The Ferguson Lie is an appeal to our sense of fairness and transparency. We were played. McCulloch’s lengthy spiel before announcing “no true bill” was to spread the lie.
To the ear of the media, McCulloch’s pitch was appealing; the grand jury heard all the evidence. The grand jury transcript will be disclosed to provide complete transparency. Witnesses lied to the media, but the grand jury heard the truth. The grand jury saw the hard evidence. Nine whites and three blacks, so no one would think that the grand jury was denied the voice of people of color, sat on the grand jury, which met for 25 sessions and more than 70 hours of testimony.
The grand jury did the dirty work that America needed done. The grand jury has spoken.
This is the lie.
The description of what happened with the grand jury, how it heard all the evidence, how it will be transparent, is intended to appease our innate sense of fairness. Americans love things that appear fair, even if we don’t quite understand what actual fairness means. This sounds as if it was done as well, as fairly, as it could possibly be done. But it’s a lie.
“All the evidence” is a phrase that applies to a trial. A trial is a procedure that happens in an open courtroom, where adversaries zealously present their case and challenge the other side’s case. It is transparent because we can watch it unfold, develop, happen before our eyes. We hear the questions and answers, the objections and rulings. We hear the request to admit evidence and the voir dire and challenge to its admission. We hear the opening arguments and summations.
McCulloch put on a play in Ferguson. His press conference announcing the foregone conclusion was remarkable in many ways, not the least of which was how he sold the argument for “no true bill” rather than the position he, as prosecutor, was duty-bound to champion. The man charged with prosecuting killers argued the case for not indicting Wilson.
McCulloch didn’t have to go to the grand jury at all. He could have prosecuted Wilson by fiat had he wanted to do so. He did not. He was not going to be the person who charged Wilson with any variation of homicide. But in deciding to take the case to the grand jury, the lie was born.