HOW surprised should we be that a grand jury in Missouri failed to indict a police officer for killing an unarmed black man? In one sense, very surprised: it is very rare for grand juries to fail to indict a suspect when the state is doing its best to make a case. The standard of proof for an indictment is not that the state has made its case beyond a reasonable doubt, but that there is probable cause to prosecute. According to the Missouri courts, "probable cause" exists where "knowledge of the particular facts and circumstances is sufficient to warrant a prudent person's belief that a suspect has committed an offense". The 1996 case establishing that standard, State v Tokar, upheld a suspect's arrest for a murder committed during a burglary because the defendant and his girlfriend drove a yellow station wagon (which matched eyewitness descriptions of the perpetrators), and he had prior convictions for similar burglaries.
Given this standard, and the fact...Continue reading