By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer
When someone is accused of a crime, a grand jury decides whether or not that person should be “indicted” (formally accused and put on trial). On Monday, a grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson of Ferguson, Missouri, who was accused of using unlawful deadly force against Michael Brown.
On August 9, 2014, Brown robbed a store and Wilson tried to arrest him. During a struggle between the two men, Wilson used his gun against Brown, who then passed away. Protests broke out, claiming that the incident was about race, because Brown is an African-American and Wilson is white. Witnesses described the event differently, with some claiming Brown presented a threat to Wilson’s life and others saying he did not.
After three months of examining physical evidence and witness statements, the grand jury decided there wasn’t enough proof to justify putting Wilson on trial. Unlike a criminal trial, where a jury must decide that there is proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” that a crime was committed, an indictment has softer standards. The only thing a grand jury has to determine is whether or not there was “probable cause” to believe a crime occurred.
Although most of the protests across the country have been peaceful, there have been instances of store looting and destruction. President Barack Obama delivered a statement urging calm. He said, “First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law. And so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make. There are Americans who agree with it, and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed, even angry. It’s an understandable reaction. But I join Michael’s parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully.”
Featured image courtesy of Amir Aziz on Flickr. Image of Oakland protesters courtesy of Jamelle Boule on Flickr.