Ferguson panel analyzes legal consequences

Katie Madden
Managing Editor

Law professors and practicing attorneys conducted a discussion for students, visitors and faculty to watch and participate in on Tuesday night at the La Verne College of Law. The panel, “Ferguson: A Call for Understanding and Action,” focused on the legal ramifications and justifications involved in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Missouri last month.

Before an audience of about 50 people, the panel, organized and moderated by Diane K. Uchimiya, director of the Justice and Immigration Clinic and professor of law, explained the role and limits of law enforcement.

“The standard to use deadly force set by the Constitution and by state law is an extremely high standard,” said Dale Galipo, a civil rights attorney and panel member.

“It is hard to say that this was a true defense of life situation and clearly it is undisputed that he (Brown) wasn’t reaching for a gun,” he said.

Galipo also said that police officers overwhelmingly are not prosecuted by the district attorney’s office for shootings, citing that in the past 20 years Los Angeles County police have been responsible for 10,000 shootings but there have been no criminal prosecutions.

“There are no negative ramifications for them (police),” Galipo said. “They don’t lose pay, they don’t get terminated, they don’t get disciplined, they don’t get prosecuted. What message is that sending to all the other officers?”

Shandrea Williams, assistant professor of law and panelist, explained how the grand jury in charge of determining whether Wilson will be auitted or punished will hear the evidence as everything comes in, unlike most cases where the evidence is complied and presented to them.

A grand jury does not decide the guilt or punishment of a person, rather they help the prosecutor decide whether to indict or bring criminal charges against the possible defendant.

Michael O’Connor, visiting assistant professor of law, explained that in these cases, the prosecuter will recommend what charges will be considered. However in this case the prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, will not recommend what charges should be made.

“The grand jury will have to try to figure out the charges on their own,” O’Connor said. “So it’s really a process that is slanted in favor of the officer.”

Noelia Barajas, a third year law student and president of the Hispanic National Bar Association, said Uchimiya contacted her group as well as the National Black Law Student Association to ask for their help to organize the event.

“These kinds of conversations are so necessary,” Barajas said. “It’s so instrumental for us to look at both sides and to be able to passionately advocate for them without letting it blur our judgment.”

Although Gilbert Holmes, dean of the College of Law, said at the beginning of the panel that it was mostly directed at law students to form a legal analysis of the issue, he also explained why it was important for others to be there.

“If you don’t learn from the past, your future is doomed,” said Holmes. “This talk gives us an opportunity to look at our past as we think about what our future holds.”

No representatives from the law enforcement community were present at the panel.

This panel was the first installment of a five-part discussion that will continue to delve into the various issues surrounding the Michael Brown case. Part two, titled, “Protectors or Criminals? Advocates or Thugs?,” will take place Sept. 30 in the Campus Center Ballroom A.

Katie Madden can be reached at kaitlin.madden@laverne.edu.

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