The Ferguson Grand Jury Decision — A Social Pearl Harbor

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December 7, 1941, the date of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is not the only ” horrific event that can be characterized, as it was at the time by President Roosevelt, as “A date which will live in infamy.”

Add Monday, November 24th, to that infamous roster. That’s the date of America’s own social Pearl Harbor. A day that gave permission for a law enforcement officer to empty his gun into the body of a “scary” black kid, Michael Brown, who allegedly wouldn’t stop walking down the street toward Darren Wilson.

An August 9th store video of an initial criminal act by Brown shows him entering a convenience store, reaching into a bin of small packaged cigars or cigarillos and grabbing about $50 worth, handing some of the loot off to an accomplice. The pair then proceeds to walk directly to the door without paying. The owner of the store (or clerk; it’s not clear), a man of slight build, attempts to hold the door shut and is easily pushed aside by Brown, who then takes a couple of menacing steps towards the man before casually exiting. I saw the entire episode on video, as can you here. Brown did not brandish a weapon because he had no weapon to brandish.

Even progressives like me must concede that this was a menacing confrontation for the convenience store clerk or proprietor. Brown was a 280 pound 18-year-old who appeared to outweigh this fellow by a good 150 pounds. He also had a partner with him. It was, in all honesty, a frightening episode for the victim. No question Brown deserved to be arrested. Any objective observer will attest to that. There is also no question that Brown did not deserve the deadly and totally unnecessary response that followed.

Wearing a readily identifiable red cap and white tee, Brown was an easy guy to spot. He and his partner, 22-year-old Dorian Johnson, were subsequently spotted walking in the middle of a street about ten minutes after the fact of the store theft. Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white police officer, drove up and told them to get on the sidewalk. Wilson was following up on the convenience store incident. According to Johnson, in an interview with MSNBC, they complied. Wilson started to drive away but (maybe realizing Brown was his suspect),suddenly threw his car in reverse and, again, according to Johnson, had some sort of verbal beef with Brown that turned physical. They apparently scuffled after Johnson claimed the officer grabbed Brown by the neck. At this point, Brown was shot, but not seriously wounded.

Both men started to run and Brown was shot a second time. He then turned around, hands in the air and said “I don’t have a gun. Stop shooting.” At this point Wilson approached Brown and fired more shots, killing him. That’s Johnson’s story. The official version varies considerably, not only from the partner’s version, but from most eyewitness accounts.

It took hours from the release of the grand jury decision to the final public revelation of what that decision determined. There were five options; first or second-degree murder, voluntary or involuntary manslaughter or a return of no indictment, No True Bill in legalese. The latter prevailed.

When the St. Louis County Prosecutor, Democrat Robert McCulloch, finally faced the media, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. CNN reported that had an indictment been handed down, Wilson would have immediately been told to surrender to authorities. His people told a CNN reporter that he hadn’t been asked to surrender, so the reporter surmised correctly that Wilson would face no charges. Good reporting.

Prosecutor McCulloch is a familiar face in St. Louis County circles. He’s in his 7th term, having been initially elected in 1991. There’s really only one thing you need know about Robert McCulloch. He’ll lie…like a dog. In 2000, two unarmed black men were shot to death by two undercover police officers in a fast-food parking lot in Berkeley, Missouri.

The officers told a McCulloch grand jury at the time that the victims drove their car at them. McCulloch repeated the line to the media. They escaped indictment. A St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter, in examining grand jury tapes that McCulloch had provided revealed that only 3 of 13 officers testified that the car was moving at all. These men were killed in cold blood after being shot at 21 times. A federal investigation verified the true story, but nonetheless also declined to press charges as the armed undercovers convinced the feds they “feared for their safety.”

The press conference was a farce. McCulloch spent the lion’s share of his time calling virtually every witness a liar. He kept saying the physical evidence refuted the witnesses. He didn’t give a clue as to what the “physical evidence” was. He said some witnesses said Brown was shot in the back, when three separate autopsies clearly showed he was shot in the front only. And he’s right. A private autopsy by the Brown family also found all bullet wounds in the front. So??? He was clearly shot. Two bullets found his head, a couple of others pierced his chest, plus a couple of graze wounds. An estimated 12 rounds were fired.

Here’s some questions reasonable people would ask. Let’s assume Brown is, indeed, somewhat of a desperado. Twelve rounds? Wouldn’t officer Wilson be carrying defensive weaponry beyond a gun (and by the way, for most officers, a knife)? What else was he packing? A Taser is designed to disable the bad guy at a distance; a stun gun up close and personal. There’s also pepper spray, and various batons. Surely Wilson had one or more of these alternatives.

If you’ve ever watched the TV show “Cops,” you’re aware that the typical ‘cop’ runs into similar situations every shift or two, especially with drunks. One too many and even your most meek accountant is swinging on the guy with the badge. Domestic violence calls are every bit as iffy and dangerous. And doesn’t Wilson have the first minute of self-defense training?

There was absolutely no reason to kill Michael Brown. As a media person, I took many a ‘cop ride’ and watched numerous incidents the equal to or worse than Michael Brown. Once, a stolen car was reported and the one-officer car I was in gave chase after it zipped around us at about the same time we heard the report on the police radio. We cornered it on a side street and the young, buff driver (car thief) fled. The cop, not as young or buff, gave chase. I didn’t know whether I would add to liability concerns or not, but thought “what the hell.” As I approached, the suspect was already cuffed and subdued.

Another time, I was downing a few when the village bully and idiot drunkenly started knocking people off their bar stools. As I headed for Duane (you know who you are), a smallish cop ran by me and got knocked down for his trouble as well. He got up and wrestled this goofball to the floor and cuffed him.

I’ve just begun the process of reading the grand jury testimony and evidence and will have another contribution soon. I’m also hitting Twitter again.

24 Replies to “The Ferguson Grand Jury Decision — A Social Pearl Harbor”

  1. I really was unsure about the facts of this case. BUT now, after reading this officer Wilson’s testimony, I am stunned and shocked that this officer was let go scott free. this officer’s testimony is the biggest pile of horseshit I have ever read in my life. everyone should read what this arrogant, pompous officer said in his statement. it blows my mind just how obvious his lies are. then I see the photos of officer Wilson without a single scratch, mark, or bruise anywhere on his lying face. im not agreeing with the ferguson reaction but this black kid was murdered outright by this officer. testimony proves it. eyewitnesses prove it. evidence proves it. however justice did not prevail. than after all this, the murdering, POS police officer released a statement saying he would do the same thing over again. you would think if a situation led to you killing a person, you would do things differently to avoid that killing if given a 2nd chance? no regrets this cop said.

  2. To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.

    Fifty-three years ago, James Baldwin aptly observed that devastating truth. Fifty-three years later, the sustained rage restarts every 28 hours, because every 28 hours an African American is killed by law enforcement, or a security guard, or a “vigilante” claiming self-defence – or all three at once.
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  3. Is it true that this policeman is 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 210 pounds, how can he say he was like a 5 year old beside
    Michael Brown?

    According to the UK Mail white supremacists
    were involved in the burning, they burned down the Brown family’s church.

  4. In his interview with ABC News, Wilson said that he was responding to a report on the cigar theft. When the Ferguson police chief released the controversial store video, he said Wilson was responding to the call, but within a day or two said Wilson wasn’t aware of the theft. I think Wilson’s story was carefully crafted and rehearsed. I think the prosecutor had a battery of legal experts working on the performance that would allow Wilson to go scot free.

  5. You wait til your friends collect the evidence, you and your lawyer examine your options, and THEN you issue your statements. Reminds me of the line that I loved in Breakin Bad when they were introducing Saul Goodman to the show:
    Breaking Bad : “Criminal Lawyer”
    H/T Balloon Juice

  6. The New York Times article, “Amid Conflicting Accounts, Trusting Darren Wilson” explains why the Grand Jury reached the decision it did.

    Obama’s speech, which acknowledged a long history of unjust laws aimed at minorities, blames the American people.

    These laws go back to the 1937 Stamp Act on marijuana. It was further exacerbated with the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1972. Both these laws targeted minorities. Neither Congress nor Obama will do anything about them.

    Why doesn’t Obama introduce legislation to remove THC from the CSA?

    Too, the DEA and CIA have been involved in facilitating the importation of drugs into the US and their distribution in American cities targeting minorities.

    Guns for drugs are one of the products of government involvement in the drug trade. The result has been a disproportionately higher arrest, conviction and sentencing of minorities than of whites. The consequence of these past practices is the Michael …

  7. I’m slowly sifting my way through the transcripts, but here’s what has always bothered me about the preposterous idea that Michael was “charging” Wilson before the final, fatal shots:

    Not one person or news organization has considered the physical reactions he was feeling throughout his body at the time.

    Mike had already been shot numerous times. He would have been feeling a rush of adrenaline, sure, which is the body’s reaction to trauma, but also a general weakening and shock. He would have been struggling to breathe while his mind was trying to process the horror that was happening to him. He would not have been walking normally. He would have been stumbling, his body propelled forward.

    Why has this never been considered?

  8. How come when Mike Brown drew his last breath 140 ft away from the executioner vehicle was never considered? Things that make you go Hmmmmm

  9. There’s that as well.
    Also, I’ve yet to read any testimony from the store owner/clerk about the alleged theft. Mike was painted as a “thug” from the start in a concerted effort to justify his murder.
    As I said, I’m slowly sifting through all the dreck. I’m not seeing anything to support it so far.

  10. It is my understanding that the store owner is not the one that called in the “theft”, it was some woman that misinterpreted the actions between Brown and the owner. If I remember right, the owner of the store never did accused Brown nor did he ever file any charges. IMO if the store owner never made the complaint and never accused Brown, there was no theft, merely the word of a white busybody who had a big mouth, whom the police granted more standing than the store owner.

  11. Patricia, it doesn’t matter who called it in. The store owner/clerk should have been called in to testify. That’s only common sense.

  12. Robyn – I remember seeing video footage that showed Michael Brown going up to the counter and, I presume, paying for the cigarillos.

    You folks need to get rid of Grand Juries. We did it in Canada several years ago. The Crown Prosecutor (like your District Attorney) can either press charges or else go to a Preliminary Hearing in front of a judge, who then decides if there is enough evidence to go to trial. A grand jury full of people who either are biased by what they’ve read/heard in the media or else basically ignorant (or stupid) of any understanding of the law, and who only hear what the prosecutor WANTS them to hear, means that justice won’t be done. In fact, it often means that “innocent until proven guilty” is meaningless. In this case, I’m wondering just how it happened that of the 12 GJ members, 9 were white, while 3 were black, especially since it only required 9 to come up with a “No Bill”.

  13. This case is a good illustration of why the grand jury is needed despite its shortcomings. It stands between an overzealous prosecutor–perhaps with a political agenda–and the individual accused.

    As Officer Wilson was not indicted, the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” is affirmed, right? Further, an accused may elect to testify before the grand jury in his own defense if he, and his lawyer, believe this will show he has committed no indictable crime. Few want to do so as they would then be subject to the People’s cross-examination.

  14. I know you slept in a holiday inn and think you are Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes but there was no trial to determine innocent or guilt. Please do let me mock you for your idiocy

  15. Jojo, your comments are right on target. Wilson used every semantic dog whistle imaginable to push all the fear buttons of the overwhelmingly white grand jury, portraying Brown as the Magical Negro with superhuman physical abilities and demonic possession. While standing the exact same height as Brown, Wilson begged the sympathies of jurors by saying he felt like a 5 year old taking on Hulk Hogan. Tell why it is that female police officers are able to do their jobs on the street, confronting a majority of suspects larger than them without pumping them full of lead every time they go on shift. Wilson’s framing of Brown as belligerent from word one is so fantastical it should be an anime movie. There isn’t a black male in America who behaves that way. They don’t have that luxury.

  16. Nungman — You would be wrong on a couple of counts (and perhaps more). First of all, there was no formally “accused” in this case. Second, a grand jury made up of lay people is hardly in any position to “cross-examine” the supposed accused, with any sense of fairness or non-bias. Only someone trained in the law should be in any position to do that.

    This Grand Jury hearing was a travesty.

  17. If you see an “over-zealous prosecutor” in this case, you must be on some serious drugs, my friend.

  18. When you say “That’s the date of America’s own social Pearl Harbor”; you seem to state it like this is the first time something like this happened. But as I’m certain you’ll remember, something very similar happened before in 1992, when a trial jury acquitted 4 LAPD officers and sparked the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

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