Why “of course,” I wonder? Before becoming governor in Massachusetts, Patrick worked in the Department of Justice under Bill Clinton, and would know that bringing an indictment with no chance of conviction amounts to an abuse of the judicial system. The grand-jury process exists to check that kind of abuse by having a panel of citizens force a prosecutor to prove that a reasonable case exists before going to trial.
Actually, I don’t wonder much about Patrick’s motives here — although it does show why that process is needed, ironically:
Outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass., told NBC’s Chuck Todd that without seeing all the facts “of course I wanted to see an indictment” from the grand fury reviewing the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson.
Patrick explained Sunday on Meet the Press that he wanted an indictment, “mostly because I think a trial and the transparency of a trial would be good for the community.”
He continued, “Because so many of us have the supposition that police officers are not going to be held accountable and are not going to have to answer for the shooting of unarmed young black teenagers.”
The problem with this argument is that the criminal justice system isn’t supposed to try people for alleged crimes merely to sate the demand for vengeance in a community. It exists to reach the truth when allegations of criminal conduct have been made, in a manner fair to both the defendant and the People. Not coincidentally, grand juries and pretrial hearings exist for that same purpose, with the added function of making sure an overaggressive prosecutor isn’t railroading an innocent person into a full-blown trial. An indictment carries considerable costs, both to the defendant and to the community, and might make a raging controversy like Ferguson even more of a flashpoint.
The complaint about transparency is even more curious. The testimony and the evidence presented to the grand jury have all been made public after their decision not to proceed. What’s not transparent about that? The real complaint here, it seems, is that the judicial system in Missouri didn’t get hijacked for the political purposes of the protesters in Ferguson and around the country. Again, that’s a feature of our justice system, and not a bug. The proper venue for the complaints raised by protesters in Ferguson are politics, especially local politics, and not forcing the judiciary to conduct show trials when the evidence and testimony don’t support an indictment in the first place.
In better news, the man who struggles to understand the reason for grand juries says he won’t run for President in 2016:
Patrick distances himself from Martha Coakley, who lost the office to Republican Charlie Baker last month, but the flip might have something to do with Patrick’s decision. Patrick complains that Coakley got outspent 9:1, which surely should pique some fact-checker’s curiosity, but even if it’s true, it raises the question of why. Democrats dominate Massachusetts, and certainly Democrats have heavy spenders inside and outside the state. What made them so reluctant to spend money on Coakley, and/or Republicans so eager to spend money on Baker?
Patrick also offers Hillary Clinton some advice:
“I’ve thought about it, but no, I can’t get ready for 2016,” Patrick said during the interview. “I’ve felt it’s been two really challenging and fun terms, but I didn’t run for the job to get another job. I ran to do this job.”
However, he cautioned against Democrats backing Hillary Clinton as the “inevitable” presidential nominee for the upcoming elections.
“I think the narrative that it’s inevitable is off-putting to regular voters,” Patrick said.
Actually, Patrick could have disrupted that narrative had he chosen to enter the race. He has two terms of executive experience, is much younger than Hillary Clinton, and would likely garner the enthusiasm that’s being directed to Elizabeth Warren at the moment. The Clintons should count themselves lucky that Patrick’s not interested in a bid — and perhaps Republicans might be fortunate to see him bow out, too.