Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Demanding Justice for Michael Brown

By Reginald Johnson

   Around the country, people are demanding justice in the Michael Brown case.

  Demonstrations have swept major cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago as well as dozens of smaller cities, with thousands expressing anger that a grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting Brown, an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri last August.

  Hundreds of people are now marching to the Missouri State Capital of Jefferson City to show their concern for what happened to Brown, who was 18 at the time of the shooting.

  Last weekend about 100 people protested in Bridgeport, a city of about 150,000 in Connecticut.

 “Bridgeport could be the next Ferguson,” Rev. Mary McBride Lee told the crowd gathered outside the City Hall Annex, according to the Connecticut Post. “We have to stick together and stand up for what’s right.”

  It’s a good thing that so many people are criticizing the grand jury result in the Michael Brown case, because there’s a lot to be upset about.  The more you look at the facts of the case, it’s hard to understand how the grand jury came to the conclusion that there was no probable cause to indict Wilson.

  There are inconsistencies in the account Wilson gave to the grand jury and some legal experts, including a noted forensic pathologist, say Wilson’s version of how the fatal shooting took place, doesn’t conform with the physical evidence.

  Questions have also been raised about the quality of the local investigation of the Brown shooting and the way St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch handled the grand jury.

  A recent piece in Mother Jones magazine analyzed the testimony given by dozens of witnesses to the shooting, and compared that with Wilson’s testimony, and the statement by McCulloch announcing there was no basis for an indictment.  The article identified a number of discrepancies, relating to different accounts about an initial confrontation between Wilson and Brown, how it escalated into a fight, whether Wilson shot at Brown when he and his friend Dorian Johnson ran away, and whether Brown had his hands up when Wilson shot at him, after Brown had stopped running and turned around.

   Two findings are particularly noteworthy from the article, which drew in part from an analysis by PBS News Hour of 500 pages of witness testimony and Wilson’s statements:

·        While Wilson testified he did not shoot at Brown after he fled, a full 16 witnesses said he did. Only four witnesses supported Wilson on this point;

·        Though Wilson told the grand jury he shot Brown only after the teenager turned around with his hands down and began advancing towards the officer, 16 witnesses said Brown had his hands raised after he turned around. Only two witnesses said Brown did not have his hands up.

  In a recent interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett, well-known forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht said Wilson’s testimony that Brown had his hands down and was reaching into his waistband, does not comport with the physical evidence. Wecht, the one-time president of the American Academy of Forensic Science, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a past consultant on many high profile crime cases, said the location and shape of the wounds sustained by Brown indicate that he could not have had his hands down at the time of the shooting. His hands had to have been raised, Wecht said.

  Wecht also expressed astonishment that a county medical examiner who came to review the Brown shooting scene on the day of the incident failed to take photographs, as required. The official said he couldn’t do so, since his camera was “out of batteries.” The medical examiner also failed to take measurements, another standard step.

   “This is absolutely unacceptable,” said Wecht.

 While no criminal charges will be forthcoming from the local grand jury, there is still the possibility that the federal government could file criminal charges against Officer Wilson. Officials from the Justice Department are conducting a separate investigation of the case.