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Michael Brown Tag

The official transcript of the Ferguson Grand Jury continues to be fascinating as I chug my way past the 20% reading mark. A portion of the current eye witness testimony before me, that of Interview #4 taken on September 17 , was particularly engaging however. The reason? It shows in visceral detail some of the explicit and coordinated efforts to physically intimidate eye witnesses from speaking with law enforcement, and how genuinely frightened these efforts made those witnesses. I've reproduced the relevant section of Interview #4 below, and the entire length of that interview is embedded at the bottom of this post. (This interview did not take place before the Grand Jury itself, but rather the audio recording of the interview conducted at an earlier date was played for the Grand Jury.) There are three interviewers, whom I have labelled (as best I was able to discern from the transcript) as "Unknown," "Mr.," and "Ms.," at least one of whom is an FBI Special Agent and another of which is an attorney with the prosecutor's office.  (It is possible the "unknown" category should be assigned to some combination of "Mr." and "Ms.")  The witness is labelled as "I4."  All identities and identifying information has been redacted in the official transcript. The interview has been going on for some time when one of the persons leading the questioning interrupts the substantive discussion:

Darren Wilson, the Ferguson Police Officer whom a Grand Jury declined to indict over the shooting death of Micheal Brown, gave a lengthy in-person interview to George Stephanopoulos on ABC News last night. That interview is embedded at the bottom of this post. But this post is not really about Darren Wilson, at least not directly. It's about Johnson City, NY (near Binghamton), Police Officer David Smith, who was involved in a similar incident on March 31, 2014. A reader from this area (Johnson City is about 45 minutes from Ithaca) forwarded me the link, writing: "I had forgotten about this event very close to home but it seems to me that it is relevant to current events." In that incident, a seemingly crazed and aggressive perpetrator managed to take Officer Smith's weapon from him, and then use it to murder Officer Smith:
Police say a suspect shot and killed a Johnson City police officer with the officer’s own weapon on Monday morning. Officer David Smith was an 18-year veteran of the force, police said at an afternoon news conference. The suspect, 43-year-old James Clark of Greene, pulled away Smith’s weapon and shot the officer three times, according to police. Clark fired at another officer, who then shot the suspect several times. Clark was taken to a hospital and later died.
As recounted in this video, the circumstances were remarkably similar to the initial assault on Darren Wilson by Michael Brown: Sucker punches to an officer seated in his patrol car, with the perpetrator then leaning in to try to steal the weapon:

This post focuses on the second-half of Police Officer's testimony before the Grand Jury, during which he is responding to direct questions from both the Prosecutors present (Whirley and Alizadeh) as well as from individual Grand Jury members. This portion of the testimony also covers the relevant post-shooting events. The first half of Wilson's testimony before the Grand Jury consisted of his narrative of events, and was covered in yesterday's post here: #Ferguson Grand Jury evidence: Police Officer’s Account of Shooting. It bears mentioning again that Officer Wilson was not compelled to testify before the Grand Jury, but rather volunteered to do so.  He did so knowing he would not be permitted to be accompanied by legal counsel during his testimony. As was done in yesterday's post, below is an abridged version of the testimony, to ease reading through the material. The full-text of the testimony is embedded at the bottom of this post in the form of a PDF of the official Grand Jury transcript. One observation comes immediately to mind as I've had the opportunity to both carefully review Wilson's September 26 testimony before the Grand Jury as well as watch him recount events in his November 25 ABC News interview with George Stephanopoulos, and that is the utter consistently between the two accounts. This stands in sharp contrast to the very often wildly varying testimony of "pro-Brown" witnesses before the Grand Jury.

As promised, the transcripts of the Ferguson Grand Jury have been released to the public. That's the good news. The bad news is that the transcripts amount to 4,799 pages. That's not a typo: four thousand, seven hundred and ninety-nine pages. So, it's going to take a little time to work through and present in a useful form here. In this post I present the narrative of Police Officer Darren Wilson as he recounts to the Grand Jury his encounter with Mike Brown. I do so in abridged form, meaning that I've stripped out other people's statements to make the narrative more concise and easier to read. All of the text provided is, however, exactly as presented in the official transcript (baring, perhaps, an occasional typo here or there.) To make this more than a mere re-packaging of the official transcript, I suggest it might be a useful exercise as you read through Wilson's narrative to ask yourself whether it meets the required five elements of the law of self-defense. (Strictly speaking, just four of those elements apply, as there is no duty to retreat for a police officer in the performance of his duties.)  These four elements, then, are:
  • Innocence: Wilson must not have been the unlawful physical aggressor.
  • Imminence: Wilson must have been facing a threat that is either about to occur right now, or is in actual progress.
  • Proportionality: To be justified in the use of deadly force in self-defense Wilson must have been facing a threat of death or grave bodily harm.
  • Reasonableness:  Wilson's perceptions, decisions, and actions must have been those of a reasonable and prudent police officer in the same circumstances, with the same capabilities, possessing the same specialized knowledge, and under the same stresses of an existential fight.

As has been widely anticipated for weeks, the Ferguson MO Grand Jury has DECLINED to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of black adult Michael Brown. This result has not been unexpected, as the overwhelming weight of both the eye witness and forensic evidence has been entirely consistent with Officer Wilson's narrative of self-defense, including:
  • Wilson being attacked by Brown and his accomplice Dorian Johnson in his patrol vehicle
  • a struggle over Wilson's service pistol
  • shots fired inside the vehicle (which forensic examination confirmed caused a contact gun shot wound to Brown's right hand)
  • the temporary flight of Brown upon those initial gunshots
  • the return of the 292 pound Brown re-engage the much smaller officer
  • the firing of additional defensive rounds as necessary to halt Brown's violence
In contrast, the narratives put forward that might have favored an indictment were serially changed as each was proven inconsistent with the evidence:
  • Brown was shot in the back (there are no gun shot wounds to Brown's back, and contrary to bulk of eye witness testimony)
  • Brown had his hands raised in surrender (inconsistent with forensics and bulk of eye witness testimony)
  • Brown was on his knees when Wilson simply executed him (inconsistent with forensics and bulk of eye witness testimony)

Today may be the day you and the rioters have been waiting for. The Grand Jury reportedly has reached a decision whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown. But the decision has not yet been announced yet. That is expected to come sometime today. You can follow the Twitter stream at the bottom of the post. We will embed a live video feed when available. The announcement could come at any time.

CNN's Anderson Cooper is reporting that police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson MO on August 9, is purportedly in the final stages of preparing his resignation from the Ferguson police department. Wilson, who has been in hiding for months following threats of violence against himself and his immediate family, has apparently been negotiating terms of resignation with the police department. One key factor reportedly delaying his resignation prior to this point is that he preferred to wait to resign until after the Grand Jury had completed its deliberations, fearing that his resignation would make him appear guilty in their eyes. Wilson had six years of unblemished service on the Ferguson Police Department before, the evidence overwhelmingly suggests, being viciously attacked by Michael Brown and Brown's accomplice Dorian Johnson. After Brown received a contact gun shot wound to the hand while trying to take Wilson's service pistol, Brown fled a short distance before turning to attack the officer again.  It was during this renewed attack that Wilson was compelled to re-engage Brown with gun fire, ending the attack with a fatal gun shot wound to the head. Officer Wilson has maintained throughout the investigation and Grand Jury proceedings that he has done nothing wrong.  Notably, Wilson voluntarily appeared before the Grand Jury and provided over four hours of personal testimony of the events of his fatal encounter with Brown, without legal counsel present.

There is much speculation around when the Ferguson Grand Jury is likely to finally release their (widely expected) no true bill (non-indictment) of Police Officer Darren Wilson over the shooting death of Mike Brown. A great many people, myself included, have suggested that the authorities responsible for the release of the Grand Jury's findings would be prudent to wait for colder weather to do so, relying on the conventional wisdom that colder temperatures tend to diminish the frequency and intensity of riots and the other violent behavior (looting, arson) exhibited by the Ferguson protestors. Legal Insurrection commenter Another Ed, however, has moved us past mere conventional wisdom on this subject by kindly linking to a scientific paper that studies precisely the correlation between riots and temperature. That paper, "Ambient Temperature and the Occurrence of Collective Violence: A new Analysis," by JM Carlsmith and CA Anderson of Stanford University, was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1979. It is embedded at the bottom of this post, for those of you who enjoy reading primary research scientific literature. The Carlsmith paper conducted a re-analysis of earlier research, and found that in fact rioting (or, as they more politely refer to it "collective violence," as if it were a workshop of some kind) increases "monotonically" with temperature. The results of their research and analysis?
We conclude that the likelihood of a riot in a given city increases as the maximum ambient daily temperature in that city increases.
They helpfully include a graphical representation of their findings:

CNN reports that the Department of Justice continues to express frustration with the refusal of local Ferguson officials to hide from the Grand Jury and the public generally truthful information about the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown.  These same frustrations have been repeatedly echoed by the most hardcore of the Ferguson protestors, at increasing volume as they see the prospects for an indictment of officer Wilson rapidly fading. County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch has asked federal officials to coordinate on the timing of the announcement of the local Grand Jury outcome, in the interests of minimizing the potential for more rioting, looting, and arson.  It is widely expected that the local Grand Jury will decline to indict Wilson, because of a profound lack of evidence of criminal conduct. CNN's report shows that DOJ officials have declined to do so, arguing that it would "undermine their argument that the federal investigation is independent."  Of course, an official closure of the DOJ investigation would also not allow the Department to follow the strategy they have in the Zimmerman case of dragging  out their investigation for years.  This strategy pursued in the Zimmerman case allows for such politically expedient announcements, days before a major election, as the sudden convening of a Zimmerman Grand Jury based upon evidence of highly questionable credibility. The CNN article notes that the state and federal investigations are based upon separate and distinct statutes, and thus are not entirely identical.  Left unsaid is the equally obvious point that the state and federal investigations serve different political masters.

A group purporting to be part of "Anonymous" claims that it has insider information from two independent sources with knowledge of relevant secret internal police communications that Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson will not be indicted in the killing of Michael Brown. It further reports that this non-indictment is to be made public on or before November 10, 2014, and both regional law enforcement and the Missouri National Guard are being prepared for widespread civil unrest.  (A PDF of the post is embedded below, or it you prefer, the Pastebin file is here.)(h/t Gateway Pundit). I confess to no great familiarity with Anonymous, and I certainly share the expectation that there will be no indictment of Officer Wilson (on what evidence?), but I also feel obliged to note that I find the overall tone of the post to be lacking in credibility. For one thing, more than half of the post is spent not discussing the evidence on which the Grand Jury might be basing it's decision--indeed, evidence is not mentioned at all--but rather is devoted to discussion of Wilson personally in the period following the shooting of Mike Brown. Claiming, for example, that he still lives in the area, that he has just closed on a home, that his girlfriend is newly pregnant with their first child, that he has changed his appearance.  None of that could have the slightest relevance in the grand jury's considerations.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has obtained and released the official autopsy report of Mike Brown, the black man shot and killed by Police Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO this past August.  (The autopsy report is embedded below.) The item in the report that perhaps sheds the greatest light on the circumstances of the shooting is the evidence that Mike Brown has a gunshot wound to the inside of his right hand near his thumb and palm that appears to be a contact gunshot wound.  This would be consistent with the police narrative that Brown was fighting with Officer Wilson for possession of his service pistol when the shot was fired. Gunpowder stippling is typically indicative of the distance between the muzzle of a fired gun and the gunshot wound caused by the projectile.  If the shot is fired at close distance (inches to feet) there is typically unburned gunpowder that causes an observable stippling on the victim's skin.  When the shot is fired from a greater distance (several feet or further) the unburned gunpowder generally does not reach the victim's skin, and thus there is no stippling. Somewhat counterintuitively, however, there is another type of gunshot wound in which no stippling is found.  In a contact gunshot wound, in which the muzzle is in contact with the victim's skin, the unburned gunpowder simply enters the wound along with the projectile.  Because the powder does not contact the skin, there is no skin stippling in a contact gunshot wound.  A contact gunshot wound also typically cause a star-like burst or fragmentation of skin at the site of injury, as the hot gasses propelling the bullet enter and expand within the flesh. The projectile itself, of course, will often fragment skin and bone.

A breaking New York Times report sheds new light on Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson's mortal encounter with local Michael Brown.

The police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., two months ago has told investigators that he was pinned in his vehicle and in fear for his life as he struggled over his gun with Mr. Brown, according to government officials briefed on the federal civil rights investigation into the matter. The officer, Darren Wilson, has told the authorities that during the scuffle, Mr. Brown reached for the gun. It was fired twice in the car, according to forensics tests performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The first bullet struck Mr. Brown in the arm; the second bullet missed. The forensics tests showed Mr. Brown’s blood on the gun, as well as on the interior door panel and on Officer Wilson’s uniform. Officer Wilson told the authorities that Mr. Brown had punched and scratched him repeatedly, leaving swelling on his face and cuts on his neck.

According to the New York Times, Wilson told authorities that he fought with Brown for possession of his service pistol, resulting in two rounds fired inside his police vehicle.  One round struck Brown in the arm, and the other was wasted.

Importantly, Brown's blood was found on the gun by forensics analysis, as well as on the inside of the police vehicle, confirming his presence in the vehicle and the weapon.

Wilson said that Brown punched and scratched him numerous times, causing abrasions and swelling to his face and neck.

The officials briefed on the case said the forensic evidence gathered in the car lent credence to Officer Wilson’s version of events. According to his account, he was trying to leave his vehicle when Mr. Brown pushed him back in. Once inside the S.U.V., the two began to fight, Officer Wilson told investigators, and he removed his gun from the holster on his right hip. Chief Jon Belmar of the St. Louis County Police Department has said in interviews that Officer Wilson was “pushed back into the car” by Mr. Brown and “physically assaulted.”

The Times goes on to quote Brown's friend Dorian Johnson as a sort of opposing witness to Officer Wilson.

Look up irony in the dictionary, and by all rights you should find a footnote pointing to this news story from CBS re: Ferguson MO: "Ferguson residents frustrated over lack of opportunity." The story notes that the previous night was sufficiently quiet--"just eight arrests"--and that the National Guard is pulling out (meaning, productive people are being released to go back to their day jobs.) The irony arose when the reporter spoke to local Ferguson residents.  The common theme among those interviewed was outrage that local businesses--you know, the ones that had been relentlessly looted and vandalized by local residents--had not hurried to rebuild and offer jobs to local residents. Huh.  Who knew that robbing and burning local businesses might prove a disincentive to them investing and hiring in the community! Anybody remember this guy? Beer