ORLANDO — Going beyond decrying the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson, Missouri, the Florida Civil Rights Association is calling for changes in Florida law that would potentially prevent a similar tragedy from occurring in the Sunshine State.
On Friday, the association based in Orlando issued a statement noting its “grave discerns” with the grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager. It sends a dangerous message to rogue law enforcement officers, said J. Willie David II, president of the association.
“The Florida Civil Rights Association believes that the result will embolden law enforcement to continue the acts of murder committed by them against young black men,” David said. “Ferguson prosecutors presented a case that belongs in the junkyard, not before a grand jury.”
He also called on the U.S. Department of Justice to strongly consider filing federal charges.
The association also said it was turning to the Florida Legislature to consider legislation that would help prevent a similar tragedy in this state.
“Due to the events of Ferguson, the Florida Civil Rights Association believe that major preventative measures should be enacted in Florida to prevent similar miscarriage of justice,” said Attorney Kyan Ware, the organization’s legal affairs chairman.
Ware, a former assistant state prosecutor, called on Florida lawmakers to pass legislation requiring that any police officer involved in a shooting must be investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, rather than internally through their own department, and that the case by supervised by a special prosecutor.
“The special prosecutor should not be an existing elected state attorney or any of his assistants, but some other person who does not hold elected office,” Ware said, adding that the appointed person should have “prior prosecuting experience, who can fairly and impartially examine the evidence, and if necessary, present the matter to a grand jury.”
Ware also called for legislation requiring all Florida law enforcement officers to wear body cameras while on patrol.
“The video of the body cameras should be accessible under Florida Public record laws, as there are now some limitations of the availability of the file,” Ware said.
If passed by Florida lawmakers, David said, these measures would help correct what went wrong in Ferguson.
“Clearly, the chief prosecutor handling the case did not have a desire to proceed with an indictment as revealed by the conduct of the grand jury proceeding by his assistants,” David said. “The fact that the chief prosecutor pre-judged the evidence and sarcastically claims fairness in the process is an insult to the intelligence of any fair minded person.”
The grand jury transcripts, he said, tell the whole story.
“The prosecutors handling the proceedings gave Darren Wilson little to no resistance to his story, while other witnesses were challenged and made to look not just incredible, but also suspicious in their motive for testifying,” David said. “Moreover, the fact that so much evidence was given to the grand jury reveals that the chief prosecutor’s motive was to make Darren Wilson’s version of events appear to be the most credible.”
The Florida Civil Rights Association works to advance diversity, equal opportunity and fairness, and to eliminate prejudice and discrimination in the public and private sectors.
“We seek to ensure a society in which everyone has equal access and opportunities in the state of Florida, the United States, and international,” the association notes on its website.
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