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?

Typhoid Mary And A History Of Communicable Diseases

The story of Typhoid Mary is particularly interesting in an age where ebola and other serious diseases threaten the lives of many. Quarantined for what she considered to be a faulty diagnosis, Mary was one of the first “healthy carriers” of typhoid fever, an often-fatal communicable illness. Over the past century, Mary’s story has brought up many issues whose impact can still be seen today, especially those regarding civil liberties, public health, and how the government reconciles both. This is the story of Mary Mallon, the woman behind Typhoid Mary.

Mary Mallon was an Irish immigrant who first came to the United States as a teenager. To survive, she held a number of domestic jobs, often as a household cook. In 1906, Mary was hired as a cook by Charles Henry Warren and his vacationing family. In early autumn, six of the 11 Warren household members were infected with typhoid fever. To determine how the family caught the disease, Warren hired sanitary engineer George Soper, who had experience with typhoid fever outbreaks.

Political Cartoon on Typhoid

An old cartoon shows that illnesses like typhoid can be prevented. Source: Monster Brains

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New Study On Parental Happiness Shows The Third Time Isn’t The Charm

parental happiness

Sorry, Danny, but your parents were happier when your sisters were born. Source: Manny Photography

The law of diminishing marginal utility might be an economics term, but according to a recent study it might apply to families, too. An 18-year-long study on parental happiness (the longest running study ever performed on the subject) revealed that the birth of a third child child produces a “negligible” increase in the happiness of parents. Compare that to a two-year-long surge in parental happiness surrounding the birth of a first child, and about half that at the birth of a second child, and we may have a new kind of “Middle Child Syndrome” vying for our attention.

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The World Before God Created It

World Before God Dawn

Source: Wikipedia

As the Sun set on the evening of what would someday be known as Saturday, October 22, 4004 BCE, nobody in the world could imagine what the next 6,000 years would be like. The people of that time—all 14 million of them—lived in a world of stone and wood. With few exceptions, they knew nothing beyond family and clan, trade routes and war, Earth and the sky. This day, this Saturday, was special, and nobody in the world at the time could have told you why, because it is only special to us.

World Before God Mesopotamia Temple

Source: Study Blue

The center of the world at this time is Mesopotamia. Here, during what historians would someday call the Uruk Period, some of the world’s first cities have grown up. Some of the cities of the Fertile Crescent, such as Jericho, are already so old that their founding is as remote from the people of 4004 BCE as that date is from us. For 5,000 years, the people of this land have farmed a fertile hybrid of two grasses that they—and we—know as kweit, or “wheat.” Some use copper, but bronze working is yet a far-off dream, and iron is all but unknown among them. Their land is lush and fertile, but the climate is changing, and soon their descendants will subsist in an arid dustbowl.

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