There’s more to the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution than the right to remain silent. In its very first sentence the Amendment says: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury.”
That sentence is a core protection. A government prosecutor has an enormous amount of power. The founders recognized that where government has power, there exists the potential – if not the inevitability – of abuse.
A malicious prosecution, which would include a prosecution brought as the result of inflamed public opinion, would likely be ruinous to the accused even if in the end the verdict turned out to be not guilty.
In the case of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, an indictment followed by a criminal trial would have surely resulted in his bankruptcy and the likely end of his career even if he was ultimately acquitted.
In the wake of officer Wilson’s no-bill from the grand jury, many in the commentariat are saying that it would have been better if he had been indicted and brought to trial. That way, goes the reasoning, even if ultimately exonerated, the exoneration would have been easier for the “community” to accept.
This is flatly wrong. Such a proceeding would have then been a show trial and show trials are among the very evils that the Fifth Amendment is intended to prevent.
In the absence of probable cause to believe that he committed a crime, which the grand jury did not find, Officer Wilson’s constitutional liberties are absolute. And they trump any abstract notions about what is or isn’t good for the “community.”