Ferguson decision, cont’d

PBS NewsHour “read and analyzed more than 500 pages of witness testimony and compared each statement to those given by [officer Darren] Wilson,” pulling together the results in this chart, which illuminates points where the witness testimony tended to help Wilson’s defense and where it did not; perhaps most surprising is how many questions he was apparently not asked. Prosecutor Robert McCullough managed the grand jury proceedings almost in the manner of a defense lawyer for the man facing charges, a strategy extremely unlikely to be repeated in the great majority of grand jury proceedings where the accused is not a police officer [Jacob Sullum] And Conor Friedersdorf notes that if you were looking for poster cases of wrongful use of lethal force for which police were not held accountable — even when there was video or other strong documentary evidence — many other cases would stand higher on the list than that of Michael Brown.


  • […] challenged inculpatory witnesses while spoon-feeding answers and excuses to the defendant. As the grand jury transcripts reveal, not only was this a stagecraft, but not even good […]

  • perhaps most surprising is how many questions he was apparently not asked.

    This may be a case where “being asked” is different from “providing information without being asked.”

    The PBS chart where the questions are “N/A” and Wilson’s testimony are as follows (questions are in bold):

    “Did DW fire gun repeatedly at MB while MB was down?”

    Wilson testifies that after Brown was shot in the head, Brown went down, face first, and “the threat was stopped.” No shots were fired after that. (GJV V page 229)

    “Was MB running away from DW when fired upon?”

    Wilson testifies that after the two shots in the car, the next time he fires his weapon is after Brown stops running, turns and starts to come back toward Wilson. (GJV V page 227)

    ADA Alizadeh later asks him on page 233 of GJV V, “Are you firing at him while he is running?”
    Wilson answers “No ma’am.”

    From the chart “Was MB kneeling when fired upon?”

    The answer here is given on GJV V page 229, where Wilson says that Brown doesn’t stop coming at him until he goes down, face first, for good.

    “Did MB put his hands up when fired upon?”

    Wilson testifies where Brown’s hands are after the fight in the car.

    GJV V page 227:

    Wilson: “His first step is toward me, he kind of does a stutter step to start running. When he does that, his left hand goes in a fist and goes to his side, his right hand goes under his shirt in his waistband and he starts running at me.”

    The ADA asks a question on the same page to confirm the location of the right hand.

    Wilson testifies that he has “tunnel vision” on the right hand that is under Brown’s shirt and on Brown’s waistband. (GJV V page 228)

    Prior to the final, fatal shots, Wilson is asked to demonstrate Brown’s position as he comes toward him. Wilson says, “His hand was in a fist at his side, this one was in his waistband under his shirt and he was like this.” (GJV V page 229)

    ADA Alizadeh asks about the hands later on and Wilson confirms the location of the right hand as under Brown’s shirt at his waistband. (GJV V page 234)

    My point for all of this is that while the chart misrepresents or at least muddies the water on whether a specific question was asked, the information was given under oath by Wilson. Where Wilson was clear in his testimony, no questions were asked.

    It should be said that Brown’s companion that day, Darren Johnson, was given the same treatment. Where he was clear, he was not asked a follow-up question.

    Only when the two men were less than clear or certain did the ADA or members of the jury ask follow-up or clarifying questions.

    With that being said, I think in some ways the chart is slightly misleading as to what was testified to by Wilson. Just because someone was not asked a specific question does not mean the information that would have been gotten by that question was not given to the Grand Jury.

  • A better chart would eliminate (or gray out) “witnesses” whose testimony was contraindicated by forensic evidence or witnesses whose stories were changing or self-contradictory.

    I encourage you to read the testimony yourself. Here’s a good start. Witness 35: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1370951-interview-witness-35.html

    The forensics showed absolutely that Mike Brown was approaching Officer Wilson when he was being shot, and that Wilson was retreating. You can see from the location of the shell casings, and the blood splatter.