Darren Wilson: Killing does pay...a lot!
There is hardly any good news in US politics these days. The events in Ferguson have split the already deeply divided country even further, and justice and peace are nowhere to be seen. At least not when we look at current events.
Adding to the injustice of rigging the grand jury process in order to avoid a trial for killer Darren Wilson (for more about this, see below), is the complete lack of morals. I am talking about the mainstream media, which reportedly got into a bidding war for having an interview with Darren Wilson. An independent news website, and interestingly, it is a right-wing news website, reports that Darren Wilson received a "mid-to-high six figure sum" for giving the interview to George Stephanopoulos from ABC News:
A NBC source with knowledge of the #DarrenWilson interview talks said that ABC offered to pay “mid-to-high” six figures for the interview.
The source did not say an exact figure because NBC stopped bidding for it after ABC upped the ante.
While there is no independent confirmation for this report, it appears very believable. It is certainly not uncommon at all to be paid big bucks for these kind of media appearances. Even Sarah and Bristol Palin received already $ 100,000 for appearing in a cover story for In Touch Weekly in 2010, as an example.
In addition, this reported fact about the money paid to Darren Wilson also ties in with a new report by the Daily Mail, in which the paper reports that Darren Wilson now has a "1$ million" war chest, which at least $ 500,000 coming from donations.
The message that this payment to Darren Wilson sends to the USA and the rest of the world is terrible, and it paints the US society as a place where morals have little or no place. To say that the killing of Michael Brown was "controversial" would be a huge understatement. As is apparent for anyone with a functioning brain not impaired by the relentless right-wing propaganda, the killing itself as well as the following judicial process has been a huge scandal.
The Grand Jury proceedings made a mockery of the established rules. "Think Progress" quotes Supreme Court Justice Scalia in a ruling from 1992:
It is the grand jury’s function not ‘to enquire … upon what foundation [the charge may be] denied,’ or otherwise to try the suspect’s defenses, but only to examine ‘upon what foundation [the charge] is made’ by the prosecutor. Respublica v. Shaffer, 1 Dall. 236 (O. T. Phila. 1788); see also F. Wharton, Criminal Pleading and Practice § 360, pp. 248-249 (8th ed. 1880). As a consequence, neither in this country nor in England has the suspect under investigation by the grand jury ever been thought to have a right to testify or to have exculpatory evidence presented.
One immediately can spot the problem, and one does not have to be a lawyer in order to understand that in this case, the traditional Grand Jury process was perverted by purpose. The "Grand Jury" was promoted a full jury, deliberating in secret.
Legal experts agree:
But the presentation of all of the evidence to the grand jury struck other legal experts as inappropriate.
“[McCulloch] put the grand jury in the role of being a trier of fact, which is not its role,” Cohn said. “The grand jury was put in the position of basically being a jury, but in a one-sided, closed proceeding. The only people inside the grand jury room are the grand jury and prosecutors.”
In contrast, she said, “In a trial, there are lawyers on both sides, witnesses, and the evidence is presented in an adversarial way.”
Making the grand jury weigh evidence and question witnesses also shrouded that process in secrecy—a factor that led to the “rampant speculation” McCulloch criticized in Monday’s night press conference, McGraugh said.
“People could do nothing but speculate because he was using a secret grand jury proceeding,” she said. “He didn’t acknowledge that people had to speculate as a result of his own actions.”
She added that even within the realm of grand jury proceedings, the case spoke to a lack of “equal treatment under law.”
“The law was not applied to Officer Wilson the same way it would be applied to someone who wasn’t a police officer,” said McGraugh, who previously worked as a trial attorney and spent eight years at the Missouri State Public Defender’s Office. “If my client killed someone tomorrow and claimed it was in self-defense, he would be arrested and required to post bond while awaiting a grand jury decision. Then, the prosecutor would not be allowed to bring both sides of the story into the building.”
This sets a very dangerous precedent. Ignoring the "rule of law" is the first step into a lawless society - a society in which the rich and powerful decide themselves how the laws should be interpreted, and in which they decide that existing rules can be ignored, if necessary.
This is one step further towards an authoritarian system. In the USA, there seem to be few people able to imagine that society could gradually slip towards authoritarian rule. According to common US belief (correct me if I am wrong), "good" always wins in the end, always eventually triumphs over evil. A society in which "evil" reigns seems incredibly hard to imagine. People are optimistic that the "system" is going to work properly in the end.
But what if the system can be perverted, without any consequences?
In this context, just yesterday, I came across an interesting little "fun fact" which at first does not seem to be terribly important, but which in my view strongly supports my opinion that the belief that "good" has to triumph in the end is firmly embedded in the American psyche, and is also very hard to ignore.
Many of you will remember the excellent movie "Brazil", made in 1985, a very dark satire in which former "Monty Python" member Terry Gilliam shows a world under dictatorial rule and with perverted morals. It is available on Youtube in low quality HERE.
Now, what is significant regarding this movie? It is 132 minutes long, in its original version, and one if its most important messages is that it actually does NOT have a "Happy End." Well, if you didn't already know, I think you can guess what comes now. A world under dictatorial rule, a dark satire, and no "Happy End"? Not for Americans!! Deciding that Americans should not be bothered with such a rather unpleasant storyline, Universal studios had other ideas:
Sidney Sheinberg, the president of Universal studios had taken an interest in BRAZIL -- Sheinberg "liked many parts of BRAZIL, and thought there were many moments of bravura filmmaking," but what Sheinberg saw lacking was commercial potential. The cure for this, in Sheinberg's eyes was a re-edit, one that took the various parts of BRAZIL that were commercially viable, namely Sam's pursuit of his dream girl, the stunning set design and Gilliam's off-beat style of humor, while removing those things that were not, namely the film's dark ending, the overtones of the dehumanizing effects of the government, and Michael Kamen's witty but dark orchestral score. (...)
Ultimately, this edit subverted the entire point of BRAZIL, making the movie a futuristic fairy tale about a man's quest for a dream woman, with a lot of action and a sub-plot about terrorism thrown in. Gilliam's original message of dehumanization and technology gone wrong was subverted by Scheinberg's edit, which sent the message that if you play the game and stay a good little cog in the machine, that one day you'll end up with your dreams come true.
Yes, stay a good little cog, and keep on dreaming.
In case of the "Ferguson Grand Jury", the system failed. We can only hope that this was a single incident. But in my opinion, the system failed again when Darren Wilson received hundreds-of-thousands of dollars for giving an interview about the killing. Society should be guided not just by laws, but also by morals. Darren Wilson clearly does not deserve to become rich due to the fact that he shot Michael Brown. The media should not support such actions by a police officer, as this was not an apparent case of self-defense, according to numerous witness statement. But it appears that nobody in the media did consider this. All they wanted was "the scoop", all that mattered were the ratings. I call this perverted as well.
See this graphic which was compiled by PBS NewsHour (click to enlarge):
The saddest part: If Michael Brown was was white and Darren Wilson was black, we probably wouldn't have this discussion.
(Big h/t to zane1!)
I wanted to share two items which are not related to this topic, but which you might find interesting.
First, "Sex, Lies and Cigarettes", a new gripping documentary about how the tobacco industry currently conquers Asia, targeting children and teenagers, as well as manipulating politics. It is an industry also devoid of morals, which I found very shocking, maybe because I thought that that tobacco companies have "changed":
Secondly, a new satire clip I found, a real rarity from Monty Python, absolutely brilliant, with the appropriate title "Away From It All" - but you have to watch the full clip in order to get the message, as the first minutes are merely the introduction:
Have a good weekend, everybody!
Retired Philadelphia Cpt. Ray Lewis talks about Police Corruption
Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream