By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It may be Thanksgiving time, but many minds and bodies are still in Ferguson — days after a Grand Jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson.
But the focus is slowly shifting from protests to next steps in the process.
“People think that it’s over, it’s not over…it’s really just beginning,” says Michael Coard, a civil rights attorney based in Philadelphia.
He is familiar with the family of Michael Brown and says the family and its supporters have a number of options they use to turn up the pressure to seek redress for their dead son.
“The grand jury’s recommendation is just that, a recommendation in Missouri,” says Coard, “so the prosecutor can still proceed without it.”
Although the option is unlikely, Coard says continued public pressure could change the conversation. Other possibilities include pushing federal prosecutors to file charges and investigate state prosecutors, the police department or former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on whether they committed civil rights violations. Coard says a civil wrongful death claim is also an option.
“In many ways, this case is legally dead,” says James Funt, a partner at Greenblatt, Pierce, Engle, Funt & Flores in Philadelphia. He says getting federal prosecutors to file charges will be an uphill battle.
“What they’ve got now are witness who’ve contradicted one another and the physical evidence,” he says,
My guess is the feds do not want that challenge– in my experience they prefer to take cases they can win.”
Funt says policy and legislative changes should be the new focus.
“The secrecy of the grand jury proceeding gave the public the perception that the system cannot be trusted,” says Funt, “this is a systematic issue that needs to be addressed.”
And there are other issues– not just in Ferguson, but all over the country.
“The question is– what do we do so other Ferguson’s don’t happen,” says Charles Gallagher, a professor at LaSalle University who studies the intersection of race, ethnicity and community.
“It’s one thing to say let’s come together, let’s hold hands, let’s have a vigil,” he says, “but come Monday morning, there’s still few jobs that pay a living wage, there’s still a police force that over-polices the community– particularly African American communities. To pick up the pieces we really need to address some of these issues that are really systemic.”
Gallagher says protester energy should focus on changing policies– like racial profiling– and pushing for police body cameras, in addition to tackling legal issues in Ferguson.
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