be waiting for years to resign, but the chances of him putting on his uniform in Ferguson would be nil anyway.
Meanwhile, the city waits for the grand jury, and tensions continue to rise. Brown’s father has urged people to demonstrate peacefully for “positive change,” and to avoid any kind of violence no matter what the grand jury decides — and no matter where the demonstrations take place:
On the eve of what appears to be a grand jury decision in the shooting death of his son, Michael Brown, Sr. issued a last-minute plea for no more Ferguson riots.
“No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son’s death to be in vain — I want it to lead to positive change,” a very somber Brown says in a public service announcement released late Thursday. “I thank you for lifting your voices to end racial profiling and police intimidation, but hurting others or destroying property is not the answer.”
The decision could come down as early as today, but it may take 48 hours for anyone to know about it. The court reportedly will give that much warning to police across the nation to prepare for the consequences of the final decision. If that’s necessary as far away as Boston, what does that say about the rule of law, and the civic maturity of the electorate, here in the US?