Trials or inquests by jury are the most democratic means of bringing a legal process to a conclusion. Recruited from the electoral roll, jurors provide an important corrective to magistrates and judges, who might be hardened by the number of cases that come before them and/or be out of touch with the pace of modern life.
Juries aren't perfect by any means. In their turn they are open to manipulation of evidence by skilled barristers, can be bamboozled by expert testimony, and are subject to judicial direction. They can also reach "perverse" conclusions by ignoring the instructions of the judge or the provisions of the law, resorting instead to common sense or the dominant logics that emerge through their process of deliberation.
Unfortunately, today's verdict that Mark Duggan was lawfully killed certainly does count as perverse. I don't know whether Duggan was or wasn't a gangster, or whether he was in possession of a fire arm or not. But the story sanctified by the jury had him carrying a gun before the police stopped his minicab. That he was then separated from his gun - it was probably discarded before the police confronted him. Therefore the jury accepted he was unarmed when he faced his pursuers. And yet, despite accepting this version of events there was nothing unlawful about Duggan's death. The jury felt that the police were correct, under the law, to shoot.
Shooting incidents involving the police are rare - there have been six occasions in London over the last four years that the police have shot someone. Some may be justified, some not. But when there is a case to answer, isn't it peculiar how not one has led to the prosecution of a serving officer? Readers will recall the appalling death of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell tube station. Not only was he shot seven times in the head while being restrained by officers, but the subsequent IPCC showed that the police involved lied about his movements and actions. The Met were found guilty for his killing under health and safety legislation and fined, but there was "insufficient evidence" for a prosecution against the officers responsible.
The Met can apologise all it likes. As far as young people on the inner city beats are concerned, this episode demonstrates that the force is above the law. It shows that even when a someone is known to be defenceless, the police can still get away with murder. And, again, when white officers are shooting dead a mixed race boy it's easy to see how the Met's will-to-racial inclusivity is met with incredulity and contempt by those on the receiving end of their policing.