My white friends are upset about Eric Garner

Garner grand jury case reaction unifies left and right
Krauthammer: Decision not to indict NYPD officer ‘totally incomprehensible’

Garner was middle-aged, as we are.  He had not just robbed a cigar store, rough-handling the clerk; he was selling “loose ones,” as we all do.  We all buy and sell them all the time.  There’s some risk to it, as in Baltimore this activity in public can get you a $150 ticket (and you must appear for trial).

Death, however, isn’t normally in the scenario.

Media coverage of the two incidents was diametric.  No one clamored that the Garner incident spells the last word on what it means to be black in America.

Michael Brown, as mentioned, had just strong-arm-robbed a cigar, and only got Darren Wilson’s attention because he was jay-walking.  The testimony of his companion Dorian Johnson indicates Brown was cavalier about the robbery.  These elements suggest he may have been carrying a chip on his shoulder, lending credibility to Wilson’s allegation that the two struggled at his car.  However, the focus must be on exactly what happened between the two of them at that moment; which is not clear.

Garner apparently had a criminal record — not “also,” in that Brown had no criminal record at all.  However, here also the focus must be on exactly what happened between his attacker and him; and that is perfectly clear.

A criminal conviction must meet the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, which is extremely high.  In the O.J. Simpson case, that the gloves did not fit was adequate to create reasonable doubt; although everything about that case might have been different but for the fact that, as the jury did not know, Mark Fuhrman apparently tampered with the evidence, including that evidence.  A civil case is decided on a much lower standard, “a preponderance of the evidence,” by which standard O. J.’s purported victims’ families later obtained a judgment against him.  In both the Michael Brown case and the Eric Garner case, there is a good chance that their survivors will similarly prevail in civil cases.

All that’s required for an indictment, however, is “probable cause,” the lowest standard of all. Thousands of people are indicted every day.  Why that didn’t happen here is beyond me.

Originally posted 2014-12-06.

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