The Ferguson Decision

(Note: As I was writing this, Thrill put up his own post, which I recommend you read as well.)

As you have probably heard, the grand jury refused to indict Officer Darren Wilson tonight. A few thoughts:

First, this is not a surprise. Grand juries are reluctant to indict officers even when there is solid evidence of excessive force. They are reluctant to convict officers when there is clear evidence of excessive force. Three years ago, a group of police officers beat Kelly Thomas to death. He was unarmed but mentally disturbed. On the video tape, he tells the officers he is trying to cooperate, tells them he can’t breath and calls out for his father. He died from the massive injuries inflicted on him that night. The jury acquitted the officers who killed him. Earlier this year, John Crawford was walking around Walmart with a toy gun. Officers, responding to a 911 call, gunned him down almost immediately after seeing him. The jury did not indict.

Keep something in mind, though: it is incredibly rare for a grand jury to not indict. You can read a first-hand account from Ken White, a former prosecutor, here, about how the grand jury process tends to work. What the DA did in this case: not asking the jury to consider a specific charge, was unusual and made it a lot more likely that no true bill would be returned. This is not a degree of skepticism that is applied to average citizens. It is only applied to those on the side of government.

Second, I don’t know what happened in this case and neither does anyone except Officer Wilson. A lot of people have been claiming that Wilson had been “vindicated” by some of the physical evidence (Brown’s DNA in the car, etc.). I don’t see that. Parts of his story check out. But the one part of the story that is most critical — his claim that Michael Brown fled 50 yards down the street, turned and charged into a hail of bullets — is still unproven. Whether Michael Brown was a choirboy or not is irrelevant. What matters is what happened in those critical seconds. And there are conflicting witness accounts of that.

Third, none of this changes the fundamental problems that are still present in Ferguson and in other cities: a gung-ho militarized culture, an extensive use of military-grade weapons, a hatred of sunshine that led to the arrest of two reporters and a ban on air travel that is now known to have been implemented to keep the media out. In the aftermath of the Brown shooting, the police still pointed military weapons at peaceful protesters, still responded to taunts with tear gas, still responded to FOIA requests with a incident report that was essentially blank. If they had wanted to enrage people, they could not have picked a better strategy. And the underlying problem, presented in start detail by Radley Balko, remains.

Fourth, anyone who responds to this incident with violence or looting is not helping. For the most part, these are thugs taking advantage of the situation. They are outnumbered by the peaceful protesters but they will be the face of this. The windows they smash, the cars they burn — that is what people will remember. And that’s a terrible pity.

There are real things that can be done about this. But it will involve a lot of hard work to change our government, our culture and our law enforcement. Is anyone willing to do that?

Comments are closed.

  1. Thrill

    Yep. I stay quiet for the whole year and then BAM. 2 posts in one week.

    The prosecutor seemed to be speaking more as Wilson’s attorney rather than the uh, prosecutor. Did you notice that?

    I don’t really doubt the grand jury’s decision here. I think the only reason that it was put in front of one was because of the ill-informed public outcry over the case. There was no true bill because there was no case, not simply because Wilson was a cop. Similarly, Angela Corey REFUSED to put Zimmerman in front of a GJ because she knew how weak the case was.

    I totally agree with everything else you posted. Guys like us are somewhere in the middle. We’re not really represented by the scum in the streets or the thugs with badges. They just rage around us. One day, it will affect us, I worry.

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  2. Hal_10000 *

    The prosecutor seemed to be speaking more as Wilson’s attorney rather than the uh, prosecutor. Did you notice that?

    I did. Good point.

    One thing I should have added. Announcing this decision at night was unbelievably stupid.

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  3. Thrill

    Yeah. The looters are just ignorant. The public officials have no fucking excuse for how stupid they’ve been throughout, from the first night until now. Should’ve done it at like 4 in the morning when nobody was awake.

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  4. Section8

    But the one part of the story that is most critical — his claim that Michael Brown fled 50 yards down the street, turned and charged into a hail of bullets — is still unproven.

    And by golly he’s guilty until proven innocent! Yeah everything else matches, but he’s a cop so no reason to assume he was telling the truth for the rest of it. Let’s put more stock into the story of the guy who was with the Gentle Giant strong arming a shop owner 20 minutes before. A little detail left out when he told his story, but hey it’s all irrelevant because some cops raided a home somewhere when they shouldn’t have so all cops are guilty. Plus we now know that Wilson did get a call about the robbery at the time he was confronting them. No biggie though, last thing cops should do is apprehend suspects. Let’s pretend Wilson was driving a tank with riot gear on and shooting puppy dogs with a machine gun and then figured he’d just shoot a guy for no good reason. It makes for a better narrative

    One thing I should have added. Announcing this decision at night was unbelievably stupid.

    Yeah right before rush hour would have been a lot better. Even better would have been while school was getting out. Nothing like mom and her screaming kids driving through the streets during a riot. Damn what were they thinking?

    Is there a problem with a growing paramilitary police? Yes. That said, was Wilson driving around in riot gear looking for a fight, or was he just doing his goddamn job? I think you’re going a tad overboard on all cops out to get everyone. It’s just silly, and about as useful to the cause of diffusing a growing militarized police as looting.

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  5. Section8

    Hey have you been to any Chiefs games lately? They might make it to the post season again, where I’ll quit watching because I know what will happen, but for now it’s been good. Well except for last week.

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  6. Thrill

    Chiefs, no. Went to a couple of Royals games this year. I’m not much of a sports fan BUT I much prefer going to baseball games. My biggest client is a baseball fanatic, so you can imagine.

    We’re damn proud of the Royals yet completely baffled by the Chiefs for that last game.

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  7. Section8

    Yeah the Royals had a great year. Not much of a baseball fan, but I was pulling for them. Maybe that was the problem :( . Anyhow, I do hope you do post more here from time to time.

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  8. Xetrov

    But the one part of the story that is most critical — his claim that Michael Brown fled 50 yards down the street, turned and charged into a hail of bullets — is still unproven.

    Physical evidence (no shots to Brown’s back, etc.) and reputable eye-witness accounts back up that story.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/25/us/witnesses-told-grand-jury-that-michael-brown-charged-at-darren-wilson-prosecutor-says.html?_r=0

    The most credible eyewitnesses to the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., said he had charged toward Police Officer Darren Wilson just before the final, fatal shots, the St. Louis County prosecutor said Monday night as he sought to explain why a grand jury had not found probable cause to indict the officer.

    According to witnesses and blood and other evidence found inside the car, Officer Wilson first fired two shots while he struggled with Mr. Brown through the window of his patrol vehicle, a Chevrolet Tahoe, grazing Mr. Brown’s hand.

    Mr. Brown started to run away, with Officer Wilson in chase, then stopped and turned. According to the prosecutor’s summary, the officer fired five shots as Mr. Brown charged him, then another five shots as he made what one witness called a “full charge.”

    As far as the rioting, I think the MSM is culpable. They have been saying for two weeks straight that rioting would happen if there was no indictment. Irresponsible “journalism” like the bullshit Mother Jones has been putting out about the story specifically to rile people up is downright dangerous.

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  9. Hal_10000 *

    nd by golly he’s guilty until proven innocent!

    In a grand jury, the DA present the facts supporting indictment. The burden is not innocent until proven guilty. The burden is if there enough evidence to merit a trial. The DA presented a lot of exculpatory evidence, which they do NOT do if you or I are facing indictment.

    Physical evidence (no shots to Brown’s back, etc.) and reputable eye-witness accounts back up that story.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/25/us/witnesses-told-grand-jury-that-michael-brown-charged-at-darren-wilson-prosecutor-says.html?_r=0

    There are other witnesses who back up the idea the he was not moving or had his hands up. And some were not interview for more than a month afterward. I’ve been going through the eyewitness testimony today and there are conflicting accounts of what happened. The DA acknowledged this but said he thought the witnesses backing up Brown’s cases weren’t as believable.

    No one has disputed that Brown was shot from the front. The question is what was he doing? Having read the autopsy report, I don’t think a firm conclusion can be drawn, although the shot through the top of the head and out through his jaw would require his head to be in a very contorted position for him to have been charging.

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  10. Hal_10000 *

    Addendum: had I been on the grand jury, I might have handed down no true bill as well given the evidence that was presented. And, given the evidence, I think it is unlikely a conviction would have come. But I also think the system protected itself in this case. Wilson was not interviewed for almost 24 hours. The DA did not give the jury specific instructions and presented them with exculpatory evidence. In fact, the DA’s early comments made it clear that we were headed this way. These are not luxuries extended to ordinary citizens. They are extended to law enforcement in almost every case and are a big reason why it is so rare to see indictments, let alone convictions in cases like the Kelly Thomas beating.

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  11. Xetrov

    There are other witnesses who back up the idea the he was not moving or had his hands up.

    Which were completely discredited during the course of the investigation according to the DA. As the DA said, the grand jury are the only 12 people who have seen and investigated ALL of the evidence, including the conflicting accounts, and changed stories. But hey, you go on with your bad self in your armchair jurying.

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  12. richtaylor365

    the grand jury refused to indict Officer Darren Wilson tonight

    Interesting way of putting it, are you disappointed?

    They are reluctant to convict officers when there is clear evidence of excessive force.

    But no “clear evidence” of excessive force in this case, is there?

    But the one part of the story that is most critical — his claim that Michael Brown fled 50 yards down the street, turned and charged into a hail of bullets — is still unproven.

    How can you possibly say that? Did you listen to the D.A.’s summation? Several (most black) eye witnesses testified to the G.J. that Brown attacked the officer, some even described it as charging him., this is not good enough for you?

    The notion that an unarmed 300 lb hulk, who had already attacked the officer before he could get out of the car (proving his intent to harm him at the outset), who then bull rushes him, is somehow not worthy of being shot at is just too stupid for words. There is no such thing an an “unarmed” 300 lb man, considering that one punch could prove lethal.

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  13. Thrill

    What Rich said. The prosecutor went to a lot of trouble to note that many of the “witnesses” didn’t actually see anything. They heard what others said in an epic game of Ghetto Whispers and repeated it, thus feeding the flames.

    There’s no way Brown should have continued to enjoy any public sympathy once the two details emerged that he had robbed the convenience store and that Wilson was responding to that call when he encountered him.

    Everything else, from the witness testimony that supports Wilson’s version of events plus the repeated autopsies that put the forensics on his side (including the Brown family’s commissioned autopsy), sealed the deal.

    It never should have gone this far. I think it’s pretty alarming that the agitators were able to pull this off, considering the martyr they chose.

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  14. Hal_10000 *

    Several (most black) eye witnesses testified to the G.J. that Brown attacked the officer, some even described it as charging him., this is not good enough for you?

    Michael Brown was not facing the grand jury. Wilson was. Let’s review what the witnesses said:

    Witness #10 – claims brown turned and attacked
    Witness #12 – claims Brown stopped
    Witness #14 – claims Brown stopped
    Witness #16 – claims Brown was shot with his hands up surrendering
    Witness #22 – claims Brown was kneeling with his hands up
    Witness #25 – claims Brown was still running away when shot
    Witness #30 – claims Brown was coming at the officer
    Witness #32 – didn’t see it clearly
    Witness #34 – claims Brown turned to the officer, but was walking toward him
    Witness #35 – says Brown was killed while on his knees
    Witness #37 – says Brown had his hands up
    Witness #41 – says Brown was on his knees with his hands up
    Witness #42 – says Brown was surrendering
    Witness #43 – is all over the place
    Witness #44 – says Brown had his hands up
    Witness #45 – says Brown was walking back with his hands up
    Witness #46 – says brown had his hands up
    Witness #48 – says Brown was running toward the officer to attack him
    Witness #62 – wasn’t at the shooting, testifies on Wilsons’ injuries
    Witness #57 – didn’t see the final shots
    Witness #64 – says his hands were up

    Those line of witness would get you or I indicted. And the inconsistencies in Wilson’s testimony (e.g., he says Brown ran 20 feet away and then came back. He actually ran 150 feet away) would be a big problem.

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  15. Hal_10000 *

    To clarify again where I stand: given what was presented to the jury, a no true bill was not an unreasonable result and certainly not unexpected. I agree that this was probably the wrong case for people to get angry about, but the problem is that the system doesn’t lend any confidence to its results. It may have functioned properly in this case, there are innumerable ones where it hasn’t. In this case, we see a shadowy reflection of the things that have created such distrust — having the system be a hell of a lot more skeptical with members of the system than it is with civilians. We’ve seen people get convicted based on far less than was present in this case. As Radley Balko said last night, i wish they would be a lot more skeptical and fair when it’s not a cop.

    I think Mcwhorter has a good take on it (http://time.com/3594636/ferguson-is-the-wrong-tragedy-to-wake-america-up/)

    Based on the evidence known to us now, a common take will be that the incident proceeded thusly: Brown stole from a convenience store, Wilson tried to stop him based on his description. Brown refused to stop and physically assaulted Wilson in his car, Wilson shot Brown in self-defense. Brown ran about 150 ft. from the car. He then ran 25 ft. back toward Wilson, likely trying to indicate surrender. Wilson thought Brown was trying to reinitiate the assault and fired further, which killed Brown. This was a hideous misunderstanding. And yes, if the guy lurching back toward Wilson had been white, just maybe he wouldn’t have fired those last shots.

    However, Wilson apparently didn’t single Brown out because of his black body, but because that black body had just nabbed goods from a store and also assaulted its owner. It is also clear that Brown defied an officer’s reasonable request, and then battled with him. We may never know whether Brown reached into the car or whether Wilson grabbed Brown by the neck. But we do know that Wilson fired the lethal final shots upon Brown coming back toward him. Firing these shots was indeed impulsive; and one wishes someone who could fire in such a moment never had been trusted with a gun. But Wilson did not, as some have claimed, shoot Brown in the back as he ran away.

    What happened to Diallo, Martin, Crawford, and also Oscar Grant is a clearer demonstration of what faces us than what happened in Ferguson. People don’t like being told to ignore facts; even fewer find ambiguity a spark for indignation. Crawford’s killers weren’t indicted either. We must wonder why this is considered a less urgent — and instructive — catastrophe than what happened in Ferguson. I mourn Brown as we all do, but I worry that we have chosen the wrong tragedy to wake this country up.

    Addendum: I’m also still reading testimony and catching up on commentary. This is the first time I’ve had since the initial incident to really think about it, so I’m still in mid-reaction here.

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  16. Hal_10000 *

    Chiefs, no. Went to a couple of Royals games this year. I’m not much of a sports fan BUT I much prefer going to baseball games. My biggest client is a baseball fanatic, so you can imagine.

    We’re damn proud of the Royals yet completely baffled by the Chiefs for that last game.

    OT, but I was really pulling for the Royals this year. That was a fun team to watch.

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  17. Thrill

    Going through your list, Hal:

    Witness 16 is completely unreliable and changed her story from when she spoke to Ferguson detectives. In the FBI interview, the Special Agents repeatedly had to warn her not to tell them what she had heard about what happened and instead what she herself observed. They didn’t believe her. She would have been a disaster for the prosecution on the witness stand.

    Witness 22 contradicts the other, more reliable witnesses AND the forensic evidence.

    Witness 25 says that Brown was facing Wilson when the fatal shots were delivered, not that Brown was running away. He also contradicts the forensic evidence.

    Witness 35 was repeatedly called out by the FBI agents during the interview because they didn’t believe her and they noted that she contradicts every single other witness. She also changed her story in the middle of the interview.

    Witness 37 says that it was a calm, execution-style killing, which disagrees with the forensics AND Witness 44, who claimed that Brown was backing away from Wilson when he was shot.

    Witness 41 is a dumbass.

    Witness 42 contradicts the forensic evidence by claiming Brown was lying on the ground while Wilson stood over him and shot him.

    Witness 44 says that only 5 shots were fired outside of the vehicle, which is flat out wrong. Additionally, she has no idea what color Brown’s t-shirt was, despite being able to see the bloodstain on it. Shouldn’t be that hard to remember a plain white t-shirt.

    Witness 45 disagrees with both Witness 37 and Witness 44 by saying that Brown was walking toward Wilson when shot.

    Witness 46 clearly didn’t witness the shooting. She firmly says that Wilson was in a police CAR, rather than a Chevy Tahoe. The FBI gave her plenty of chances to clarify that it was a SUV.

    Witness 64 changed his story from the first telling and ALSO described Wilson’s vehicle as a car instead of a SUV.

    The rest, to varying degrees, more or less support the forensics and Wilson’s statement. There was no case here.

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  18. Hal_10000 *

    OK, one other thing: what in the blue fuck was Obama’s statement all about? Like we can’t function without some edict from our Dear Leader. I was watching CNN last night and wanted to put an axe through the TV when they were saying, “if only the rioters had heard Obama’s speech.”

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  19. richtaylor365

    but the problem is that the system doesn’t lend any confidence to its results.

    What an insult to those 12 GJ panelists that spent 3 months of their time going over every scrap of evidence available to them. No system is perfect but in this incident it worked exactly was expected.

    likely trying to indicate surrender.

    Yeah, right, bull rushing the officer while totally ignoring repeated warnings to stop, that is how a reasonable and prudent man would surrender, both you and Mchorter are delusional.

    And yes, if the guy lurching back toward Wilson had been white, just maybe he wouldn’t have fired those last shots.

    Yep, Wilson is a racist too, unbelievable.

    We may never know whether Brown reached into the car or whether Wilson grabbed Brown by the neck.

    So you think Wilson, constrained in a vehicle with limited mobility and seated decided to try some new fangled arrest technique never before tried or described in any approved police manual anywhere in the country, reached out and grabbed Brown by the neck in an attempt to pull a 300 lb man into his vehicle for arrest? Wilson was punched twice, once in the face and once in the back of the head (both documented and photographed at the hospital) and later testified that he thought one more blow could prove fatal, that is why he shot while still in the car.

    Firing these shots was indeed impulsive; and one wishes someone who could fire in such a moment never had been trusted with a gun

    One wishes that someone who could make such an idiotic statement had never been trusted with a public forum to disseminate such nonsense.

    And I’m glad he brought up Oscar Grant, since that outcome refutes all the talking points that cops don’t go to prison for killing blacks. There is a consensus out there that think Mehserle was convicted by mob rule and sentenced unfairly due to who the victim was.

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  20. Thrill

    I had to share this little gem from the grand jury testimony I just found:

    Prosecutor (Q): Had you ever really seen Darren Wilson before?
    Witness (A): No.
    Q: You never had any interaction with him at all before this incident?
    A: You say Darren Wilson?
    Q: The police officer involved with the shooting who shot Michael Brown, his name is Darren Wilson.
    A: Oh, yeah, once.
    Q: You did once?
    A: Yeah, when I was running from QuikTrip because I had to pee, because I normally walk to QuikTrip and get my donuts and coffee and cigarettes, and I was running down Canfield trying to make it home to pee. I didn’t buy no coffee that day, I just had donuts and cigarettes.
    Q: And what happened?
    A: As I was running, he was asking me what are you running from. I say I’m running from QuikTrip to try to get home, I got to pee. He pulled in front of me and I ran straight into it, that’s why my knees is kind of messed up a little bit worse than what they are.
    Q: How long ago was that?
    A: This was like, I’ve been in Canfield for four years, this was like two and a half years ago.
    Q: And your knee is messed up because of it?
    A: No, I already had chronic arthritis, it just got worse.
    Q: So you said you ran into the car?
    A: Yeah, and then I called the captain of Ferguson.
    Q: Let me ask you what happened when you ran into the car?
    A: I peed on myself.

    http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1370505-grand-jury-volume-16.htmlhttp://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1370505-grand-jury-volume-16.html

    This same guy later conceded that he changed his story from claiming that Wilson shot brown in the back after he learned about the autopsies’ findings.

    I’m convinced that Ferguson is full of fucking idiots and I’m making it a special point to never go near it or anyone from there.

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  21. Section8

    As far as the rioting, I think the MSM is culpable.

    Without a doubt. They are “investigative” reporters who at the same time claim ignorance when the facts come out counter to their agenda. Given the broadcasting voice they have I hope some of these outlets get sued for the damages due to their irresponsibility. From day one this has been to make it a white vs black issue.

    Hal, I don’t necessarily have an issue with tighter controls on police. I think dashboard cameras, and perhaps even the Brown family’s idea of cameras (if it’s workable and doesn’t interfere with their job and safety) on the officer are helpful to transparency, but there is a big difference in applying the same rules to cops while on the job as Joe citizen. First I think this would be rather obvious, but fact is their job requires them to deal with the worst of people everyday. No cop gets called to a scene for someone being nice to people. People call on them to deal with the worst of people. When you call the cops, you are basically handing off whatever danger you may be in to someone who will pick it up for you. They have to repeat this every day. They don’t have the ability to be clairvoyant anymore than the rest of us as to how the situation may end up when they show up on the scene, but one thing is for sure once they pick up your issue your responsibility to the outcome has likely decreased significantly while their responsibility has become 100%. This is a situation that repeats itself time and time again and why it’s pretty obvious there should be some cushion regarding what they can do to preserve their own safety.

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  22. Hal_10000 *

    What an insult to those 12 GJ panelists that spent 3 months of their time going over every scrap of evidence available to them. No system is perfect but in this incident it worked exactly was expected.

    Oh, come off it. Grand juries are spoon fed evidence by the DA and are basically rubber stamps. Last year grand juries returned indictments in all but a handful of cases. The only time they show this kind of rigor is when it’s a cop. The most common question they ask when it isn’t a cop is “why are we even having a trial”. But the system works because this one grand jury did their job?

    Last year, juries returned bills of indictment in all but 11 of 162,000 federal cases. In Dallas, they returned indictments in one of 81 cases involving a cop.

    Yeah, right, bull rushing the officer while totally ignoring repeated warnings to stop, that is how a reasonable and prudent man would surrender, both you and Mchorter are delusional.

    So Wilson’s version and the version of a couple of the witnesses is the gospel truth? Even though he *also* changed his story between his initial statement and aspects of his testimony (such as how close Brown was) contradict parts of the forensic evidence. Gotchya.

    So you think Wilson, constrained in a vehicle with limited mobility and seated decided to try some new fangled arrest technique never before tried or described in any approved police manual anywhere in the country, reached out and grabbed Brown by the neck in an attempt to pull a 300 lb man into his vehicle for arrest? Wilson was punched twice, once in the face and once in the back of the head (both documented and photographed at the hospital) and later testified that he thought one more blow could prove fatal, that is why he shot while still in the car.

    I never said I believe his accomplice’s version of events. In that case, the forensic evidence is clear that there was at least an altercation. But it is less ridiculous to believe that Michael Brown, already wounded, turned around and tried to “bull rush” a cop from half a football field away into the teeth of semi-automatic gunfire?

    A lack of evidence to support Brown supporter’s version of events does not mean that Wilson’s version of events are automatically true. Given what we’ve read in just the law few months about people “resisting” while unconscious and dying, “reaching for a gun” they didn’t actually have or “moving aggressively” while standing still or running away, I think some skepticism of his account is warranted.

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  23. Hal_10000 *

    First I think this would be rather obvious, but fact is their job requires them to deal with the worst of people everyday. No cop gets called to a scene for someone being nice to people. People call on them to deal with the worst of people. When you call the cops, you are basically handing off whatever danger you may be in to someone who will pick it up for you. They have to repeat this every day. They don’t have the ability to be clairvoyant anymore than the rest of us as to how the situation may end up when they show up on the scene, but one thing is for sure once they pick up your issue your responsibility to the outcome has likely decreased significantly while their responsibility has become 100%. This is a situation that repeats itself time and time again and why it’s pretty obvious there should be some cushion regarding what they can do to preserve their own safety.

    Agreed. And the vast majority of cops execute their duties extremely well. The problem is that when a cop does not do his job well, when he is abusive, when he uses excessive force, he is protected by unions, by DA’s, by fellow cops. For example, there’s a huge scandal exploding in Albuquerque, where cops have been given militarized training by gung-ho shitwits. Two dozen people have died in the last four years. And no one is being held accountable. It looks like they will ignore the recommendations of a DOJ investigation that concluded they had a huge problem in their policing methods.

    I think when we give people guns and the power to use them to deal with society’s problems, there needs to be more accountability, not less.

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  24. richtaylor365

    Oh, come off it. Grand juries are spoon fed evidence by the DA and are basically rubber stamps.

    Holy smokes , did Al Sharpton highjack your identity? The mountains and mountains of evidence they had to go over, 3 separate investigations(county, state and Eric Holder’s separate witch hunt)-all running in tandem, all the forensic reports, the police logs, witness statements, 3 separate autopsies, 3 months worth of work, with the whole world looking over their shoulder ready to second guess them and you just shit all over them, you sound ridiculous.

    So Wilson’s version and the version of a couple of the witnesses is the gospel truth?

    When all the forensic evidence lines up exactly with his version, then yes, it is gospel truth. You keep harping about how this GJ hearing was unusual, what is really unusual is Wilson volunteering to appear before the GJ (never done by a suspect, why give them ammo in case an indictment follows?) , testifying before the GJ, answering every single one of their questions, testimony which was down the line consistent with his prior statements to investigators, now that was unusual.

    never said I believe his accomplice’s version of events.

    By posing the question at all your are weighing his testimony (which was later destroyed by his own admission) as equal and valid with that of Wilson and other witnesses who were not later exposed as liars and whose statements were corroborated with the forensic evidence, clearly you can see that.

    You seem all kinds of confused about how investigators process witness statements, thus throwing in all those statements that were later found out to be lies, from folks that were not even there but had heard this of thought that. Someone that later recants or admits he lied, someone who’s statements are all over the map or markedly change, their credibility becomes suspect and lose probative value. Of course Wilson’s testimony must be scrutinized and shot through the prism of evidence based facts at hand. But as the DA said last night in his exhaustive and thorough report of the GJ’s findings, the evidence bore out Wilson’s account of self defense, that was their conclusion, you can discount it if you like.

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  25. Section8

    I never said I believe his accomplice’s version of events. In that case, the forensic evidence is clear that there was at least an altercation. But it is less ridiculous to believe that Michael Brown, already wounded, turned around and tried to “bull rush” a cop from half a football field away into the teeth of semi-automatic gunfire?

    A lack of evidence to support Brown supporter’s version of events does not mean that Wilson’s version of events are automatically true. Given what we’ve read in just the law few months about people “resisting” while unconscious and dying, “reaching for a gun” they didn’t actually have or “moving aggressively” while standing still or running away, I think some skepticism of his account is warranted.

    The chase may have ended a half football field away, that does not mean Wilson stayed at the car and just timed his firing until Brown turned around because he’s such a great shot. He gave pursuit according to testimony. Now then the argument could be made then how could he fear for his life if he went after him, but that’s his job regardless of what he fears. Yeah most of us would have stayed in the car and tried to get the hell out of there, but that’s why we’re not cops. That’s why your neighbor won’t call you to stop a burglary nor would my neighbor call me, they’ll dial 911. So once Brown turned around and starts coming back at him at much closer range than 50 yards it’s perfectly reasonable that given the prior event Wilson had reason to fear for his life *again* and that the chances were up at that point. At what point does Brown’s actions become relevant for you such as the robbery and punches in the face? He actually did those events which seem irrelevant to you, but some completely unrelated case involving completely unrelated cops speak for Wilson? You might want to rethink that.

    I think when we give people guns and the power to use them to deal with society’s problems, there needs to be more accountability, not less.

    Wilson had standard issue items correct? He had none of this militarized weaponry you keep trying to tie in with this correct? Apparently he had never previously fired his gun on the job either.

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  26. Thrill

    My sister said it perfectly: “This is the wrong case to ask the right questions about”.

    Brown’s supporters had their day in court, more or less. The evidence wouldn’t have convicted Wilson. It would have been ethically wrong to charge him knowing that.

    For my part, I was equally disgusted by how utterly the Ferguson PD/St Louis law enforcement escalated and lost control this past summer. I believe that the high water mark for militarized law enforcement has already been reached. SOMETHING good will come of all of this if we can at least roll back the soldier-cops for good.

    However, we cannot undermine our own justice system just to correct bad policing methods. In my opinion, Wilson is a product of it, but he does not belong in prison for shooting Brown. The grand jury was right and it was never their job to address anything but the evidence placed in front of them in this one case, not to put American law enforcement on trial.

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  27. Hal_10000 *

    Holy smokes , did Al Sharpton highjack your identity? The mountains and mountains of evidence they had to go over, 3 separate investigations(county, state and Eric Holder’s separate witch hunt)-all running in tandem, all the forensic reports, the police logs, witness statements, 3 separate autopsies, 3 months worth of work, with the whole world looking over their shoulder ready to second guess them and you just shit all over them, you sound ridiculous.

    And how often does that happen with grand juries? There are mountains of evidence in every case. The GJ is not where you decide the case (since there is no confrontation or anything). In most criminal cases, the presentment takes less than an hour.

    You can’t possibly say that Wilson’s account is the gospel truth when 1) I don’t think the forensic is nearly that clear-cut as to say Wilson’s account is absolutely true; which part of the forensic evidence “proves” Brown was rushing Wilson?; 2) none of it has been subjected to the kind of examination you get in a trial. Grand juries are presented a slice of the evidence, usually whatever will favor indictment. The slice they were presented with here did not support it. That’s the only conclusion you can reach based on this but you want to take the conclusion that Michael Brown has been proven guilty.

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  28. Thrill

    The forensic evidence didn’t prove that Brown charged Wilson. It DID demolish the claims of every witness who said that Wilson shot him while he was running away, on his knees, or lying on the ground. What it disproves is arguably more important than what it proves.

    Like it or not, the jurors detected the contradictions in Dorian Johnson and the other “hands up” witnesses because of their own contradictions with the forensic evidence and even each other’s statements. I even pointed these out in the thread and it didn’t take me two months to demolish their case.

    Why in the world should the jurors have indicted Wilson when there was nothing compelling about the evidence?

    What exactly would a trial for Wilson have accomplished here, beyond staving off the riots until the inevitable Not Guilty verdict?

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  29. richtaylor365

    That’s the only conclusion you can reach based on this but you want to take the conclusion that Michael Brown has been proven guilty.

    Well, we know that he is guilty of strong armed robbery, and assault with that poor store owner, we know that he initiated the violence against Wilson by reaching in and punching him twice (his own blood inside the driver door and on Wilson’s uniform), we know that he made verbal threats against Wilson (based both on Wilson’s account and those of eye witnesses whose testimony was not rebutted), we know that he later turned and charged Wilson twice (corroborated by the eye witnesses, and the audio log from the video chat guy next door which recorded 2 separate instances of gunfire), and we know that the bullet entries were from the front with Brown falling forward after the fatal round, indicating forward movement. Of these things, yes he was guilty, but since the whole purpose of the GJ was to weigh the evidence to determine whether in fact criminal charges should be filed against the officer, they found his testimony compelling, corroborated by that mountain of evidence you so easily dismiss, and that he acted reasonably and in self defense. Justice was served , consistent with the system we have in place. They did not need your assent.

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  30. Hal_10000 *

    Thrill, I don’t disagree. Based on the evidence they were shown, there was not ground for indictment as I said above. The question is about what evidence was presented to them.

    we know that he later turned and charged Wilson twice (corroborated by the eye witnesses, and the audio log from the video chat guy next door which recorded 2 separate instances of gunfire)

    There’s no dispute about two instances of gunfire. There is dispute about the circumstances of the second with you apparently taking the words of some of the witness over others and ignoring any inconsistencies in their statements (e.g. how far apart they were, what gestures Brown may or may not have made, whether he was “bull rushing” or not). You are also basing this on the idea that we have all the evidence in this case, which is never the case with a GJ.

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  31. Hal_10000 *

    My sister said it perfectly: “This is the wrong case to ask the right questions about”.

    That is a great way to put it, yes. There are other cases where the circumstance are much clearer. And if we equipped more cops with dash and body cams, I think we would have both fewer instances of excessive force and fewer cases like this.

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  32. Thrill

    You keep saying that it was all about the evidence they were SHOWN. Doesn’t a prosecutor have a responsibility to NOT put a person on trial when the evidence doesn’t support it?

    Sure, an unscrupulous prosecutor (*cough Angela Corey *cough) could simply choose to ONLY present damning evidence. He could even choose to repeatedly call grand juries (*achoo! Ronnie Earle) until he finally gets one to hand down an indictment.

    You’re moving into another realm here. You’re going from criticizing bad cops to accepting rogue prosecutors. McCullough was not rogue. He faithfully fulfilled the requirements of his office and the needs of justice in this instance. It seems like you’re holding him to the standard set by dirtbag prosecutors rather than responsible ones. That’s a very strange for you to do.

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  33. Thrill

    I mean, to get a prosecution against Wilson, McCullough would have had to select those most credible witnesses with the most consistent stories, coach them to agree on some essential details about Brown having his hands up, and then downplay the medical examiner’s report and the multiple autopsies.

    If he did that, he’d be at risk of getting disbarred (*cough Nifong *spit). How would any of that be better for the justice system than the outcome we have now?

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  34. richtaylor365

    (e.g. how far apart they were, what gestures Brown may or may not have made, whether he was “bull rushing” or not)

    Given that there were 2 separate instances of gunfire, separated by some seconds when there was no gunfire, it is reasonable (based on all the witness statements we have) to conclude that he stopped advancing temporarily, then proceeded to go at the officer again. “Bullrushing” is the word I used, other witnesses used the word “charge”, while one described the movement in football terms as “rushing”, use any word you like but Brown was advancing towards Wilson based on all three autopsies with no hands raised during any of the entry wounds, and falling forward after the fatal round.

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/oct/22/autopsy-shows-michael-brown-shot-at-close-/

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  35. Hal_10000 *

    No, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a system that rarely, if ever, present exculpatory evidence at the GJ stage. McCullough was in a tough spot since he couldn’t not go to a grand jury, true. But the thing is that the Corey model is a lot more common than this one. As I said earlier in the thread, I wish they’d show this kind of skepticism for more than just Darren Wilson (especially now that SCOTUS had decided that indictment is sufficient grounds to take our money away).

    FWIW, even *if* everything the Brown camp had been saying were true, I doubt there would been a conviction. At most, they would have charged him second degree murder, probably less. And any reasonable defense attorney — and as a union member, Wilson had one — would have persuaded a jury to a reasonable doubt that having just been violently assaulted, that Wilson mistook the supposed surrender gesture.

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  36. Hal_10000 *

    I’ve finally gotten a chance to read the witness accounts more thoroughly (I’ve been sitting both kids while writing two papers and a massive proposal). While I’m still not convinced that Brown was bull-rushing Wilson, I’m convinced that he didn’t have his hands up. A lot of that testimony sounds more like what people want to be true than what was true.

    You know what the case is starting to remind me of? Yesterday I was reading about the Mathew Shephard Case. For years, we were told that he was murdered because he was gay. We passed laws based on it. Then Stephen Jimenez, himself a gay man, showed that it wasn’t related to his gayness. The murder happened because the principals were on a violent meth bender. It’s not that violence against gays isn’t a problem. It’s that the Shephard case was the wrong one to use to illustrated it.

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  37. Hal_10000 *

    And I’m glad he brought up Oscar Grant, since that outcome refutes all the talking points that cops don’t go to prison for killing blacks. There is a consensus out there that think Mehserle was convicted by mob rule and sentenced unfairly due to who the victim was.

    I missed this before, but worth addressing: one conviction, by itself, does not refute everything that has come before. I don’t think convicting someone who shot an unarmed man who was being held down is “mob rule”. I thought it was just — involuntary manslaughter because they believed he was reaching for his taser.

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  38. richtaylor365

    one conviction, by itself, does not refute everything that has come before

    No one said it does, but you (and others) make unsubstantiated claims that police misconduct is immune from legal consequences. A similar (and bogus) claim could be made by inferencing OJ Simpson with ,”See, black men never get convicted of killing white people”. Sure, there are examples of the pendulum swinging both ways, I can give you several examples I know of personally of prosecutions being extra harsh because it did involve law enforcement, which I have no beef with btw because they should, by way of their authority and power over people, be held to a higher standard. It just refutes time and time again the nonsense about them being able to get away with shit.

    And not wanting to try the Mehserle case all over again, but his explanation as to the shooting was perfectly plausible ( a fairly inexperienced cop who just completed a rushed and abbreviated training class-with no practical application on the use of tasers, who just got his like that week, thrown into a situation where he was outnumbered, that was turning ugly by the second, suspects not complying with ordered instructions, and he just grabbed the wrong gun by mistake). But the mob wanted their pound of flesh, so be it.

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  39. Hal_10000 *

    I think Mehserle’s defense was correct. So did Balko. If you look at the video tape, he’s clearly shocked. But that’s still involuntary manslaughter — an unintentional killing that results from recklessness or criminal negligence. And I doubt anything would have happened if it hadn’t been on video.

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