San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi spoke out today in opposition to a grand jury’s decision Monday not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Adachi said that after reading the transcripts and looking at the evidence of the grand jury inquiry, he was “deeply disappointed” in the grand jury’s failure to indict Wilson for the fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager.
He said “questionable, and in my opinion, biased legal and ethical decisions in the investigation and prosecution of the case presented to the grand jury led to this unjust result.”
Adachi, who has been San Francisco Public Defender since he was elected to the position in 2001, said the decision should be important to all Americans, including San Franciscans, as it shows a need for communities to reform the processes by which justice is determined.
The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office provides legal representation to more than 25,000 people who are charged with crimes in San Francisco each year and who are unable to afford an attorney, according to their website.
Adachi said that among the most notable problems he saw was the allowance of a local prosecutor with strong personal connections to members of the Ferguson Police Department to supervise the investigation as well as the presentation of evidence in this case.
Adachi said the bias led the prosecuting attorney not to recommend an indictment of Wilson.
Prosecutors also failed to probe Wilson’s testimony and “frequently appeared to be bolstering his claim of self-defense,” Adachi said.
A key witness, Dorian Johnson, who was standing next to Brown when Brown and the officer encountered one another, testified that he watched Brown partially raise his hands and say, “I don’t have a gun” before being fatally shot by Wilson, Adachi said.
Furthermore, Adachi said Wilson’s description of Brown illustrated “implicit racial bias that taints use-of-force decisions” and that those biases contribute to African Americans being 21 times more likely to be shot by police than whites in the U.S.
“We must work to ferret out biases that threaten the very foundation of society and taint decisions rendered by our justice system,” Adachi said.
Prosecutors never attempted to reconcile the contradiction between Wilson’s claim that Brown punched the left side of his face and the documented injuries, which appear on Wilson’s right side, Adachi said.
The public defender said a federal investigation into the police department’s history of discriminatory policing practices, use of excessive force and violations of detainees’ constitutional rights is ongoing.
Adachi suggested that in order to avoid future tragedies such as the loss of Brown’s life, law enforcement agencies across the country ought to be using technology, such as body-mounted cameras, in an effort to uphold “accountability to the public they are sworn to serve.”
Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News