At 2016 CST on November 24, 2014, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough announced the verdict in the shooting of Mike Brown. No bill on all five counts presented to the jury. He began with a general time frame of events, and throughout his prepared statement, confirmed many previous bits of speculation and leaked information. He also added facts not previously known. He noted that the evidence seen and considered by the grand jury of nine white and three black members would be immediately released to the public.
McCullough confirmed that the involved federal agencies worked closely with local and state agencies and that the flow of information went both ways: anything the feds learned was immediately provided to the state and local agencies and vice versa. The federal agencies involved have every bit of information seen by the grand jury. This is important, and I’ll address it later.
The Grand Jury met from August 20 through November 24. They met a total of 25 days, for a total of 70 hours, and heard from 60 witnesses. It was obviously an impressive and thorough process.
McCullough was careful to explain the importance of comparing eyewitness testimony to scientific and physical evidence. Interestingly, he revealed that during the shooting, a person nearby was on a two way video computer call, and the shots Officer Darren Wilson fired at Mike Brown outside his police vehicle, their timing and sequence, were recorded on the audio portion of that call, which allowed many witness statements to be compared with reality. Most of those statements did not hold up well at all.
Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. Five people witnessing exactly the same event routinely come up with wildly differing accounts, accounts so different it’s difficult to believe they were in the same state at the same time. In the Erik Scott case, for example one witness was absolutely certain the Scott was waving a silver gun around inside the Costco store, and threatening clerks with it. He was positive that when Scott ran out of the store waving that silver gun, the police shot him. No other witness said anything remotely like that, and Scott’s handgun was all black. In addition, known time frames made his statement impossible. Neither he nor Scott could have been in the necessary places at the right times for him to have seen what he claimed to have seen, and he was a minister, presumably an honest, believable man.
McCullough explained that many witnesses were interviewed prior to the three autopsies done in the case, and when the autopsy results–which he said were consistent in all important, relevant details– absolutely contradicted their initial statements, many admitted they hadn’t actually seen what they claimed to have seen at all. Others said they saw only part of the events; some admitted they were just making it up, and others admitted they had listened to rumors and added in parts of those rumors and also made up what they thought should have happened. As more scientific and physical evidence became available, witnesses were again interviewed whenever their previous statements conflicted, or whenever anything they said conflicted with the incontrovertible evidence.
McCullough explained that some people claimed that Wilson actually stood over Brown as he lay on the ground and fired multiple rounds into his back. The evidence plainly made those claims impossible. He said one witness claimed that Brown’s arms were never inside Wilson’s police car, and Wilson fired shots at Brown through the open window. Physical evidence also put the lie to that statement, as did credible witness statements that described a fight or “tussle” inside the car, with Brown leaning and reaching in through the driver’s door window.
Experienced investigators deal with this every day. Some people are actually lying, but most succumb to human nature. They want something to be true, so they see what they believe happened, not what did happen. They’re influenced by the expectations of their racial peers, or by what they think the community wants, or by what they believe might reflect best upon them. Some, learning of the contradictory testimony of others, adjust their testimony to go along. Others convince themselves they saw things they really didn’t see.
McCullough made plain that some stuck by lies, even when confronted with incontrovertible evidence of their lies. Some claimed that Brown was repeatedly shot in the back. The autopsies made it plain this was impossible.
McCullough explained that from the beginning, because of the public interest in this case, he was determined that the grand jury hear every bit of evidence. The case was actually presented by his two assistant prosecutors.
McCullough explained that the law allows police officers, under some circumstances, to use deadly force, just as I explained in Update 4 of this series. He also explained that any citizen–including Wilson–may also engage in self-defense under the law. Then he mentioned two important concepts: the grand jury determined if Wilson was the initial aggressor, and whether he acted in self-defense, just as must have been the case if McCullough’s assistants were following the law. Clearly Wilson was not the initial aggressor, and he was acting not only in lawful self-defense, but was acting within Missouri law in his capacity as a police officer.
McCullough noted that after having the opportunity to view all evidence, and to interview every witness as many times as necessary to completely vet and clarify their statements–many of which changed several times–the jury deliberated two days, having been given five potential counts they could have applied to the case.
McCullough used another important term in announcing the jury’s decision in a calm, unemotional voice: no probable cause exists for any of the five charges, therefore the jury rendered no true bill on all five charges.
Probable cause is facts and evidence that, in this situation, would convince a reasonable juror that a crime had been committed and a particular person committed it. This is the standard applied by police officers in making arrests, and it is a much lower standard than the proof beyond a reasonable doubt standard required for conviction at trial.
A police officer sees a man standing outside a bar smack another in the mouth. He has probable cause to believe that the man committed a crime–assault–and he knows the particular man that did it. He has probable cause for an arrest, but in order to be convicted, the state still must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In the case of the grand jury, their duty was to consider all of the evidence presented and apply it to the elements of the specific crimes under consideration. In order to violate those laws, the conduct of the accused must fulfill each of the elements of the crime. It’s not a majority rules situation. And in cases where self-defense is involved, if the accused was lawfully employing self-defense, that is commonly an absolute bar to prosecution for assault, even murder. That’s why determining whether Wilson was the initial aggressor was so important. Normally, one who initiates an attack on another can’t claim self-defense.
Take the Missouri second degree robbery statute:
569.030. 1. A person commits the crime of robbery in the second degree when he forcibly steals property.
The crime has two elements: one must steal property, and must do so by force. In this case, the jury was presented with the video of Mike Brown robbing the store and roughing up and menacing the clerk. Combine that video with the statements of the clerk, other witnesses to the crime, the fact that Brown was carrying the stolen cigars when he attacked Wilson, and the admission of Dorian Johnson’s attorney that Brown robbed the store, and there is surely probable cause to believe that Mike Brown should be charged with second degree robbery.
In the same kind of analysis, the grand jury found there was no probable cause to believe Wilson violated any of five separate statutes. There can be no more convincing evidence of his lack of criminal intent and culpability, even if we ignore the fact that he was acting as a police officer at the time of the shooting.
The Specific Synopsis:
McCullough then provided a more specific synopsis of the case, adding many facts not previously known or confirmed:
* Prior to meeting Brown and Johnson, Wilson was on a call in the area with a 2 month-old infant that was having trouble breathing.
* During that call, he heard the robbery broadcast, during which the fact that cigars were stolen, and a partial description, including a red hat worn by one of the suspects–Brown–was broadcast.
* After leaving that call, Wilson heard a second report on the robbery, giving a more specific description of the suspects. Seconds later, he encountered Brown and Wilson walking down the middle of the road.
* Wilson did no more than ask them to move to the sidewalk, words were exchanged, and Brown and Johnson arrogantly continued to walk down the middle of the road.
* Wilson noticed that Brown was carrying cigars and called out his location, the fact that he was stopping two people, and asked for backup. He stopped, turned, and tried to approach them, but was attacked inside his car. Brown and Johnson knew they were involved in a robbery, and so did Wilson.
* Medical reports revealed Wilson’s face was red and swollen from blows Brown gave him. This was all McCullough said on Wilson’s injuries. Whether he suffered more serious injuries remains unconfirmed.
* Brown struggled with Wilson, who was inside his car, and two shots were fired in the vehicle. One of those shots grazed Brown’s right thumb, leaving gunshot residue on his thumb and hand.
* Brown’s blood and DNA were found in multiple places throughout the interior and exterior of Wilson’s vehicle, and in multiple places on Wilson’s uniform. Obviously, the places that material was found confirmed Wilson’s testimony and destroyed the testimony of Johnson and some of the other eyewitnesses.
* One bullet was recovered from inside a car door; the other was not recovered.
* Brown and Johnson ran; Wilson pursued them.
* Brown stopped and charged at Wilson.
* Wilson fired a total of 12 shots: two in the car and ten outside the car.
*Less than 90 seconds elapsed between Wilson’s initial contact with Brown and Johnson and his final shot.
* A second police officer arrived within seconds of the final shot.
McCullough reiterated what must have appeared to the jury to be a virtual clown show of changing eyewitness statements. He explained that as the physical evidence became solidified, some changed their stories dramatically to try to fit the facts, but other stuck with blatant and obvious lies. He particularly mentioned a variety of wild and contradictory statements about Wilson’s shots. One witness swore that there were two police cars and four officers present, but only Wilson fired.
In my first police job, an eyewitness, claiming an overly aggressive police response, swore eight police cars came to his home to arrest him. He knew because he and his wife counted each and every one of them. My small agency owned only six cars at the time, and one was in the shop that night. Only two cars were actually present.
McCullough repeatedly mentioned a witness–he implied that he was black–testified that the 6’4,” 292-pound Brown ran at Wilson in a “full charge,” paused for a second, and again ran at Wilson in a full charge. It is interesting that the shots recorded quite accidently on the video call indicated Wilson firing a group of shots, pausing for a second, and firing the rest. Obviously, the time frame of those shots–when they occurred and their spacing on the audio–matched not only that eyewitness account, but Wilson’s account of his actions and the physical evidence.
McCullough noted that only the first and last shots could be determined. The first grazed Wilson’s thumb in the police vehicle and the last struck him in the top of the head. While McCullough did not specifically say it, it seems clear that at this point, Brown had already been struck several times, and was either beginning to fall forward, had his head down in his all-out charge at Wilson, or some combination of the two.
Questions and Idiocy:
McCullough took several questions, explaining that the law prevented the grand jurors from explaining their deliberations or how they voted, and prohibited him from doing the same. He did suggest that he had no plans to pursue perjury charges against any of the eyewitnesses, despite what he clearly represented as perjury. Considering the race-charged nature of this case and the probability that many of those witnesses were black, this is probably a wise idea. Best to put this to bed as quickly and quietly as possible.
A black reporter asked if, considering the law that allowed a no bill, was there something wrong with the law? McCullough was careful to sidestep that question, but the implication was clear: unless Wilson was charged, regardless of the evidence, the law must be faulty. That reporter is far from the only person thinking that way. During the Fox broadcast of McCullough’s press conference, a Fox host noted that the Congressional Black Caucus called the jury’s decision “a slap in the face to all Americans.”
Well, at least those that disdain the rule of law and exalt social justice and race instead.
President Obama also decided to address the nation. He invoked Mike Brown’s father in asking for calm and peaceful protest. Remember that he sent three White House officials to Brown’s funeral. In one of the most dramatic exhibitions of a lack of self-awareness and irony, in the history of lack of self-awareness and irony, Mr. Obama solemnly intoned: “we are a nation built on the rule of law.” Then again, he should know: he writes them.
He also reassured the nation that we are, once again, racists, still suffering the after effects of ancient discrimination and causing many problems. He swore to address our failings by having Eric Holder enforce, among other things, racial hiring quotas in police departments across the nation. He assured Americans that works. If one is determined to put unqualified and dangerous people in uniform, I’m sure it does.
Oddly, Mr. Obama said nothing at all about Darren Wilson. Apparently healing and unity, hope and change are not for him, or those like him.
A number of important issues remain unresolved. The Travon Martin Scheme Team, now representing Brown’s parents, will surely sue whichever deep pockets they can find, and will doubtless manage to scam some taxpayer money. George Zimmerman may find some of the burden removed from his long-suffering shoulders as Darren Wilson now becomes America’s poster boy for the undying hatred of race hustlers, thugs and Progressives.
McCullough did not so much as mention Dorian Johnson. It is entirely possible he is criminally culpable, and could even be charged with murder under the felony murder rule. It is equally possible he’ll skate on it all, merely for the sake of quickly and quietly putting out the racial fire. Pity. He seems deserving of a bit of the application of the rule of law. No justice, no peace?
It is entirely possible the Scheme Team will sue Wilson, which, if he is like virtually all police officers, lives from paycheck to paycheck and owns no assets worth mentioning. However, there is certainly substantial harassment value in such litigation, as well as the establishment or maintenance of much street cred.
Considering federal civil rights law, and the grand jury’s decision, there would seem to be no grounds whatever for federal charges. Unfortunately, we are dealing with a government that believes the law is whatever it says it is, and it is the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ, not experienced and professional criminal prosecutors, handling this case. That is not happenstance. The Civil Rights Division is populated almost entirely with racist true believers who actually interpret federal law to mean that it is impossible for white people to have their civil rights violated. They’ve actually said that and they act upon it. Like Mr. Obama, they’re arrogant too–an ugly combination.
They were involved in the entire investigation. They have every piece of evidence. There is no more to collect, no additional witnesses to interview. Every witness that would have supported a social justice narrative of events was obviously completely discredited. There is nothing further to investigate in this case, but that may not stop them.
According to Mr. Obama and AG Holder, the George Zimmerman investigation is still ongoing, despite the fact that he was not only found not guilty, his attorney proved him, with the bizarre assistance of the prosecution, absolutely innocent. Even the FBI’s investigation revealed him to be the very opposite of a racist. There is no additional evidence to be found, no additional witnesses to be interviewed, yet the DOJ tortures Zimmerman and Americans for the sake of racial politics.
Expect, at the very least, the DOJ to keep open an investigation into Darren Wilson for the remainder of Mr. Obama’s term in office. It will surely be politically useful for at least that long, and charging Wilson is by no means out of the question for people who believe in social justice rather than the rule of law.
Ultimately, the no bill was more important than many realize. Not only was the rule of law in jeopardy, so too was the level of trust police officers must have in the rule of law, in the fairness of the system and the rationality of their fellow citizens. Police officers fear that the public will judge them far more harshly then anyone else, even the worst criminals. They believe they will be held, not only to high standards–that’s expected–but to unattainable, unrealistic standards. They expect the worst, but hope for the best.
Many hope they might some day find themselves in a deadly force situation, not because they want to harm anyone, but because they train for decades to deal with that kind of danger, and in a way, they want to know how they will perform. Are they good enough? Will they do the right thing? Believe it or not, doing the right thing is very important for most police officers.
At the same time, they dearly fear it, for they know that if they happen to shoot the wrong person at the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong political climate, they may wind up like Darren Wilson who acted fully within the law and the reasonable exercise of professional discretion–and it still might have all gone wrong. Even though he’s possibly not going to prison, his police career is dead.
If it all had gone wrong in this case, it would be harder to find the kind of people we had better pray serve in uniform on our behalf. We often forget that.
Tragically, for doing his duty, for apprehending a strong-arm robber, for serving and protecting, Darren Wilson’s troubles are just beginning.