Ferguson Burning

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

In the wake of the grand jury decision on whether to indict Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown comes (via Instapundit) an interesting and timely review of what a grand jury is and why we have them:

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution gave its name to the protection against self-incrimination, and it also contains three other famous (and these days somewhat battered) guarantees--against double jeopardy; against deprivation of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; and of just compensation when private property is taken for public use. But before any of these, in pride of place in the very first words of the amendment, comes perhaps the least thought-of protection in the whole Bill of Rights: the assurance that no one will be "held to answer" for a serious crime unless indicted by a grand jury. [bold added]
Elsewhere, I learned that the identities and deliberations were kept secret to prevent pressuring the grand jury into making any particular decision. At the risk of sounding callous, this is something that keeps our government from behaving like a lynch mob directed by whoever is in charge. It's too bad that so many people think that no deliberation is necessary at all to render justice.

As relieved as I was to hear that the forgotten man in the Micheal Brown case was no-billed, that relief has been nearly cancelled out by my disappointment in the rioting -- the worst yet -- that has followed. Thanks to rampant arson, there is "nothing left" along a stretch of road I happened to travel earlier in the day of the initial confrontation. Smiling looters raided a toy store last night. Others carelessly fired guns, of all things. That's just a sample of what happened last night. My only question: Why did anyone bother to wait until 8:00 p.m. last night to get started?

As a St. Louisan, I now have to keep tabs on this barbarism since it is close enough to my doorstep to represent a threat to my personal safety and that of my family.

Most disappointing of all are those who chant that "Black lives matter," from one side of their mouths while condoning and abetting behavior like the above. Committing crimes is not the way to protest what one is claiming to be a crime. Refusing to consider evidence is not the way to show a concern for justice. Making one's immediate vicinity a living hell is not the way show that one's desire for respect comes from self-respect and a regard for the lives of others. This is pathetic, and I must say that pity is one of the most unpleasant emotions one can feel.

I take solace in the fact that there are still legitimate aspects of our government that function properly, such as grand juries, and that most people are not as mindless as the self-lynching mob that is incinerating Ferguson, or the other mobs like it that have been cropping up across the area lately.

-- CAV

P.S. I will take tomorrow and Thursday off from blogging for the holiday. I wish you a safe and happy Thanksgiving. I will not allow the necessity for vigilance to cause myself to forget that life is precious, and worth living.


Today: Corrected wording of a sentence and the P.S. 


Steve D said...

‘Barbarians’ is absolutely the right term.

My heart goes out to the owners and employees of those businesses which were destroyed. Last night I made a comment to my son about the people who can’t go to work anymore because their businesses and work places were burned down. He said, ‘until they are rebuilt’ and I had to inform him that in most cases according to the studies these are never rebuilt; that the people will have to start from scratch or move elsewhere.

This is bad news economically for Ferguson, St. Louis and Missouri. It is especially bad news for the people the thugs claim to be trying to help.

I had an interesting conversation yesterday while doing an outreach demo at an area school with a colleague who is a friend of a Ferguson police office. The officer and his family had been threatened. (apparently all of the police officers in Ferguson have been threatened) and he’s had send his family away for safety. Apparently, many officers have done this but of course it’s not something the media like to talk about). His other officer friend (from Bridgeton) has been on call (and pins and needles) for days waiting to be called up.

Gus Van Horn said...


That's right. Most of the businesses in that area operate on margins thin enough that they don't have property insurance. (And even if they did, who in his right mind would rebuild there?)

Those businessmen will have to leave. The better-off part of the population will justifiably feel unsafe and leave. And then, what will be left.

Ferguson, RIP.


Vigilis said...

Gus: "I take solace in the fact that there are still legitimate aspects of our government that function properly, such as grand juries ..."

We all do, but the deliberative process risks being hobbled by a government's PC education system.

Imagine your indictment by a well-educated grand jury, but your subsequent trial by regular jury members accustomed to menu symbols on their fast-food cash register keys.

Gus Van Horn said...


That's an interesting question, since our universities are also PC, meaning that the graduates might well be leftists.

I'll leave further speculation as a futile/perverse exercise in speculation for the reader.


Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,

On Vigilis' point about what PC education is doing to the jury pool, I offer, for your consideration, this...


Last weekend, my housemate and I were mugged at gunpoint while walking home from Dupont Circle. The entire incident lasted under a minute, as I was forced to the floor, handed over my phone and was patted down.

And yet, when a reporter asked whether I was surprised that this happened in Georgetown, I immediately answered: “Not at all.” It was so clear to me that we live in the most privileged neighborhood within a city that has historically been, and continues to be, harshly unequal. While we aren’t often confronted by this stark reality west of Rock Creek Park, the economic inequality is very real. . .

What has been most startling to me, even more so than the incident itself, have been the reactions I’ve gotten. I kept hearing “thugs,” “criminals” and “bad people.” While I understand why one might jump to that conclusion, I don’t think this is fair.

Not once did I consider our attackers to be “bad people.” I trust that they weren’t trying to hurt me. In fact, if they knew me, I bet they’d think I was okay. They wanted my stuff, not me. While I don’t know what exactly they needed the money for, I do know that I’ve never once had to think about going out on a Saturday night to mug people. I had never before seen a gun, let alone known where to get one. The fact that these two kids, who appeared younger than I, have even had to entertain these questions suggests their universes are light years away from mine. . .

Who am I to stand from my perch of privilege, surrounded by million-dollar homes and paying for a $60,000 education, to condemn these young men as “thugs?” It’s precisely this kind of “otherization” that fuels the problem. . .

The millennial generation is taking over the reins of the world, and thus we are presented with a wonderful opportunity to right some of the wrongs of the past. As young people, we need to devote real energy to solving what are collective challenges. Until we do so, we should get comfortable with sporadic muggings and break-ins.

Sanction of the victim on steroids. This is the mentality that would walk into the gas chambers of his own accord and consider it a moral act. Or, alternatively, the Neville Chamberlin type that would take comfort in the fact the Hitler had said that he liked him, "And I can't imagine him saying that about Churchill, can you?"

And just think. These are the future denizens of the State Dept. It isn't much of a leap from his mugging apologia to "Well, the West has been privileged with nuclear bombs, who are we to say..."

c. andrew

Gus Van Horn said...


Heh! Maybe we don't need juries anymore...

This reminds me that I found, without even looking for it, an example of the KIND of grand juror Vigilis made me think about.

Attorneys call them "eggshell plaintiffs", but think about one of these specimens being voted into authority by his peers and then presiding over your jury, grand or not.

-- CAV