ACRU Senior Legal Analyst Jan LaRue wrote this column appearing August 23, 2014 on The American Thinker website.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) described himself “thunderstruck” by the police response to protests, rioting and looting of businesses in the town of Ferguson. It’s either a lightning strike to his brain, or fear for his political future driving Nixon’s bungled leadership and his presumptuous and premature call for prosecution of a police officer.
Nixon plopped his political posterior on the scale of justice by calling for prosecution of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson hours before a grand jury began hearing any evidence in the case of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man shot and killed by Wilson on August 9, triggering violence in Ferguson.
Wilson claims that the 6 ft.4, 290 lb. Brown physically assaulted him, and during a struggle between the two, Brown reached for the officer’s gun. One shot was fired inside the police car followed by other gunshots outside of the car. A timeline of events is available here.
Outsiders arrived in Ferguson, including New Black Panthers leader Malik Zulu Shabazz, who took to the street on August 16, inciting a chant arguably unprotected by the First Amendment:
“What do we want?”
“How do we want him?”
A few hours later, Shabazz appeared front and center at an official press briefing. Instead of publicly rebuking the racist Shabazz for endangering Wilson, Nixon allowed Shabazz to hijack the briefing after losing control of it.
Nixon should have advised the public not to draw conclusions about the shooting based on allegations and untested statements and evidence, reminding them that lawlessness and mob “justice” have no place in America. He should have apprised everyone of the Scriptural truth known by every lawyer and parent:
“The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.” Proverbs 18:17
Worst of all, Nixon read a scripted, videotaped statement on August 19, repeatedly calling on the St. Louis County District Attorney Robert McCulloch “to achieve justice” for “the family” of Brown. Nixon didn’t mention justice for Wilson—only justice for the Browns.
McCulloch responded by telling Nixon to “man up — stand up” to demands to remove McCulloch from the Brown case because of McCulloch family ties to law enforcement. “It’s typical Nixon doublespeak,” McCulloch told a radio interviewer, according to CNN.
Fox News anchor Shepard Smith soundly criticized Nixon for potentially influencing the grand jury. Smith is right. Missouri law, section 575.290.1, makes “improper communication” a criminal offense:
“A person commits the crime of improper communication if he communicates, directly or indirectly, with any juror, special master, referee, or arbitrator in a judicial proceeding, other than as part of the proceedings in a case, for the purpose of influencing the official action of such person.”
Smith further stated that Fox News made a call to Nixon’s office to see if he stood by the statement. He did until criticism increased and spread on Wednesday.
Nixon’s staff then tried to “clarify” that Nixon, who served 16 years as Missouri attorney general, didn’t mean “prosecution” when he read “prosecution” in his script. And when Nixon called for justice for the Brown family three times, he really meant justice for all.
It was “typical Nixon doublespeak,” just as McCulloch nailed him.
Smith also interviewed Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Finder (R), who said that Nixon has appeared “tentative, and sometimes weak and sometimes confused.” Finder also criticized Nixon for prejudging Officer Wilson rather than respecting the legal process and his presumption of innocence.
Violence and looting in Ferguson have continued for nearly two weeks despite the presence of the Missouri National Guard and multiple law enforcement agencies armed with military equipment acquired by Nixon in conjunction with a Department of Defense program. Nixon is responsible for guidelines regarding use of the equipment.
Maybe Nixon staffers will “clarify” that he meant for law enforcement to bring out the military gear only if Islamic State terrorists show up at the governor’s mansion.
If and when violence ends in Ferguson, Officer Wilson’s constitutional rights will remain in jeopardy because of Nixon’s contemptible conduct.
The Missouri Legislature should consider impeaching Nixon and removing him from office for violating his ethical duty and constitutional oath. The Missouri attorney general should consider prosecuting Nixon for improperly communicating with the grand jury.
Nixon’s abuse of his constitutional oath stands in stark contrast to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was indicted on two felony counts on August 16 for exercising his constitutional authority to reject a bill.
Perry vetoed a $7.5-million funding bill for the State Public Integrity Unit run by Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. Lehmberg plead guilty and served half of a 45-day jail sentence in 2013 for driving with a blood alcohol content almost three times the legal limit. Her drunken and abusive conduct can be seen here.
Perry publicly stated that he would veto the bill unless Lehmberg resigned for having lost public trust. She refused. He vetoed the bill. Lehmberg responded by appointing a special prosecutor to investigate a complaint against Perry filed by a watchdog group funded by leftist billionaire George Soros.
The Travis County grand jury bought the bunk, upholding Austin’s unofficial motto, “keeping it weird.” They must love Nixon.
It is hoped that the “Show Me State” has seen enough of him.