American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review, Volume 51, Issue 3 (2015)


Copyright American Judges Association. Used by permission.


On August 9, 2014, white police officer Darren Wilson shot an unarmed black civilian named Michael Brown. In the wake of the extensive media coverage and public scrutiny that followed, the tragic incident triggered a federal civil-rights investigation and renewed a broader national dialogue about the perception of black males as inherently dangerous, threatening, or criminal—and the role of those perceptions in perpetuating racial inequality in the United States.1 A grand jury decision not to indict Wilson on murder charges elicited highly polarized reactions from the general public, which ranged from wholehearted support for Officer Wilson to further accusations of racial bias against the prosecutor in the case and against the predominantly white grand jury charged with making the decision.2 The President of the United States addressed the diverse sentiments of the American people:

There are Americans who agree with it [the Ferguson grand jury decision] and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed—even angry. . . . We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades. I have witnessed that in my own life, and to deny that progress, I think, is to deny America’s capacity for change. But what is also true is that there are still problems—and communities of color aren’t just making these problems up. Separating that from this particular decision, there are issues in which the law too often feels as if it is being applied in a discriminatory fashion.3