Ferguson Grand Jury Verdict and Protests

Ferguson Protests 112414

The transcript of Officer Darren Wilson’s testimony before the Grand Jury revealed much that seems to have gone under the radar of those that blame Blacks for protesting another unarmed youth killed by a police officer. Robert Reich’s comment strikes at the process by which Wilson was exonerated:(1) When there’s conflicting evidence about whether an unarmed person has been murdered by a police officer, a public jury trial is the appropriate process for determining guilt or innocence, not a grand jury in which there’s no opportunity to cross examine the accused.


(2) The role of the media isn’t to guess whether someone is guilty or innocent, or to give the accused free airtime to explain his side of the story (as did ABC this morning). It is to report the news.


(3) Poor, minority communities deserve community policing that builds trust, including minority police officers, rather than law enforcement that’s viewed by a community as repressive.


(4) Armed law enforcement personnel should be equipped with body cameras of the sort now used in many communities to assure responsible behavior.

(5) There is no excuse for looting, burning, or other forms of violence. Innocent people are harmed or killed. Communities may not recover for years. Trust is further destroyed.

The transcript of officer Wilson’s Grand Jury testimony struck me as a lawyer prepared defense that gave the jury little opportunity to do other than exonerate Wilson. Telling was the admission by Wilson that he did not write up an incident report as required by virtually all police departments when a fatality arises from a police confrontation with a member of the public. Instead Wilson called his lawyer fifteen minutes after the killing as Brown bled to death in the street where he lay for over four hours on his face. Never did an incident report ever surface in the grand jury proceeding and it appears from the news reports afterwards, against procedure, no incident report survived the incident even if he did write one.

After seeing his lawyer, and the three months before the grand jury heard the case presented by a long time advocate for the police, we hear Wilson say he was attacked by Brown with two punches to the face, and that Brown appeared to be a demon who was much bigger (both were 6' 4" but Brown was 60 pounds heavier) and stronger than Wilson who claims he feared another blow from this monster would kill him, so he shot him after the tussle. He even claimed Brown reached into the window of his police car and tried to grab his pistol. He said Brown had it pressing against his leg but miraculously was able to free it and tried to shoot Brown but the gun only clicked with no bullets fired until he tried again and shot Brown twice in the arm. That caused Brown to withdraw and move away. So Wilson followed and unloaded his gun on him as Brown supposedly turned on him again, charging with a demonic face. Not a part of the testimony but from a recording of the shooting it was clear that Wilson unloaded his pistol in a rapid machine gun like fashion. Other eye witnesses not called before the grand jury said Brown raised his hands before the volley and the final shot killed Brown to his head while he was on the ground.

Since there was no opportunity to cross examine the officer, the grand jury was presented with an officer armed with mace, who decided not to carry a taser gun because he didn’t want to. Both those alternatives would have prevented a killing. Of course after a few bullets hit Brown had Wilson stopped the rapid volley there was a good chance Brown would have survived. But this jury had no opportunity to hear Brown’s version because he was dead. His friend, an eye witness, had already made conflicting statements to the police and most likely would not have been believed.

Nevertheless, Eric Holder began a federal investigation of the police department at Ferguson and the Brown incident that could be the basis of a federal indictment where a jury would be impaneled and the witnesses subjected to cross examination to determine whether the Ferguson police department discriminately applied the law against Blacks and Wilson violated Brown’s constitutional rights.

 Daniel C. Lavery

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