There is no excuse for the murder of unarmed Americans by those charged to "serve and protect" them period, and it must stop. But don't hold your breath, because that won't happen any time soon.
Why? Because those who commit crimes against "We the People" no longer suffer penalties for their own misdeeds. Judges and prosecutors have been above the law, by law, for 47 years. This was not a status granted them by our elected representatives (though even that would violate the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment). The courts granted that "above the law" status to themselves, judicially, beginning with Supreme Court decision Pierson v. Ray in 1967.
This de facto immunity for criminal conduct has been less officially granted to the agents and police who assist these gatekeepers in keeping America's prisons full and overflowing, mostly with young men of color.
How? The Not-So-Grand Jury is the answer. This once revered and very public institution is now held in secret. Defendants cannot even have an attorney, and a defendant is more likely to win some lotteries than get access to the transcripts of those proceedings. It all boils down to what the prosecutor tells the grand jury rather than the facts in the case.
My trainer was recently on a grand jury for one whole year. I asked him yesterday how many times he and his fellow grand jurors refused to indict. His answer, "Not once."
I asked how many times he felt like the prosecutor gave both sides of the story. His answer was the same, "Not once."
When it is a friend (read Robo Cop), all manner of exculpatory evidence and excuses will be given, as proven in Ferguson, Missouri recently and again in New York City this week where a police chokehold of a non-violent man selling cigarettes became a homicide but the cop was not indicted. A recent Supreme Court opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia determined that a prosecutor has no obligation to tell the whole truth (including exculpatory evidence) when it is one of 'We the People' being indicted, which is absolutely outrageous.
This Supreme Court case came about because a prosecutor had failed to tell the whole truth about a defendant. Our most esteemed high court has decided that is OK. I disagree, as would the founders of this nation, who never knew a public prosecutor, because no such position existed in their day. Attorneys took turns prosecuting, which built a sense of fairness into the equation, as next week they had to make their living getting business from the same community they prosecuted the week before. Not so with "public" prosecutors.
So how does it work for the rest of us, you ask? I'll tell you from experience...not too well. In every case I worked on where I was able to get a copy of a grand jury transcript, the prosecutor lied to the grand jury to garner the indictment. Every case. Prosecutors are above the law, by law, so there is no penalty for that criminal conduct. The judges (usually former prosecutors themselves) often know what their colleague is doing, but he or she used to do the same thing when they were prosecutors, and I'm unaware of a single case in recent history where the prosecutor has been restrained by the former prosecutor sitting on the bench.
This has led our nation to the highest conviction rate on earth (98.6%). Less than one in 20 defendants now risk going to trial. The deck is so severely stacked against them that they will be found guilty in all but 14 cases out of 1,000, and they know it. Think of that for a moment. 1,000 of your fellow citizens walk into America's courts, but only 14 of them walk back out free. No nation on earth...no dictator or tyrant.....no "evil empire" has such a rate of conviction.
Statistically speaking, an indictment is a conviction in America today. If prosecutors can and do lie in almost every case, and exculpatory evidence can be excluded by them, then our system is nothing more than a conviction machine.
No one should be above the law in America. Not judges, not prosecutors, and certainly not those on the street granted the power of lethal force to be used only in our protection. This judicial, prosecutorial, and police crime-wave must be brought to a stop.
The best way to do that is to return our grand juries to the open, public, honest affair they once were, where both sides are heard and the subject of a potential prosecution can defend him or herself while represented by counsel. In other words, we need to devolve back to constitutional rule of law, where no one is above it, and every citizen has the right to defend against unwarranted attack or prosecution by government.
Yeah. We need a Devolution. Back to rule of law and Constitution....
Viva la devolución!
Howell W. Woltz
Author of "The Way Back to America: a 10-step plan to restore the United States to Constitutional government."
Born in North Carolina and educated at the University of Virginia, Wake Forest University and Caledonian University in Scotland, Howell now lives in Warsaw, Poland with his wife, Dr. Magdalena Iwaniec-Woltz. Howell is the European Correspondent for The Richardson Post and Chairman of The International Centre for Justice.