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“How Darren Wilson Saw Michael Brown In Ferguson”: “Like It Was ‘Making Him Mad’ That I’m Shooting At Him”

After announcing that Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Michael Brown this summer, would not be indicted, Ferguson officials made available Mr. Wilson’s testimony. Here’s how he described shooting the unarmed teenager.

“As he is coming towards me, I tell, keep telling him to get on the ground, he doesn’t. I shoot a series of shots. I don’t know how many I shot, I just know I shot it.”

(Ed. note, he fired twelve shots total at Mr. Brown over the course of the incident.)

“I know I missed a couple, I don’t know how many, but I know I hit him at least once because I saw his body kind of jerk.”

He continued: “At this point I start backpedaling and again, I tell him get on the ground, get on the ground, he doesn’t. I shoot another round of shots. Again, I don’t recall how many [hit] him every time. I know at least once because he flinched again. At this point it looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him. And the face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn’t even there, I wasn’t even anything in his way.” (Emphasis mine.)

This description sounds like it was lifted from a comic book. Mr. Brown “looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots”?  That’s what happens when The Hulk faces a spray of bullets; not what happens when a human does. (On the other hand, it’s totally believable that Mr. Brown was “mad” at Mr. Wilson for shooting at him.)

Much has been made of the fact that Mr. Brown was 6-foot-4 and weighed roughly 290 pounds. Mr. Wilson, though, is not a small guy: He’s also 6-foot-4, and about 210 pounds.

But let’s give the officer the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say he was so genuinely scared that his fear distorted what was happening. Whether or not he committed a crime, as defined by a criminal justice system that tends to let cops off the hook, he shouldn’t be carrying a gun. Someone who can let fear get the better of him—who sees a teenager like a super-villain—shouldn’t have easy access to deadly force.

 

By: Juliet Lapidos, The Editorial Page Editors Blog, The New York Times, November 25, 2014

November 27, 2014 Posted by | Darren Wilson, Ferguson Missouri, Michael Brown | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Darren Wilson Saw ‘A Demon.’ What Do You See?”: Michael Brown Was A Very Human Being

“He looked up at me and had the most intense aggressive face.” That’s how police officer Darren Wilson described unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown. “The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon.”

Wilson’s testimony convinced the grand jurors and others that the officer was justified in shooting and killing Brown last summer in Ferguson, Mo. Yes, the citizens did a tough job admirably when confronted with mountains of material. But could they also have been affected by research that says black boys as young as 10 are seen as older and guiltier than their white peers?

In an August column “So, black teens who aren’t angels deserve whatever they get?” I wrote, “The shelf life for innocence is short when you are a black male — and there is no room for error.” You don’t get the second chance others might have after an incident of teenage rebellion, such as mouthing off to an authority figure or a more serious scrape. See any number of car-overturning, fire-burning melees after a big sports victory or loss for proof of a double standard.

The answer to the question I posed then has consequences for all Americans because Ferguson, Mo., is about more than one shooting in one town in Middle America. Whatever anyone thinks of the grand jury’s findings, “it” was not a “demon.” Michael Brown was a very human being.

 

By: Mary C. Curtis, She The People, The Washington Post, November 25, 2014

November 26, 2014 Posted by | Darren Wilson, Ferguson Missouri, Michael Brown | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Re-Purposing The Grand Jury”: The St. Louis County Prosecutor Implicitly Conceded The Need For A Trial

Here is the irony of St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch’s announcement Monday night that a grand jury had declined to indict officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown: The entire presentation implicitly conceded the need for a trial.

McCulloch was at pains to persuade the public that the grand jury had extensively weighed all the available evidence, and that it pointed to the conclusion that Wilson had not committed a crime. He talked about witnesses who changed their stories once they were presented with knowable facts that contradicted their original claims. He discussed the forensic evidence suggesting that Wilson’s initial shots against Brown occurred during a struggle in or near Wilson’s police cruiser, and that Wilson only began firing again after Brown, who’d initially fled, began moving toward him again. He talked about the lack of agreement over the position of Brown’s hands when Wilson fired the second, fatal barrage of shots.

So far as I know, McCulloch was under no obligation to discuss this evidence publicly. Nor was he under any obligation to release the evidence into the public domain following his remarks, as he repeatedly pledged to do. He presumably did these things to assure us that the decision not to prosecute Wilson was arrived at fairly and justly.

The problem with this is that we already have a forum for establishing the underlying facts of a caseand, no less important, for convincing the public that justice is being served in a particular case. It’s called a trial. It, rather than the post-grand jury press conference, is where lawyers typically introduce mounds of evidence to the public, litigate arguments extensively, and generally establish whether or not someone is guilty of a crime. By contrast, as others have pointed out, the point of a grand jury isn’t to determine beyond a shadow of a doubt what actually happened. It’s to determine whether there’s probable cause for an indictment, which requires a significantly lower standard of proof. That McCulloch appeared to turn the grand jury into an exercise in sorting out the former rather than the latter suggested he wanted no part of a trial.*

And, in fairness, it would have been extremely difficult to convict Wilson in a trial. But that’s a separate question from whether or not the verdict would be seen as legitimate after the fact. If McCullough was truly as concerned as he suggested tonight that the public accept the process that’s allowed Darren Wilson to walk away a free man, he had an obvious way to help ensure that this would happen. That he chose to avoid it demonstrates a rather appalling level of cynicism.

UPDATE: Some readers have argued that it would have been unethical for McCulloch to go to trial with a case he didn’t believe in. Two points in response: 1. Well, he went to the grand jury with a case he didn’t believe in, and it’s pretty unusual for that to happen, too. Clearly, the reason he did that was to make the process of letting Wilson off the hook look fair–again, not the typical purpose of grand juries, which are about establishing probable cause for an indictment. My point is that there’s a much better venue for establishing the fairness of the process (and for nailing down what actually happened)–a trial. Conversely, if this were simply about assessing probable cause, then the platonically correct move would have been to avoid a grand jury altogether, since McCulloch clearly didn’t think it exists. 2. Yes, it would have been hard to convict Wilson. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a case to be built. That McCulloch didn’t believe in the case says as much about him and his biases as it does the underlying facts. A different prosecutor could have easily come down differently.

 

By: Norm Scheiber, The New Republic, November 25, 2014

November 26, 2014 Posted by | Darren Wilson, Ferguson Missouri, Robert McCulloch | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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