Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Travesty in Michael Brown Case


By Reginald Johnson  


   There’s no question in my mind that a St. Louis County grand jury had enough information to indict Officer Darren Wilson on charges of murder or manslaughter in the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

  The fact that they didn’t is a travesty.

  The grand jury, overseen by Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, met for weeks to review the case of Wilson, who shot the 18-year-old Brown, who was black, in Ferguson last August.

  The case has been fraught with racial overtones, since Wilson is white and Brown was unarmed at the time of the shooting.

  Many African-Americans maintain that the shooting is one more example of a pattern of unjustified killings of young black men by white police officers.

  In the incident, Brown and a friend were walking down the street in Ferguson, when Wilson pulled up in a squad car and asked the two to walk on the sidewalk. According to Wilson, the two refused, and words were exchanged. When Wilson pulled his car ahead and tried to get of his car, he said Brown slammed the door on him, and a tussle occurred. Wilson maintained that Brown reached for Wilson’s gun. In the struggle, Wilson got control of the gun and fired two shots, with one grazing Brown.

   Brown then ran, and Wilson got out of the car and pursued him, apparently with gun in hand. He told the grand jury he shouted to Brown to ‘get down the ground’ but Brown refused. Then, the officer claimed, Brown turned around and began running at him. This claim, however, is disputed by eyewitnesses who said Brown stopped and put his hands up.

  Wilson said he fired several shots, with one striking Brown’s forehead, killing him.

  Though Wilson never testified that he “feared for his life” before shooting Brown, he said in his testimony that he was frightened by Brown who was bigger and who he said had a “crazed” look on his face and looked like a “demon.”

  Frightened or not, Wilson had an obligation as a trained police officer to use all methods or means at his disposal short of using deadly force to deal with Brown. By his own testimony, he had Mace in his car. Why didn’t he attempt to use it? He also had an asp (like a blackjack) in his car. Using a blackjack is not very nice, but it’s generally not going to create fatal injuries. Why didn’t he prepare to use that? Finally, all officers are trained in self-defense without a weapon. Why didn’t he plan to deal with Brown using those fighting techniques if need be, until backup help arrived?

  Why was there such a ready willingness to use deadly force?

 Contrary to the blather I’ve heard on FOX news, that the officer was “presumed innocent” from the get-go in this case, I think there was a heavy burden on Wilson and the Ferguson Police Department to show that Wilson absolutely had no alternative but to use deadly force on Brown, who did not have a weapon  The burden was clearly on the police to prove Wilson’s actions were appropriate.

  When you consider that Wilson had other non-lethal means of dealing with Brown, and that some witnesses even contradicted Wilson in his claim that he was being threatened,  I don’t think this burden of proof was met.

  Certainly, District Attorney McCulloch had enough probable cause to bring an indictment.

   It is troubling that apparently McCulloch did not try to direct this grand jury, as prosecutors usually do. Instead he just threw a lot of information to the grand jurors, who are ordinary citizens, and said in effect, ‘you decide.’

  It’s pretty clear McCulloch didn’t want to bring charges against Officer Wilson.

  What a disgrace. Hopefully, federal prosecutors will step in and do justice in this case.