When 250 Ferguson residents met with the Justice Department last week, many of them made it abundantly clear that they wanted the government to arrest and indict Officer Darren Wilson and to investigate St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch.
Over grumbles from the audience, Justice Department lawyers politely explained they could promise none of these things.
When the Justice Department met with Ferguson residents this week, a phalanx of a dozen federal officials stood before the citizens in front of the room. They represented an alphabet soup of federal offices that Attorney General Eric Holder has thrown at the problems in Ferguson.
There was a criminal investigation, a pattern-or-practice investigation, a COPs inquiry, a Community Relations Service mediation, a continuing investigation into St. Louis County family court and an inquiry into how discipline is meted out in the schools.
If the St. Louis County grand jury fails to indict Officer Darren Wilson, Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch will immediately release full transcripts and audio recordings of the grand jury proceedings, his spokesman said Tuesday.
The purpose of a grand jury, in theory, is to protect citizens against unfair and unwarranted prosecutions by the government. In medieval England, it was viewed as a protection against the Crown. Colonists found the institution protected them against unfair English prosecutions and included the right to a grand jury in the Fifth Amendment.
But in practice, the prosecutor who runs the grand jury has a great deal of influence in orchestrating the outcome. A well-worn saying is that a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.
The Constitution does not permit police to fire at unarmed, nonviolent, fleeing suspects unless there is a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or the public.
The police account of Saturday's events is that Michael Brown fought for a gun in a police cruiser before being shot dead a short distance from the car. Given that account, one question in Brown’s shooting death at the hands of Ferguson police is whether Brown would be considered a non-dangerous suspect.
The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision may not be as big a threat to contraceptive coverage for women as it first appeared.
After a few weeks of legal sleuthing, several leading Supreme Court experts think the court has signaled it will approve a compromise to provide free contraceptive coverage to women who work for companies and religious nonprofits that object to the coverage on religion grounds.
Governments cannot ban anti-abortion "sidewalk counselors" from a 35-foot buffer zone that includes the sidewalk in front of an abortion clinic unless the governments first have tried less restrictive methods of protecting women from face-to-face intimidation as they enter reproductive health facilities.
The U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously struck down President Barack Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and a Massachusetts law keeping opponents of abortion off the sidewalks within 35 feet of an abortion clinic.