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Part Two Of Ferguson Grand Jury: Prosecutor Tricks Of The Trade

By now, if you’re not Ferguson’d out, you probably have read part one of my series on the Ferguson, Missouri Grand Jury transcript, tracking the path of the 12 jurors who refused to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

In part one, I pretty much covered Wilson’s side of the story; If you missed it, he said he stopped two black kids (Brown and pal, 22-year-old Dorian Johnson) walking in the middle of a street and told them to get on the sidewalk. Johnson says they’re almost at their destination; Brown responds with “The ‘ef’ with what you say.” Brown and Johnson keep walking past the SUV. Wilson (after calling for backup) backs up, again telling them to move. Then all hell breaks loose. “Big Mike” (as per a forearm tattoo) leans in the open window of the police SUV and starts pummeling away, two shots are fired, tattooed pummeler runs, cop runs after him, big guy turns, “charging” towards officer with an intense expression on his face and after a couple of pauses and trigger pulls involving 10 shots, Brown falls dead.

That’s the Wilson story and he’s sticking to it. Let’s look deeper into the social abyss of a white cop killing a black teen. The nightmare started when Brown and Johnson went into Ferguson Market and Liquor where Brown pilfered a quantity of cigarillos for a later weed-smoking session. After a minor confrontation with the store-owner by Brown, the pair walked out. Nobody disputes a theft was committed. A slight shove of the store-owner on exiting could also bring a charge. Walking in the middle of the street, also not in dispute, is a minor misdemeanor at best.

Attacking a police officer is serious business. Prison time is a distinct possibility. Fleeing is a no no. So, yeah, attempting to arrest Brown was certainly well within societal and legal norms. That’s where the easy part stops. Now, it gets complicated. White cop; black suspect. There were lesser options than deadly force that the officer chose not to exercise in a two-thirds African-American community with a decided distaste for a predominantly white “occupying” army of law enforcement. Then there was the final questionable decision not to indict from a Grand Jury (three blacks) that didn’t remotely reflect the racial makeup of Ferguson. This was followed by a senseless path of looting and/or fiery destruction of the property of innocents, including Ferguson Market.

Let’s track this thing starting with the injuries to Officer Wilson. Here they are and you can follow along with another visit to the photos on the New York Times site (scroll down). Wilson spent a little over an hour in the trauma section of Northwest Healthcare in neighboring Florissant, Missouri, being checked out by a Registered nurse and a Physician’s Assistant. A doctor had to sign off on their assessments. Wilson was given a pain pill on arrival and an additional prescription for 20 pills, as needed, on dismissal.

His official record included X-rays that yielded no fracture or anything of consequence to the jaw that had been struck, though there was some bruising. Emergency personnel wrote of minimal redness and minor swelling on the right side his face (see pics) and what was described as a “few faint superficial abrasion(s) at “posterior neck at hairline.” His TPR’s were temp, 97.9, pulse, 71 and BP, 152/88, the latter, slightly high. He was characterized as being in “no distress.”

There was nothing else other than mild ecchymosis, a form of a bruise. A doc signed off on the report and Wilson headed home, having completed his exam and interview with the detective.

Eleven days later marked the beginning of the Grand Jury. Witnesses, experts and evidence would supposedly direct the jurors to a final decision; either the return of a True Bill indictment, followed by a trial, or no charge at all.

Veteran St. Louis County prosecutors, Kathi Alizadeh (white) and Sheila Whirley (black) were in charge of the whole Grand Jury shebang. Most of the time they resembled cross-examining defense attorneys, pressuring their own so-called “witnesses” to the max. They utilized the oldest “get the guy off” trick in the books, using the witness’s own words against him or her. That’s done by comparing the recorded contents of several interviews, and attacking the witness when the responses to questions aren’t the same words as in the recording: “Why, in that interview a month ago, you said it was 25 feet, now you’re saying 20 feet!” The federal participants from the U.S. Attorney’s office, the FBI and a trial attorney from the Department of Justice utilized the same strategy. They also always emphasized that not telling the truth to a federal officer was a crime. So, before answering the first question, witnesses feared that unintentionally inaccurate answers could land them in Leavenworth.

About half the witnesses didn’t belong in front of that Grand Jury. They were clearly either hopelessly biased, confused or forgive me, not bright enough to avoid destruction of their credibility by one of the prosecutors.

A succession of testimonies began with perfectly reasonable accounts of the event as it was unfolding, only to collapse under the weight of prosecutor attacks on the witnesses. It was truly bizarre.

Most of the witnesses lived in the Canfield Green Apartment Complex. Most were black and found as a result of extensive canvassing of the immediate neighborhood. Some came forward on their own to offer their testimony. Brown fell dead in the street in front of 2943 Canfield Drive. Distances were critical and nobody seemed to be able to nail them down from the witness stand. The problem is that Brown was supposedly running, walking or staggering back toward Wilson after initially running away from him. Some witnesses had Wilson walking, others described backward steps, still others said he was standing still. Nobody disputes that Brown was indeed facing the officer when shot to death. One of the major questions is why did he turn around when being chased by an officer who purportedly fired no shots while Brown was running away.

Two autopsies and the majority of witnesses would seem to support that premise of officer restraint. One autopsy begs to differ, as do a meaningful number of witnesses. As do I! I believe an officer’s bullet hit the back of Brown’s forearm while he was still running away. That’s why he turned.

But, back to the witnesses. The logistics worked this way. Virtually all eyewitnesses were questioned at least two times prior to testifying. A few by Ferguson Police, most by Detectives from the St. Louis County Police Department who immediately took over the case. The others faced the feds once or twice as well. All interviews were recorded. With the backdrop of being able to discredit the tiniest flaw, witnesses were called before the Grand Jury. If you supported Officer Wilson’s account, you were mostly given a free pass with few challenges. If you didn’t, look out. .

In Part 3, we’ll join the witnesses in the grand jury room. .

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