Grand Jury’s Decision To Drop Case Against Ferguson Police Officer As Unusual As It Is Upsetting

Protests in Ferguson, Missouri

Source: USA Today

On Monday, November 24th, 2014 a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri declined to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed an unarmed teenager, Mike Brown, this past summer. The decision to drop the case against Wilson has sparked thousands of protests across the nation.

This case is notable for more than its highly publicized nature: it’s also incredibly unusual for a grand jury to decline to return an indictment. In 2010, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases, and only dropped 11 (16%) of them. According to University of Illinois law professor, Andrew D. Leipold, “if the prosecutor wants an indictment and doesn’t get one, something has gone horribly wrong… It just doesn’t happen.” As former New York state Chief Judge Sol Wachtler famously stated, a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.” There is one notable exception to this rule–when the accused is a police officer.

Furgeson's Grand Jury failed to indite WIlson

Number of cases federal courts declined to prosecute are in red. Source: Washington Post

The alarming trend of grand juries dropping cases against police officers is not unique to Ferguson, but a nationwide issue stemming from a systematic lack of officer accountability. According to Michael Bell, retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and the father of a 21-year-old Wisconsin man who was handcuffed and then shot in the head at point blank range by a police officer, “if police on duty believe they can get away with almost anything, they will act accordingly.” Thanks largely to the Bell family, Wisconsin became the first (and currently the only) state which requires outside review of all officer-involved fatalities.

Even if positive social or political change comes out of Mike Brown’s death it won’t happen quick enough to change this week’s decision, and questions surrounding the case still remain. Jurors didn’t need to believe, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Wilson had committed a crime. All they needed for an indictment was to feel that there was probable cause. There were multiple eye-witnesses who claimed Brown raised his hands in the air, and irrefutable evidence that Wilson fired at the unarmed teen ten times, so why was the case against Wilson dropped?

Turkmenistan, The North Korea You Don’t Know About

Everyone seems to agree: the regime in Turkmenistan is rotten. According to Human Rights Watch, the Central Asian nation’s 5 million citizens live in one of “the world’s most repressive countries.” Reporters Without Borders ranks the country as the third most repressive place for journalism, only behind Eritrea and North Korea. The U.S. Department of State recently designated Turkmenistan as a “country of particular concern” for its abysmal record on religious freedom.

A secular democracy in name, Turkmenistan is ruled by the authoritarian President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. He won re-election in 2012 with Saddam Hussein-style support of 97% percent of the electorate and 96% turnout. His petroleum-rich regime regularly arrests dissidents, journalists, and civil society leaders. And time in a Turkmen jail almost always includes abuse and often torture.

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Turkmenistan Vast Spaces

Turkmenistan is larger than Sweden in terms of size, with vast unoccupied spaces. These bleak expanses were once part of the Silk Road connecting China and the West. Source: The Atlantic

Turkmenistan Map

Quick orientation: the Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan sits north of Iran, south of Uzbekistan and Kazakstan, and northwest of Afghanistan. Source: CIA

Turkmenistan Ashgabat

Turkmenistan’s capital of Ashgabat has the wide, mostly empty street so often beloved by dictators. Source: HQ Wall Base

Turkmenistan Ferris Wheel

Oddly, Ashgabat holds the Guinness world record for the world’s largest enclosed Ferris wheel. Source: The Atlantic

Turkmenistan Niyazov

Saparmurat Niyazov, of the world’s craziest dictators, ruled Turkmenistan from 1985 to 2006. Source: CDN

Turkmenistan Niyazov Cult

Niyazov’s cult of personality rivals that of North Korea’s modern dictatorial dynasty. Source: The Atlantic

Turkmenistan Niyazov Statue

The golden statues Niyazov commissioned of himself still stand throughout the country. Source: VIktorija Travel

Turkmenistan Manat Bill

Former President Saparmurat Niyazov on a 10,000 manat bill. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Turkmenistan Tank Parade

Niyazov came to power under the Soviets and his regime inherited much of its military hardware from Moscow. Source: Blogspot

Turkmenistan Ogulsapar Muradova

Ogulsapar Muradova, a local correspondent for Radio Free Europe, died in a Turkmen prison in 2006. Reports indicated that she had been killed by a blow to the head. Source: Radio Free Europe

Turkmenistan Current President

The current president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, came to power after Niyazov’s death in 2006, only months after the journalist Muradova died in prison. Source: Radio Free Europe

Turkmenistan Council Delegates

Delegates of the Halk Maslikhat, a council of authoritarian loyalists, show their support for Berdymukhamedov during as ascendency to power in 2006-2007. Source: Central Asia Online

Turkmenistan Presidential Portrait

Berdymukhamedov got rid of some elements of Niyazov’s personality cult, but not all. His portraits loom over spaces throughout the country. Source: Vocativ

Turkmenistan Turkmen March

Turkmen march in front of a portrait of President Berdymukhamedov during a 2013 military parade. Source: Xinhua Net

Turkmenistan Bigger Portrait

These marchers push an even larger portrait of the Berdymukhamedov. Source: Radio Free Europe

Turkmenistan Murad Ovezov

Turkmen pop singers Murad Ovezov (pictured) and Maksat Kakabaev were arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned in 2011. They were later released. Source: Radio Free Europe

Turkmenistan Yazmuhamedov

Rovshen Yazmuhamedov, a reporter for Radio Free Europe, was arbitrarily arrested in 2013. He was later released, but neither the arrest nor the release were ever explained. Source: Radio Free Europe

Turkmenistan Jennifer Lopez

Bet you weren’t expecting Jennifer Lopez to show up in Turkmenistan? Neither were human rights groups. Lopez gave a concert for the dictatorial government in 2013 that included a performance of ‘Happy Birthday’ for President Berdymukhamedov. She later apologized, and her handlers said they didn’t realize Turkmenistan had a human rights problem. Source: Breaking Energy

Turkmenistan Gas Pipeline

Turkmenistan has the fourth-largest reserves of natural gas in the world. State control of this resource helps keep the regime in power. Source: Turkmenistan UN

Turkmenistan Pipeline Map

Major natural gas pipelines pass through Turkmenistan and terminate at the country’s ports in the Caspian Sea. Source: EIA

Turkmenistan Door Hell

The Door to Hell, one of Turkmenistan’s strange tourist attractions, is a natural gas pit that the Soviets set on fire in 1971. The enormous fire never went out. Source: Boston

Turkmenistan Award UAE

As a petroleum-rich state, Turkmenistan’s foreign relations are dominated by oil and gas. In this photo, President Berdymukhamedov gives an award to an ambassador from the United Arab Emirates. Source: UAE Interact

Turkmenistan Berymukhamedov UN

President Berdymukhamedov, during a 2011 speech at the United Nations, pushed for a new international organization called the Caspian Sea Forum to promote the oil and gas industry in Central Asia. Source: United Nations

Turkmenistan South Asia

Natural gas also fuels Turkmenistan’s relations with South Asia. Here, Berdymukhamedov meets with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, the Indian Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Murli Deora, and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Source: Eurasia Net

Turkmenistan Zhang Gaoli

Berdymukhamedov shakes hands with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli. The relationship between the two nations is based on Turkmenistan’s massive natural gas reserves. Source: Xinhua Net

Turkmenistan Xi Jinping

Berdymukhamedov met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Tajikistan in September 2014 to discuss a strategic energy partnership. Source: People's Daily

Turkmenistan Abuses

Despite pressure from NGOs, the human rights abuses continue in Turkmenistan with little pushback from global powers. Source: Radio Free Europe

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Clinical depression is a misunderstood affliction, and one whose understanding is seldom aided by popular media. This is unfortunate in its own right, but especially because major depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in America. The National Institute for Mental Health reported that16 million people over age 18 “had at least one major depressive episode in [2012].”

That’s 6.9% of adults. Chances are that you either know someone who has struggled with depression or you have had episodes yourself at one point or another. Depression is strange; in some people, it can appear and stick around for several months, then seemingly vanish, never to be seen again. Others have chronic depression and need constant, sometimes lifelong treatment, which at this time usually consists of medications and/or talk therapy.

Movies don’t always succeed when it comes to acting out mental illness. This is a list of films that actually did it right. To set the scene, the video above presents a startling depiction of a real-life young woman’s fight with depression, among other mental disorders.

The Hours

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One Morning In Italy

Ever look at those bizarre photos of people posing next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and wonder what they might be thinking? With the help of this video, you now know.

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