December 1, 2014

Benjamin Crump Needs an Education

On most Sunday mornings, I watch the TV news. I rotate between several shows; yesterday, by chance, it was FACE THE NATION on CBS. Substitute host Norah O’Donnell interviewed Benjamin Crump, the lawyer for the family of Michael Brown.

I was intrigued by many of Crump’s answers:

O'DONNELL: Will it (Officer Wilson’s resignation) change at all your decision to move forward with additional legal action?

CRUMP: Certainly not. Norah, the family greatly wanted to have the killer of their unarmed son held accountable.

Accountable? Officer Wilson was held accountable, in several ways. Like every cop in every shooting, no matter the circumstances, he immediately surrendered his gun. He was taken off the street indefinitely. He cooperated fully in the department’s investigation, and the grand jury hearing. Then he submitted himself to their authority. Just because you don’t like the outcome, doesn’t mean that it was wrong, or the process was illegitimate.

…this grand jury process needs to be indicted. It's broken. It continues to yield the same results over and over again where they kill our children and they are never held accountable.

Mr. Crump is mistaken. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, prosecutors tried 162,000 federal cases in 2010, and grand juries returned indictments in all but 11 of them. That’s a record of about 99.9% success. If the grand jury process is biased, it’s biased against the defendants. To reform the system, would mean making it easier for Officer Wilson to beat the rap.

Look at how they let him (Wilson) testify for four hours…

 “Let him testify?” Like any criminal defendant he’s entitled to do so; no special favors were granted here, for none were needed. But under the 5th Amendment, he has no obligation to testify against himself. Yet he voluntarily waived that right. Bravo.

…and never cross- examined him.

Cross-examine what? In a grand jury hearing, there’s no such thing. The only people who examine witnesses are the prosecutors. A cross-examination would have to be by the defense, and in favor of acquittal, the very thing Mr. Crump didn’t want.

O'DONNELL: Would you have preferred a trial? And what if he had been acquitted, though? What if Officer Wilson was acquitted?

CRUMP: People can accept that more…People think that is fair. People think that is impartial…

Oh, really? Ever heard of Trayvon? Rodney King? American history of the past 50 years, has shown that unpopular trial verdicts spark riots, too.

…But when you have this secret grand jury proceeding, where there is only one lawyer in the room and that lawyer is a local prosecutor who has a symbiotic relationship with the local police department…

OF COURSE a grand jury hearing needs to be held in secret, to protect it from undue influence by outsiders. OF COURSE the police have a close relationship with the DA; that’s how they prosecute crimes. Isn’t that what we want?

I’m confused. Seeing as Mr. Crump graduated from college and law school and passed the bar, I would expect him to know a little something about American history, and the workings of the criminal justice system:

That grand juries favor indictments;
That defendants are entitled to defend themselves in court;
That a cross-examination would have worked against the outcome he desired;
That an acquittal at trial would not have avoided post-verdict violence;
That grand juries need to be secret, and that it serves a good purpose; and
That the police need to be friendly with the prosecutors.

So is he ignorant, or is he dishonest?

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