Ferguson grand jury aftermath

  • Why none of the major methods for addressing claims of police excessive force — grand juries/prosecution, internal investigations, civil suits, personnel disciplinary procedures, civilian review boards, federal oversight — work very well, and what we may want to consider instead [Chase Madar, The Nation]
  • “Rand Paul Reacts to Ferguson: Reform Criminal Justice System, Petty Fines” [Robby Soave, Reason, quotes me] Incidentally, the Cato Institute has been working on police misconduct issues for more than 15 years [Cato Policy Report]
  • “As a front-line means of regulating lethal force, grand juries – which are secret, remote from the truth-finding of an adversary process, and dependent on prosecutors’ guidance – do not command broad public confidence.” [my brief reaction statement, posted at Cato] “How the Ferguson grand jury process works” [Kimberly Kindy, Washington Post] “in Dallas, grand juries reviewed 81 shootings between 2008 and 2012 and returned just one indictment.” [Ben Casselman, Five Thirty-Eight] Cato survey a few years back found only 7 percent of excessive force allegations against police resulted in indictments, 3 percent in convictions [Tim Fernholz, Quartz]
  • “What we know about who police kill in America” [Dara Lind, Vox]
  • “Anytime I’m involved in an officer involved shooting… it is always listed during my initial investigation as an assault on law enforcement” [Kevin Underhill/Lowering the Bar, who also dissected the grand jury report on Twitter] Journalists and investigators begin digging through the many volumes of transcripts and testimony released following the grand jury action [NPR on Officer Wilson’s testimony] Eyewitness testimony pointed various ways [Conor Friedersdorf]
  • Listen: Tuesday morning’s Diane Rehm show where I joined a panel discussing the Ferguson grand jury outcome, or a highlight portion;
  • “How Police Unions Stopped Congress From ‘Militarization’ Reform” [Dave Weigel, Bloomberg] Reform-blocking role of police unions part of wider, systemic problems [Ed Krayewski, Reason]


  • It’s a shame that a topic as worthy as police tactics and methods reform got wrapped up in this obvious turd of an individual case. There are plenty of incidents to choose from from civil asset forfeiture to insanely over the top search warrant service – but this marginal case got all the attention and it got so wrapped up with race that the racial aspect is eclipsing virtually everything else. Worse yet is the rioting which then overshadows everything else. A high-profile attempted prosecution is probably the worst way to effect policy change.

  • 1. Has it been posted, what Wilson’s intention was when he challenged Brown for obstructing the road? Was he just telling Brown to move to the side of the road (an entirely reasonable request)? Or was he proposing to fatten the notoriously greedy Ferguson court system with, say, a $100 ticket? If an expensive summons was at issue, many in Ferguson would identify with Brown’s rage; if his motive, however, was fear of getting arrested for the cigar-store robbery, far fewer would sympathize.

    2. Did Brown’s autopsy test for drugs? That might explain an otherwise suicidal grab for the policeman’s gun. But the delay of over four hours in picking up his body (a legitimate subject of community anger) may have lost some key medical evidence.

  • 1) Wilson said in his statement that he had heard a police dispatch description of the store robbers and, although headed to a different call, spotted the pair as matching the description.

    2) I believe only marijuana residue was found.

  • Mr. Olson,

    I am going to disagree with you slightly on the timeline that day in Ferguson.

    1) Wilson’s testimony was that he had a call for a sick baby in the apartments. He and an ambulance arrived at that call at the same time. (Grand Jury Volume V (GJV V) page 202)

    2) While away from his vehicle, the call on the stealing at the store came through his portable “walkie” (walkie talkie) but he only heard part of the call and part of the description of the suspects. (same cite as above) That was the only call he heard between the end of the baby call and the interaction with Brown and Johnson. Wilson testified he was not responding to the call for the stealing from the convenience store.

    3) After the call for the baby ends with the mother and the child being taken to the hospital, Wilson gets in his car, leaves the apartment complex and after making a few turns, sees two men walking down the middle of the street causing traffic to go around them. (GJV V page 205 – 206)

    4) When Wilson first encounters Brown and Johnson, he tells them get off of the street. Some words are exchanged as Brown and Johnson continue to walk in the street and past Wilson’s Tahoe. (GJV V page 209)

    5) According to Wilson, he then sees the Cigarillos in Brown’s hand, looks in the mirror as Brown is now past him and realizes that Brown and Johnson match the description of the suspects he heard broadcast while on the earlier baby call.

    6) Wilson calls for another unit / backup and then proceeds to back his vehicle up to where he passes Brown and Johnson and angles the vehicle to block their path in the street. (GJV V page 209)

    The altercation between Brown and Wilson begins then.

    In short, I disagree with you in that Wilson said he was not heading to another call, and the reason he talked to Brown and Johnson initially was their being in the middle of the street – not that they matched the description of the store thieves. That they did match the description “clicked” in his mind (his term) after the initial “get out of the street” request / order / demand to Brown and Johnson.

    To answer Hugo’s question, it doesn’t appear that Wilson wanted to ticket Brown or Johnson. Neither Wilson nor Johnson’s testimony say anything about “get off the street or else” or “I am going to cite you for ….”

  • Thanks for the more precise timeline. I should have specified that his other call had ended, and that his story had him connecting the men he stopped with the suspects in the dispatcher report only after the encounter had begun (“clicked”), which is relevant to Hugo’s first question.

  • Taking Gitarcarver’s excellent comment as my source, we see in the Brown incident another example of a “theory of the mind” phenomenon. Very young children and those lacking “theory of the mind” ability will project the behavior of others on what they know and not on what the other person knows. In the tragic Walmart shooting, the unfortunate victim of the shooting knew he was a good guy and the gun he had in his hand was a benign bb gun – or pellet gun. Pointing real guns at him was so excessive as to be ludicrous. But the shooters knew they were facing a man with the potential to harm others with his gun. It would not help the family of a dead customer that you thought the gun was just a toy. In the Zimmerman case, Professor Ogeltree showed an immature mind in saying that Zimmerman gave the police his name and location and knew that an officer was being sent to meet him, yet Zimmerman then hunted down Martin and shot him like vermin. The professor sounds like an idiot. In the Brown case, officer Wilson called for backup and knew that help was on the way. But he decided to murder Brown in front of a crowd anyway.

    By the way, we just had the Ray Lewis problem of knocking out his fiance. Brown managed to strike Wilson in the head. The next time could have given Brown access to Wilson’s gun should it render Wilson unconscious.

  • Mr. Olson,

    Thank you for taking my comment in the spirit in which it was intended.

    William Nuesslien,

    One of the comments that I found very interesting from Wilson’s testimony that I don’t think has gotten any or enough discussion is that near the end of his testimony, he is asked by a member of the grand jury as to why when Brown ran, he simply didn’t follow him in his car knowing that another unit was coming to his assistance, and why he felt the need to shoot Brown while he was running away knowing the other unit was coming to his assistance.

    Wilson said procedures would have dictated that the second unit would have taken positing in front of Brown, and after Brown’s assault on him and the deadly intent he saw in Brown’s face, he didn’t want Brown to be confronted by another officer or an innocent civilian. He says he shot Brown while Brown was running away to prevent Brown from causing harm to others.

    That’s the “theory of the mind” that you mention where actions can be taken to mean different things by different people and where different intents can be seen by different people.

    Lastly, one of the really perplexing and maddening things is that the assistant prosecutor asks Wilson about any statement he wrote or gave to the police. Wilson responded that the only written statement he gave on the incident was given to his lawyer, and not the police. Maybe normal people on the street can shoot and kill someone and not give a statement to the police, but I don’t ever remember seeing that.

    Taken in conjunction with Kevin Underhill’s noticing that one investigator testified “Anytime I’m involved in an officer involved shooting… it is always listed during my initial investigation as an assault on law enforcement,” (see original post above) it makes one wonder about the impartiality of investigations of these types of events.

    That is not to say that I agree or disagree with the no bill on Wilson. I am saying that the “rules” under which we play and live our lives should be the same for all, and not different for those who wear a badge. I believe a lot of the mistrust of law enforcement could be alleviated if the public say officers who commit crimes or who are accused of committing crimes were treated the same as Joe Blow on the streets.

  • Mr. Nuesslein,

    Actually, it was Baltimore Raven’s player Ray Rice, 5’8″, 200 lbs, versus his fiance, Janay, in an elevator at a casino earlier this year.

    Ray Lewis (6’1″ 240 lbs) is the Baltimore Raven’s player who was initially charged with murder in the stabbing deaths of 2 men in Atlanta in 2000. Mr. Lewis pled guilt to obstruction in exchange for his testimony against 2 other men, both of whom were his bodyguards, for the Atlanta murders. Mr. Lewis was sentenced to 12 months probation. The 2 bodyguards were acquitted of murder at trial.

    Mr. Lewis was one of the toughest NFL players of the modern era. He has never publicly taken any responsibility for the murders of the 2 men, is now retired and is part of ESPN’s on air talent. Mr. Lewis is considered a shoe-in when he is eligible for NFL Hall of Fame induction.

    I’ve included these gentlemen’s height and weight because of some sort of fixation in the media over Mr. Brown’s size. You will note that both professional football players would be dwarfed by the late Mr. Brown. One does not have to be a giant to inflict considerable damage on another person.

  • Yes Ray Rice was the fellow I had in mind and Ray lewis is somebody else indeed.

    The theory of the mind is a specific phenomenon and not a general explanation for people with different views. The German high command had a theory of mind when they felt nobody in their right mind would attack at Normandy. One could not land men and material fast enough to hold a beachhead. In that case the allies had Mulberries to make artificial ports.

    By the way, our fellows attacked Normandy at Omaha beach and our Canadian allies at Juno beach. How in the world can we justify our giving Canada a hard time about the XL pipeline?

    The Brown incident was straight forward. I am dismayed that media and others claim the mob rule component of the incident has validity. The same factors applied to the OJ Simpson case. Her blood on his sock in his bedroom was overridden by some need to punish police.

  • This “theory of the mind” doesn’t quite match with the Wal-Mart case because the video shows that Mr. Crawford wasn’t even aware the officers were there before they started shooting him.