Ferguson/Wilson Grand Jury Return Thoughts and Working Materials

CryingJusticeLast night was quite a night in the greater St. Louis Missouri area, especially the towns of Ferguson and Clayton, where the St. Louis County seat and courthouse is located.

First, at the insanely reckless, and inexplicably late hour of 8:00 pm, St. Louis prosecutor Bob McCulloch held one of the most surreal and disingenuous press conferences I have ever seen by a prosecutor in my life. Correction, not one of the most, but THE MOST. Here is the video and an uncorrected transcript from CSPAN.

The content is simply stunning. Prosecutor McCulloch basically gives a closing summation from the perspective of Darren Wilson’s personal defense attorney. Which makes sense, as that has been the clear and unmistakable posture of McCulloch from the outset of this charade. He glowingly recounts cherry picked aspects of Wilson’s testimony to support the officer’s narrative, and then attacks the numerous civilian, and mostly black, witnesses that support the Brown side of things as all being either mistaken, liars or not even there. Just amazing.

But, as I alluded to, it was not just the content, but the timing of McCulloch’s press conference as well. It was a consummately reckless and hideous thing to do to wait until well into the night and darkness to incite the tinderbox of emotion and protest. Here is Jeff Toobin at CNN:

Here’s the thing about that time of night: it’s dark. Anyone — anyone! — should have known that the decision in the Brown case would have been controversial. A decision not to indict, which was always possible, even likely, would have been sure to attract protests, even violence. Crowd control is always more difficult in the dark.

The grand jury’s deliberations concluded around lunchtime on Monday. It would have been simple to make the announcement while it was still daytime. Still, McCulloch said that he would not announce the grand jury’s decision until 8 p.m. CT.
The predictable reaction ensued. Protests began, some of them violent. Police responded with tear gas. Fires burned. Cars were destroyed. Gunshots were heard. The full scale of the damage was difficult to assess last night.

The ultimate verdict on the grand jury’s decision is up to history at this point. But the verdict on McCulloch opting to announce the decision at night is clear — and devastating.

That is spot on. Insane is a word that I have been using a lot in respect to this case, but it certainly applies to McCulloch’s dog and pony show timing.

Next is the actual grand jury materials and content, and what they mean to the injustice that has occurred in this matter. That one is going to take a lot longer to suss through and put together. I have read a few bits and pieces, notably much of Darren wilson’s grand jury testimony, but there are thousands of pages of material, and it will take me days to get through it properly. More will come, but for now, I want to give a couple of links to the full set of materials put together by others.

Here is the New York Times version. I think it is the best formatted and easiest to navigate so far.

Here is the NPR version from the St. Louis affiliate.

Here is the Guardian version.

They are all fine links from which to navigate and I link all three because they went to great trouble to do a public service in a short amount of time. They are owed thanks. The one substantive comment I will make for now is the way the standing prosecutors, Kathi Alizadeh and Sheila Whirley, spoon fed the witnesses, and especially Darren Wilson, and otherwise slanted everything imaginable, to support the exoneration of Wilson is just disgusting. I have read countless grand jury transcripts over the years, and I have NEVER seen anything that remotely resembles this kind of biased, for the defendant, dog and pony show. Again, it is simply insane and unheard of.

Okay, this entire grand jury was a farce, a charade, and a lie. It was a cravenly engineered whitewash by Bob McCulloch from start to the criminally reckless end with Ferguson in flames last night. And do not, like so many on social media seem to be doing, think the DOJ is going to bail the situation out by indicting Darren Wilson on federal charges. Even DOJ veterans say it is unlikely. I say there is not a chance in hell of an indictment against Wilson personally.

In closing, a few words by my friend Scott Greenfield from his excellent criminal defense blog Simple Justice:

Americans may be a smart, educated people, but we are lazy and ignorant. It’s too much effort for our delicate sensibilities to gain a deeper understanding of how our nation functions. This is why the Ferguson Lie happened. This is why the Ferguson Lie works.

That the grand jury did not indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson was a foregone conclusion. To those of us who don’t have to look up a study or read a law review article to understand how indictments happen in the real world, the outcome was clear when St. Louis County District Attorney Bob McCulloch announced that he would present all the evidence to the grand jury. Wachtler’s “ham sandwich” has grown trite in this discussion.

The Ferguson Lie is an appeal to our sense of fairness and transparency. We were played. McCulloch’s lengthy spiel before announcing “no true bill” was to spread the lie. To the ear of the media, McCulloch’s pitch was appealing; the grand jury heard all the evidence. The grand jury transcript will be disclosed to provide complete transparency. Witnesses lied to the media, but the grand jury heard the truth. The grand jury saw the hard evidence. Nine whites and three blacks, so no one would think that the grand jury was denied the voice of people of color, sat on the grand jury, which met for 25 sessions and more than 70 hours of testimony.

The grand jury did the dirty work that America needed done. The grand jury has spoken.

This is the lie.

Go read all of Scott’s piece, it is superb and exactly how I feel too.

For now though, I have to get off to court. There will be much more, but I am not sure when given the time to cull through the materials and the holidays. Until then, happy hunting in the treasure trove of documents, and post your findings and discussion in comments.

36 replies
  1. Anne says:

    bmaz – thanks for your insight; there seems to be a consensus among lawyers with grand jury experience that this entire process has just defied comprehension. My overall feeling is that the grand jury proceedings were convened and conducted as a means of rescuing Darren Wilson, and I don’t understand why conflicts in testimony should not have been resolved in a trial, where they could be subjected to challenge, or why it seems that the conflicts were encouraged to be resolved based on which side those conflicts supported.

    What concerns me now is that, once people have had a chance to digest the materials provided, it’s not going to make anything better – it’s likely going to just fan the flames that are already burning.

  2. Ben Franklin says:

    Thanks too for the link to docs (talkleft). The one I was interested in was the autopsy. Orchestrated testimony, or should I say a four-hour speech from Wilson was not on my list.

    No powder stippling kept coming up.

  3. rg says:

    Listening to the prosecutor’s announcement, I was reminded of the words of the British ambassador describing the American discussion regarding its approach to Iraq:” the facts are being fixed around the policy”.

  4. CK says:

    The prosecutor has read the newspapers and heard the TV talking heads and the internet commentaries. The timing of the announcement makes a great deal of sense.
    He commanded the podium and got his version of “truth” out to the populace before the gatekeepers had their chance to spin and whirl. Now they can all play catch-up while his truth is going round the world and the world got to see the juxtaposition of the President and the burning of Ferguson later and live.
    The decision was leaked to the press almost immediately after the jury’s decision was made. That the press could not use it is hilarious … rule of law and all that.

  5. P J Evans says:

    McCulloch flat-out lied last night, when he said that Wilson never stood over the body. There’s a photo of Wilson doing exactly that. (You’ll have to click through: Twitter language nanny.) Note the time and date, below the photo.

    I really hope that there are ghosts, because I want Mike Brown to haunt Wilson, McCulloch, and all their higher-ups for the next ten years. At least.

  6. rachel says:

    Ah, yes – when blacks in Murka are still regarded as 3/5ths human, their testimony about anything under the sun is not to be taken seriously. Thus no one is required to listen and believe their accounts of their experiences of relentlessly perpetual institutional racism often unknowingly supported by most whites, Asians, and other more “honest” groups whose humanness is not in question (this category excludes Muslims), including liberals, and all Wall Street owned corporate players and their corresponding government agencies.

    Even so-called “illegals” are more human than blacks and are worthy of respect and consideration for their plights under this warped system we humans, aka good Murkans, call the Murkan Dream. All for Slavery and Slavery for All!

    Good work, Marcy! Thank you.

  7. Jimson says:

    CK: There’s nothing about “rule of law” that would have prevented the media from reporting the grand jury decision early. Look up prior restraint and the First Amendment. It would be unconstitutional to prohibit the media from reporting it.

    In fact, USA Today did report the decision early last night. They got the story of no indictment up 20 minutes before the prosecutor announced it.

  8. fritter says:

    Is it possible that Wilson is innocent, but that the prosecution is totally corrupt? I’m not saying he is, I’m just asking from the evidence as I have a pet theory about the annoucement timing, well the whole DOJ side thing really.

    The only thing I have been sure of in this case is that the charge of “police militarization” was heard loud and clear by the DOJ. Every since then the effort has been to make sure any protests were as violent as possible. The delay, the timing announcement. I’m not sure it it started out that way but it almost looks more like a psyop than anything else. There have been various news accounts about gun fire, violence against police, etc in the MSM before this announcement. I just assumed it was general media stupidy but maybe it has been more coordinated. This will set the scene for every protest after, and the optics on the occupy protests were terrible for TPTB. Its no secret that there is more unrest on the way with the economy as it is. I’m not saying that Ferguson police are feigning racism, or any desire to keep the general public boot to neck. It just seems like there has been an extreme, coordinated, effort to get things as out of hand as possible. The media has gone along lock-step with it (except for a few journalists/bloggers).

    • P J Evans says:

      Announcement carefully timed so that everyone who wanted to cause trouble had plenty of time to prepare. That includes the agents provocateurs.

    • bmaz says:

      Sure. Maybe. I have doubts, but that is absolutely possible.
      The problem is we have NOT had anything close to a fair airing, and analysis by the judicial system, of the actual evidence. Instead, we have had a farcical scam put on by McCulloch as craven cover.
      That leaves us, and the public, not knowing, and/or having the tools in the relevant time to make a difference. Only after the whitewash is done are we given the tidbits McCulloch malignantly engineered.
      That is not “justice”, that is “just us” sold a bill of crappy duplicitous goods by a known cop loving fanatic, McCulloch, who proved up every fear rational people ever had about him and his place controlling this matter.
      It is enough to make rational people puke.

      • Peterr says:

        After listening to McCulloch’s presser last night, where he went on and on about gaps in the testimony of witnesses and places where their testimony did not line up with physical evidence, I was gobsmacked when I read the testimony of Darren Wilson. Good Lord, the prosecutors spoonfed him for page after page after page.
        Shorter Prosecution: “Here, let us help you get your story straight, and assist you in your defense.”
        Never a question challenging his account, but plenty of helpful prods to get him to tell his story well.
        Never a question about gaps in his story, but plenty of helpful “let’s move on” shifts to keep others from noticing the gaps.
        Never a question about how he let himself get in a position where a suspect could make a play for his gun, but plenty of helpful “you’re a professional” reminders, so as to avoid looking carefully at the procession of procedural mistakes made by Wilson.
        Like Pilate, Bob McCulloch tried to set things up so as to wash his hands from what happened after he ducked his responsibilities and tried to pass the buck to the grand jury.
        Like Pilate, he will be long remembered for what he did and, more importantly, failed to do.

        • Ted says:

          Thank you, Peterr, for your astute observations. From my point of view, all I saw from Mr. McCulloch was obfuscation. “Look here at all this contradictory evidence. Clearly none of these witnesses can be trusted.” What he failed to provide was any evidence that was corroborated by two or more witnesses. Keep moving, folks. Nothing to see here.

    • John Casper says:

      fritter, imho, Darren Wilson made the decision to kill Mike Brown after the discharge of two rounds from inside his vehicle. Wilson must have been concerned those could have hit innocent bystanders.

      Everyone admits Wilson exited his vehicle and tried to shoot Brown in the back. If Brown would have kept running, he’d be alive. IMHO, (perhaps because he was likewise afraid for innocent bystanders, and learning willing Wilson was to unload his weapon), Brown faced Wilson, knelt down and raised his hands. When finally confronted with a stationery target, Wilson was able to actually hit Brown.

      After getting shot while being on his knees with his hands up, Brown might have well figured charging Wilson was his only hope.

      Whatever happened in the vehicle is most likely a result of poor police technique. Wilson never should have let Brown get that close to his vehicle. IMHO, because of lazy policing, Mike Brown became a threat to Wilson’s career as a police officer. That’s why he felt “justified” in killing him.

      That speculation and $3 will get you something at Starbucks.

      Wilson fired 12 rounds, and hit Brown six times. Brown died 150 feet from his SUV. I don’t know how to get from there to anything resembling Wilson’s “innocence.”

          • lefty665 says:

            It’s the same correction I gave myself earlier today. It wasn’t until I read Wilson’s testimony and looked at the autopsy report with that new context that it jumped out at me. Wilson shot Brown a lot of times. I infer that the last four were the head shots. By Wilson’s testimony, the last one was. He was pretty vague about the rest even happening. That was startling when I looked at the autopsy report.
            It seems likely the first shot to Brown’s hand, as Wilson testified, was inside the vehicle. From there it appears they were at longer, then closer range, closing to around 15 feet for the last top of head shot.
            Wilson testified to two other hits, perhaps the ones to Brown’s forearm and bicep. The next two maybe, as range closed, were still aimed at center of mass, and hit close together, in Brown’s right upper arm and chest. That puts Brown, shot in the chest, slumping, bent over, stumbling forward. Wilson then fires four, count ’em, four head shots at closer range that impact Brown’s neck, cheek, eye, and finally top of head. As Brown stumbles forward closer to Wilson, his shots get closer to center. Bin Laden didn’t even rate 4 head shots.
            It seems likely the first shot and perhaps two, were justified self defense. But the last four are hard to see as anything other than an execution in retaliation for Brown’s assault and insults. Brown is shot five times, in shock, slumping and stumbling. Perhaps Wilson finishes him off with four head shots from too close to miss. Maybe: Too pussy to shoot you? Take this big boy, and this, and this, and lastly, this (from his own testimony), right through the top of your head.
            .40 S&W is a high velocity, high energy round. Each of Brown’s wounds would be traumatic. With four wounds, Brown’s right arm was not reaching for anything in his belt, it was a mangled useless appendage beyond his control. Brown already had eight wounds including, chest, neck, cheek and through his eye when Wilson shot him the last time. How could he have been the threat Wilson described, a charging monster on a rampage to destroy him, when he fired that last shot?

            • P J Evans says:

              Personal opinion: Wilson was lying, and his story was carefully set up to justify what he did. They had one witness backing up his line about Brown ‘charging’ him, and that, I understand, was ‘Witness 40’, the one who wrote this:

              Aug 9th -Saturday
              8 AM
              Well Im gonna take my random
              drive to Floresant. Need to
              understand the Black race better
              so I stop calling Blacks Niggers
              and Start calling them People.
              Like dad always said you cant
              fear or hate an entire race cause
              of what one man did 40 yrs ago.

              Line breaks in the original, which was hand-written in a spiral-bound notebook – and no indication of entries before or after. Also no indication of where this person was starting from, or how they managed to hit the exact spot in Ferguson where this happened at the time it happened. (Yes, it’s stinky.)

            • John Casper says:

              Appreciate the excellent detail. Hope your astute analysis finds its way into the main stream media’s coverage of D.A. McCulloch.

      • P J Evans says:

        Strange that Wilson is the only witness to Brown ‘charging’ him. You would expect the other witnesses to have seen that – and it doesn’t make sense, when Brown died 50 yards away from Wilson’s vehicle.

    • orionATL says:

      i’ve thougbt somewhat along the same lines of black aggression provoked by local police to protect their sources of cash and perquisites.

      i’ve thought of it in a different way, though.

      does anyone remember the extraordinary rash of unwarranted murders of young black men by local police across the country just after wilson murdered brown? i didn’t count, but i think there may have been 1/2 dozen to a dozen killed.

      i think it is conceivable there was a loose conspiracy nationwide for killing young black men in order to provoke a backlash against blacks by whites who would then demand protection for the police – and thereby protect the prerogatives local police enjoy from local poor blacks.

  9. lefty665 says:

    Thanks Bmaz, I’ve spent the morning reading testimony, volume V was what the Wash Post had when I started. It was all investigator’s and Wilson’s testimony, Guess I don’t need the actual witnesses since the prosecutor has discredited them (snark). There were differences between Wilson and the others, especially his Sgt. As you note, no attempt to explore them, and lots of statements that investigators/cops had subsequent conversations with Wilson. After almost 3 weeks to prepare with his lawyer, Wilson had his story down pat, even though it conflicted with his prior statements. I ain’t a lawyer, but if I ever have the misfortune to be the target of a grand jury, I’d sure like that bunch of prosecutors on my side.
    From the graphic showing Brown’s wounds it seems that the last 6 (or 7) wounds were after Brown was bent over, having been shot in the right hand and forearm. The way the last 4 to head and neck are clustered, they seem likely at closer range. That’s twice as many head shots as Bin Laden. Wilson described Brown as making an unseeing enraged charge. Some might describe Brown as in shock and stumbling forward after being shot in the hand, forearm, upper arm and chest.
    I’m no more shooting expert than lawyer, but do find it curious that all Brown’s wounds, except the last to the top of his head, were to his extreme right side. That would be to Wilson’s left. People under stress tend to jerk the trigger, and that puts shots to the shooter’s right and the shootee’s left. There’s meaning in the pattern of Brown’s wounds, both body as well as the multiple closely grouped head shots.
    Wilson testified, and the evidence bag he prepared showed 1 remaining round, and 12 shots fired. Clearing the stovepipe should have left one round in the cruiser. Seems more likely Wilson kept pulling the trigger until the gun quit going bang. That along with the multiple head shots are not consistent with the grand jury outcome.

  10. Peterr says:

    About ten miles south of Ferguson and just north/northwest of the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis, there was a rap concert by El-P and Killer Mike last night.
    Go read the post about it.
    Go click the embedded video and listen — really LISTEN — to Mike’s intro and their first song.

  11. John Casper says:

    bmaz, I can’t adequately thank you for the support your Tweets have been about this since August. You have consistently been right, and way ahead of everyone else.

  12. jawbone says:

    Well, this is the first real analysis I’ve read which make sense.

    I heard about the lack of indictment first the overnight BBC news, and I then heard the US interpretation on All Things Conisidered (from Nice Polite Republicanlite…eh?).

    The interesting things which stood out to me from the BBC were never mentioned, such as Miller stating that he did not have his taser with him because he didn’t find it comfortable to wear…or was it bcz the force didn’t have enough of them? Then, it was noted that the coroner(?) was unable to take photos at the scene because his camera’s battery ran out…and, it seems, he did not have spares. When going to a murder scene??

    There was a pretty good take on how weird and badly the grand jury had been “managed” on the The Brian Leherer Show on WNYC later in the morning, but, still, no mention of all the strangely uninvestigated or missing info and answers.

    It seemed clear to me the St. Louis Powers That Be and the governor of MO clearly wanted to duck responsibility for the outcome of the grand jury and to also manipulate the poor folks sitting on the jury to make them reach the desired outcome.

    What a great country, huh?

    Can’t proofread as library closing….

  13. Evangelista says:

    I haven’t but glanced at the evidence provided, but since first hearing of a ‘fight for the officer’s gun’ while the oficer was in his vehicle and the victim-to-be was outside, I have wondered if any grand-juror would have the intelligence to request a re-enactment to demonstrate what happened there and how it would have been possible: The problem with trying to grab anything through a vehicle window is that you can either get your arms in to grab, or get your head positioned so you can see; you can’t do both. For this reason, and the physics involved, it is extremely unlikely that the victim-to-be did much of anything except push back the door when the officer pushed it open against him, which would be normal in the situation, at least until the officer had his gun unholstered and up to across the steering wheel at least. For the improbability of the officer’s allegation of the victim-to-be’s “aggression”, there was a lack of probable cause for his assertion of provocation, and, from that, reasonable reason to indict him for some level of unjustified action.

    The most serious misfortune of the whole of the incident is that for the instance involving a black man the incident will be, as it is being, defined as a “racial problem”. It is not. Yes, blacks have been predominant among victims, but they are only predominant. Innocent victims of police zeal to kill are of all races, and the inciting situations cover a broad variety. The common denominator in all is demonstrated police over-reaction, over-enthusiasm to use weapons, over-reliance on weapons, police fear of and animosity toward the public, psychological incapacity for actual policing work, and inability to deal one on one in face-to-face confrontation situations.

  14. orionATL says:

    violence is essential to human social change.

    bob macculloch is the kind of fool who incites that needed violence.

    as for why darren wilson murdered brown, my guess is he lost his temper – all shots were said to be fired within 90 seconds. this was not level headed police behavior. the entire ferguson police force seemed inclined to be unapologetically brutal toward ferguson’s black citizens and the news media.

    it’s no wonder that they behave that way toward black citizens – those citizens are the ferguson police department’s gravy train.

    the black, poor citizens of ferguson are the SLAVES of the ferguson police department – paying fines. parole fees.

  15. Bay State Librul says:

    Nice job.

    Can the legal community or the ABA or someone issue a complaint or tell the America people who flawed the use of the Grand Jury was?

    Lawyers unite?

  16. P J Evans says:

    Mark Sumner at Daily Kos has done a sort of parallel version of the eyewitness testimony. Or eyewitless, in the cases of witnesses 10 (who was at least 100 yards away from everything) and 40 (who wasn’t there at all).

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