Tuesday, November 25, 2014

No Indictment, Ferguson Outrage, Wilson Speaks Out

The grand jury has decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18 year old Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. There is plenty of outrage being spread on all sides of this intensely emotional, defensively offensive issue. For some, the grand jury decision is testament to proof that the cop is innocent and justified in killing Brown. For others, the decision is tantamount to the injustice that has plagued their community’s existence for generations. For a very small group, it is all the reason they need to let their outrage that has been pent up for so long to be expressed in violence, destruction of property and rage against anything, everything and everyone in sight.

To be clear, the latter group does little to help change the debate or the mindset of the other entrenched groups. However, what could ever breakthrough all of the assumptions that both of these outrage groups hold against the other? Unfortunately, nothing much can ever loosen the grip of outrage when it has been held for so long and fed from so many sources. It takes willingness and openness to understanding and to relating with someone of a different view or an opposing perspective of your own before any progress can ever be made at bridging these massive divisions within our society.

With this particular issue, most people are more apt to defend the actions of the cop than the actions of the dead 18 year old. The cop, after all, is the only person that can tell his story. Also, cops are pledged to serve and protect, they place their lives on the line for us every time they put on the uniform and patrol our streets. This is all true. However, the way cops use their authority can determine so much for both individuals and communities, including minority groups. Mostly, cops do the most amazing service. They deescalate situations, they protect and serve, as they pledge to do for us. It is the minority of cops that abuse their authority and power to harass individuals, communities and minorities, to tear people down instead of protect them.

On the other side, we have the 18 year old black unarmed teenager. Many have issues with calling him 18, black, unarmed and a teenager. I have heard that each one of these facts about Michael Brown should not be used in the media in discussing this story. I do find that curious, as each of these are facts. It seems that each of these facts has a tendency to humanize Michael Brown. It is far easier to demonize him, which the Officer even did in his sworn testimony before the grand jury, saying “it looks like a demon,” referring to Brown. (pg 225, grand jury report) http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/11/6-revelations-grand-jury-documents

In grand juries, there is no cross-examination of witnesses. And, eyewitnesses are known to be unreliable, as noted in this American Bar Association article. http://apps.americanbar.org/litigation/committees/trialevidence/articles/winterspring2012-0512-eyewitness-testimony-unreliable.html
In fact, it is only up to the prosecutor to present the case to a grand jury, there is no opposing counsel. I have actually discussed the grand jury process with many experienced police officers. It is known that if a prosecutor wants to show that they are not showing favoritism but do not want to prosecute a case, they can present a weaker case or not cross-examine key witnesses effectively. In the case here, that key witness would be Officer Wilson. This is a link on an overview of the grand jury process. http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-procedure/how-does-a-grand-jury-work.html

As I examined some of the leaked grand jury testimony, I found a couple of curious moments.  I also watched the ABC News Interview with George Stephanopoulos. As I watched the interview on Nightline, these were my notes:

 “Now, right off the bat, it sure sounds like a believable story. Gotta say, I was like, okay, this is making a lot of sense . . . then he gets to this point about what's going through his head during  this 10 second exchange of fists and pulling and grabbing.  ‘what provoked such an aggressive response to really nothing out of the ordinary besides a conversation’ . . . now, this is very interesting, because what Officer Wilson had said that made his story seem believable was that he mentioned this handful of cigarellos in MB's hand . . . so he thought that this was the guy on the scanner he had heard about . . . but before that, he said how these two dudes were walking down the yellow line of the street so he drives his car right at them and is still in drive facing them in their path . . . Now all of that doesn't square at all, or am I imagining that at all?

A very intricate, complicated story. Wilson fired the gun and hits Brown, then Brown and him are in shock, Brown steps back and gets angry (no shit) and then he fires the gun again and it jams, so he fires again and misses. Brown turns to flee. Then he is radioing for help but that was never received. Michael Brown was on the run, acknowledged by Officer Wilson at 30-40 feet.”

Now, Wilson is coming after Brown, and Brown stops and turns. Then he says Brown slips his hand into his waistband and his left hand is a fist (remember, one of these has been shot by this time, but no  mention of that in Officer Wilson's account here) and Brown starts to charge. ‘Is there a weapon in there? is there a knife? is there a brick?’ at this point, Officer Wilson determines that he can shoot this.

Now, I do think the way he words the questioning of himself about the weapon is the most damning of all . . . why a knife, why a brick? Why wouldn't he think there would be a gun? That just seems odd

 I’ll let the testimony and my notes of Officer Darren Wilson speak for itself, in the grand jury testimony and in the on-air interview. I do think it’s so easy to just cavalierly think the entire process has been fair and just because the perspective that you hold you feel has been proven by the lack of indictment by the grand jury, or that the eyewitness accounts corroborate your feelings about the young people or black people or anything else.

The truth here is that a tragedy has taken place. A human being lost their life. A mother and father lost their son. The truth here is that a cop took a life, regardless of it being necessary or not. That is always tragic. Officer Wilson and his family will have to live with this national tragedy for the rest of their lives. To believe that the outrage and protests are unwarranted is understandable, but that is the American way. The violence and the destruction of property are illegal and are counter-productive and have absolutely no place in moving this discussion and our country forward. However, to demonize, belittle and ridicule people that you have not attempted to relate to or to understand is a great part of the reason why that outrage and that protest is such a right and necessary action that must be witnessed and heard.

If either side thinks they have all the answers about what happened between Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown, they’re wrong. No one does. No one could. If there was a video, we could at least have a glimpse, a window into those last moments of a life that was cut way too short. However, we will never know the truth here. There will never be justice here. Please remember that. Try not to scream at one another. Belittle one another. Ridicule and demean one another.

We are all in this together, whether we acknowledge it or not.  

1 comment:

  1. This is a breakdown of the witness list for the grand jury on a couple of basic questions. It does show a mixed array of responses.