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In America, ‘equal justice under law’?

November 26th, 2014
03:43 PM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

The grand jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson over the death of an unarmed black teenager Michael Brown has angered many Americans, who feel that equal justice under the country’s law system is failing.

So is that the case? CNN’s Christiane Amanpour put the question on Tuesday to Vincent Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and to CNN’s Senior Legal Analyst and Former Prosecutor Jeffrey Toobin.

They started by looking into how prosecutor Robert McCulloch handled the investigation into Brown’s death, which sparked protests in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson in August. The demonstrations have since spread across the country.

“I would draw a distinction between the process and the result. I actually think the result – no charges – is defensive, but I don’t think the process he [McCulloch] followed was appropriate,” Toobin told Amanpour.

“The best thing the criminal justice system can do is treat everyone the same, and the process the prosecutor used, using a grand jury, which is rarely used in any kind of setting and throwing all the evidence, rather than a selection of it before the grand jury almost seemed to dictate the result, which was an exoneration."

"Given the evidence that came out, I think the exoneration may well be justified but I don’t think the process inspires a lot of confidence,” he added.

Warren agreed with Toobin, called the process “terrible” and the prosecutor “non-transparent.”

“And not only is the grand jury process one that not everybody uses but I think the way this came out, almost like throwing out all of the evidence, and then shifting the burden from the prosecutor who’s responsibility it is to secure an indictment to the jury – the grand jury – almost shifting the burden politically so that he doesn’t have to deal with it,” Warren added.

According to the FBI, blacks make up 49 percent of those arrested for murder and non-negligent manslaughter, when they make up only 13 percent of the population.

And researchers cited in a report by The Sentencing Project found that people of color are also given harsher sentences.

On top of that, and according to that same report, white Americans overestimate the proportion of crime committed by people of color by about 20 to 30 percent.

Click above to watch the full interview.

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • U.S. Politics
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