Today we were forced to witness another press conference featuring a prosecutor who made the decision not to file charges in an officer involved shooting. We’ve seen and heard many stories like this before, which has grown into unrest amongst many across the country. The American people are no longer taking the prosecutor’s words delivered in their prepared press conference at face value. Holding Prosecutors accountable is long overdue.
Prosecutors around the country exercise “prosecutorial discretion” when making these calls. Prosecutorial discretion, which is also known as selective enforcement, is the power of prosecutors, or other public officials, to decide whether to move forward with the prosecution of an individual who may have violated the law. The prosecution process begins when the prosecutor files charges or there is an indictment by a grand jury.
When a prosecutor decides not to prosecute, it means they’ve made a legal conclusions of fact within the prosecutor’s office rather than allowing the citizens to do their job. What do I mean by that? The prosecutor has decided to be the jury instead of allowing you guys to make up the jury and decide facts in a case. During a trial, two types of conclusions must be made: conclusions of fact and conclusions of law. In a jury trial, the facts are determined by a jury. The conclusions of law are made by the judge.
Yesterday, Allister Adel, Maricopa County Prosecutor, declared that the police officer in the Dion Johnson case “reasonably feared for his life” during her press conference. This is a legal conclusion. One made without a judge or jury. The same prosecutor who works with law enforcement on a daily basis took the power out of the people’s hands and wants us to believe she made an unbiased decision.
It does not take much to bring charges or get an indictment and allow the judicial process to run its course. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that you can “indict a ham sandwich, if that’s what you wanted.” This demonstrates the low bar set to move forward in a criminal case. It doesn’t mean the officer or anyone who goes to trial “did it” or is guilty. It just means the people have an opportunity to find out the truth and decide. Even with such a low bar, we’ve found ways to charge every day Americans, but not at the same rate as the law enforcement officers accused of police brutality or excessive force. One must wonder why. We’ve continuously placed the blame solely on law enforcement in cases such as Dion Johnson and Robert Johnson, but it’s time for prosecutors to be held accountable as well.
Please remember to register to vote in the upcoming election. The deadline for registration is October 5, 2020. Do not look only to the presidential race, but also to the local races such as the race for Maricopa County Attorney. Holding prosecutors accountable starts here.