The Strange Ferguson Grand Jury

There is an old saying that prosecutors can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich and statistics bear that out. But the police slaying of a young African-American man in Missouri received startlingly different treatment with the grand jury almost invited to exonerate the officer, says Marjorie Cohn.

By Marjorie Cohn

You know the fix is in when a suspect who shot an unarmed man voluntarily provides four hours of un-cross examined testimony to a grand jury without taking the Fifth.

On Aug. 9, Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer Darren Wilson gunned down 18-year-old African-American Michael Brown. Since that fateful day, people across the country have protested against racial profiling, excessive police force, and the failure of the criminal justice system to provide accountability.

Michael Brown, the victim of a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.

Michael Brown, the victim of a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.

The nail in the coffin of “equal justice under law” came on Nov. 24, when the St. Louis County grand jury refused to indict Wilson for any criminal charges in the shooting death of Brown. In a virtually unprecedented move, St. Louis Prosecutor Robert McCulloch in effect deputized the grand jurors to sit as triers of fact as in a jury trial.

In a normal grand jury proceeding, the prosecutor presents evidence for a few days and then asks the grand jurors to return an indictment, which they nearly always do. Of 162,000 federal cases in 2010, grand juries failed to indict in only 11 of them, according the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The standard of proof for a grand jury to indict is only probable cause to believe the suspect committed a crime. It is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is required for conviction at trial. Yet McCulloch’s team presented testimony and documents to the panel for three months, evidence not subjected to adversarial testing by cross-examination.

Justice Antonin Scalia explained the function of the grand jury in United States v. Williams as follows: “[I]t is the grand jury’s function not ‘to enquire . . . upon what foundation [the charge may be] denied,’ or otherwise to try the suspect’s defenses, but only to examine ‘upon what foundation [the charge] is made’ by the prosecutor. [citations omitted] As a consequence, neither in this country nor in England has the suspect under investigation by the grand jury ever been thought to have a right to testify or to have exculpatory evidence presented.”

Every principle Scalia cited was violated in this case. The grand jury was asked to determine whether Wilson acted in self-defense. Wilson was allowed to give four hours of self-serving testimony to the grand jury. And for three months, prosecutors presented both incriminating and exculpatory evidence.

The prosecutor did not ask these grand jurors for an indictment. They were left to sift through the evidence on their own, with no prosecutorial guidance about what to charge. Indeed, the transcripts indicated that prosecutors asked Wilson gentle, leading questions designed to bolster his self-defense claim. For example, a prosecutor told Wilson, “You felt like your life was in jeopardy,” followed by, “And use of deadly force was justified at that point, in your opinion?” But prosecutors rigorously challenged witnesses who contradicted Wilson’s testimony.

As the grand jury is a secret proceeding, with only the grand jurors and the prosecutor present, the grand jurors did not hear any cross-examination of the officer’s testimony, or that of other witnesses (which is customary in an adversarial jury trial).

These grand jurors, who were nearing the end of their term, which began in May, knew the drill, since they had sat on several other cases. They knew the prosecutor always asks for indictments. Thus, when the prosecutor handled the Wilson case in a radically different manner, this signaled to the grand jurors that they were not expected to indict. And they did not.

Another unorthodox aspect of this case was McCulloch’s announcement of the grand jury’s decision on national television. Sounding like a defense attorney delivering a closing argument in a jury trial, McCulloch characterized and analyzed the witness testimony in the light most favorable to the officer.

McCulloch has a history of bias in favor of police involved in altercations with black men. But, ignoring the pleas of 7,000 residents in and near Ferguson who signed a petition, McCulloch refused to recuse himself in the Wilson case.

McCulloch had mischaracterized testimony in a 2000 case in which two black men were killed after officers fired 21 shots at them. As in the Wilson case, the reasonableness of the officers’ use of deadly force was critical. In the 2000 case, the officers said the two victims were driving toward them, trying to run them down, and McCulloch claimed that all the witnesses corroborated the officers’ story. A later federal investigation, however, determined that the car was not moving forward, and that only three of the 13 officers said the car was moving forward.

Likewise, Wilson’s claim that Brown was “charging” at him when the officer fired the fatal shots into the top of Brown’s bowed head was critical to the reasonableness of Wilson’s use of deadly force. When McCulloch announced the grand jury’s decision, he characterized the witnesses who testified that Brown was “charging” the officer as believable, but dismissed the testimony of witnesses who said Brown was surrendering. McCulloch sounded like a defense attorney, not a prosecutor charged with representing “the people,” including Brown.

Wilson fired 12 shots at Brown, six of which struck the teenager. There was a great deal of contradiction among the witnesses, including whether Brown’s hands were up or down when Wilson shot at him. That is precisely why there should have been an indictment and a jury trial. Jurors would hear all of the evidence, subjected to adversarial testing by cross-examination. They would assess the credibility of the witnesses, and determine whether Wilson had committed any crime(s) beyond a reasonable doubt.

After reviewing the transcripts and evidence in the Wilson case, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi noted: “Dorian Johnson, the key witness who was standing next to Brown during the encounter, provided strong testimony that called into question Wilson’s claim that he was defending his life against a deranged aggressor. Johnson testified that Wilson, enraged that the young men did not obey his order to get on the sidewalk, threw his patrol car into reverse.

“While Wilson claimed Brown prevented him from opening his door, Johnson testified that the officer smacked them with the door after nearly hitting the pair. Johnson described the ensuing struggle as Wilson attempting to pull Brown through the car window by his neck and shirt, and Brown pulling away. Johnson never saw Brown reach for Wilson’s gun or punch the officer. Johnson testified that he watched a wounded Brown partially raise his hands and say, ‘I don’t have a gun’ before being fatally shot.”

Adachi also wrote, “Prosecutors never asked Wilson why he did not attempt to drive away while Brown was allegedly reaching through his vehicle window or to reconcile the contradiction between his claim that Brown punched the left side of his face and the documented injuries which appear on his right side.”

If properly directed, the grand jury may well have indicted Wilson for one of several offenses, including first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon, unlawful discharge of a firearm, and battery. Wilson testified that he was acting in self-defense when he shot Brown. If he were indicted, the jury would assess whether Wilson acted reasonably when he used deadly force against the teenager.

A police officer in Missouri can use deadly force in making an arrest or preventing escape if he reasonably believes it is necessary to effect the arrest and also reasonably believes the person to be arrested has committed or attempted to commit a felony, or may otherwise endanger life or inflict serious physical injury unless arrested without delay. The key word is “reasonably.”

The jury would be told to consider whether a deadly weapon was used, how far apart Wilson was from Brown when the former used deadly force, any disparities in the sizes of the two, the crime involved, etc. The evidence was contradictory about the distance between the two during the confrontation, both Wilson and Brown were the same height but Brown was heavier, and the officer contradicted himself about whether he knew that Brown was suspected of committing petty theft for stealing cigarillos (a misdemeanor, not a felony) before the officer stopped him.

In Tennessee v. Garner, the Supreme Court held that an officer cannot arrest an unarmed felony suspect by shooting him dead. If the suspect threatens the officer with a weapon, or there is probable cause to believe he has committed a crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm, deadly force may be used if necessary to prevent escape. Although there is a dispute about whether Wilson knew that Brown was suspected of stealing cigarillos before stopping him, Brown had likely committed petty theft – a non-violent misdemeanor, not a felony.

Wilson’s testimony raises several questions, listed in a piece by Ezra Klein on Vox: “Why did Michael Brown, an 18-year-old kid headed to college, refuse to move from the middle of the street to the sidewalk? Why would he curse out a police officer? Why would he attack a police officer? Why would he dare a police officer to shoot him? Why would he charge a police officer holding a gun? Why would he put his hand in his waistband while charging, even though he was unarmed?”

In my opinion, McCulloch should have filed charges against Wilson, who would then have had the right to a public preliminary hearing. He could present evidence and cross-examine the witnesses against him. And if it were televised, the viewing public could see that justice is done.

According to Adachi, “Wilson’s description of Brown as a ‘demon’ with superhuman strength and unremitting rage, and his description of the neighborhood as ‘hostile,’ illustrate implicit racial bias that taints use-of-force decisions. These biases surely contribute to the fact that African Americans are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than whites in the US, but the statement’s racial implications remain unexamined.”

Because of the great social implications of cases involving police shootings of people of color, the presumption in these cases should be that prosecutors utilize the public preliminary hearing process instead of the secret grand jury proceeding.

In a unified statement, several civil and human rights organizations recommended an independent and comprehensive federal investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ). They said the DOJ should also investigate all police killings and reports of the use of excessive force and racial profiling against youth and people of color. And they would require Body-Worn Cameras to record every police-civilian encounter, and increased community oversight of local law enforcement.

Thousands of people in cities throughout the country are protesting the travesty of justice that occurred in Ferguson. But, as the civil and human rights organizations wrote in their statement, “Nothing will be resolved until there is a systemic change throughout this nation in the implicit and explicit bias against people of color and particularly African-American youth who are routinely targeted by law enforcement even within their own communities.”

Marjorie Cohn, a criminal defense attorney, is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, where she teaches criminal law, criminal procedure, and evidence. She is co-author (with David Dow) of Cameras in the Courtroom: Television and the Pursuit of Justice. [Copyright, Truthout. Reprinted with permission.]

37 comments for “The Strange Ferguson Grand Jury

  1. Doug Hacker
    December 12, 2014 at 00:31

    I just want to say that all of you have been very solicitous of this Anonymous person but really it bogs the discussion down to pay too much attention to him.

  2. Abe
    December 2, 2014 at 14:00

    Following an uproar on social media, a viciously racist blog post was removed from The Times of Israel. Titled “Nine Parallels between Palestine and Ferguson,” the post attacked African American protestors in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson and Palestinians as violent, “savage,” irrationally “angry” and deserving of the institutionalized state violence wielded against them.

    In the now-deleted post, the writer, Robert Wilkes, a member of the advisory board and media response team at StandWithUs, embraces the increasingly popular comparison between Ferguson and Palestine. But Wilkes does so by proudly likening anti-Palestinian Jewish Israelis to American police, the real victims according to him.

    The post was removed despite its author being defended as an “amazing guy” by a staffer at StandWithUs, a right-wing group that works closely with the Israeli government.

    This is at least the second time in recent months that an offensive article has been deleted from The Times of Israel after coming under fire on social media. A similar scenario played out during Israel’s summertime assault on the besieged Gaza Strip, after The Times of Israel published an item titled ”When Genocide is Permissible.”

    White supremacy and Zionism converge in deleted Times of Israel post on Ferguson
    By Rania Khalek

    • Anonymous
      December 4, 2014 at 19:03

      You’re really just a bunch of children, replacing hard realities and objectivity with prejudice that serves you, soothes you, and helps you make sense of a world you don’t like, instead of assuming any responsibility. Look to the extreme violence blacks perpetrate on blacks…the sky high black on black murder rate…compare it to the white on black. There is your answer. Why did blacks loot and burn black businesses? These are the people you need to take to task…along with yourselves, or else you’ll be wallowing in misdirected anger, violence and helplessness ten years from now, if you’re alive.
      Reply and rant all you want…I’m out of here.

      • khawk
        December 10, 2014 at 14:12

        “You’re really just a bunch of children, replacing hard realities and objectivity with prejudice that serves you, soothes you, and helps you make sense of a world you don’t like, instead of assuming any responsibility.”

        This is a classic example of Projection.

        projection pro·jec·tion (prÉ™-jÄ›k’shÉ™n)
        2. The attribution of one’s own attitudes, feelings, or suppositions to others.

  3. Anonymous
    December 2, 2014 at 06:19

    And when you all go out tonight, you’ll look out in fear of being mugged, robbed, beaten down or worse by exactly the same type of guy who got his head blown off by punching a cop. Pathetic.

    • F. G. Sanford
      December 2, 2014 at 07:22

      Hey, Anonymous – don’t hold back – tell us what you REALLY think!

    • Joe Tedesky
      December 2, 2014 at 09:41

      Anonymous, I do know what I am talking about. I have been handcuffed, beaten, and I have also worn a badge. BTW I am not tall, and have never been heavy. With that said, I hated fighting guys my sise, I like them bigger. I took them out at the knees, and as they say…the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Once a cop gave me nine stitches, and the next day him and I were buying each other drinks.

      Let’s face it Wilson could have stepped on the gas, and made a tactical retreat calling for back up…but instead, he lost it. Wilson fired off 12 bullets. Wilson found his target with 6 of those bullets. If ‘the fix wasn’t in, then tell me what defense attorney would allow his client to take the stand…just makes no sense, unless ‘the fix was in’.

      Anyway, Anonymous it was nice of you to stop by, and tell everyone off. Here is something you should read about the prosecutor.

  4. bobzz
    December 1, 2014 at 15:15

    Twelve grand jurors, ten of which were white. This was supposedly representative of the racial mix. News reports pointed out that Ferguson is predominately black, so I wonder how the grand jury turned out to be 80+% white. Just looking for an explanation.

    • KHawk
      December 1, 2014 at 18:55

      Grand Juries are not typically assembled for each case and are not seqestered. They are gereally asked to serve for a period of time during which they will review numerous cases. The Grand Jury for the Wilson/Brown case was assembled back in May, I believe, and this was just the latest case they reviewed.

      • bobzz
        December 1, 2014 at 22:47

        Yes, thanks, I understand that. What I don’t understand is the news outlets claiming the jury pool reflected the racial balance of the community where blacks outnumber whites by a considerable margin.

  5. Joe Tedesky
    November 30, 2014 at 21:27

    I believe when George Zimmerman confronted Trayvon Martin, he had his gun drawn and at the ready. I also believe when officer Wilson responded to whatever went down between him and Michael Brown, that Wilson unloaded his revolver into Brown in a fit of rage. This is the way I see both of these fateful events.

    Prosecutor Robert McCulloch according to CNN lost his police officer father to a black man’s violence. If this is true, then McCulloch should have (in my opinion) recused himself of this case. No matter how well McCulloch could have evolved from the lost of his father, this just puts a cloud over his impartial resume.

    I have learned over the years (the hard way) that authority will always side with authority. Put your hands up, and say as little as possible. Do not, I repeat, do not allow your anger to show. When the officer says, ‘you have the right to remain silent’, always take that silent option. Believe me, anything you say will be held, and used against you in your court hearing. So, shut your mouth, and keep it shut, until you talk to your lawyer.

    • Anonymous
      December 2, 2014 at 06:16

      You see…You saw nothing. You’re speaking your heart, your wishes, your beliefs. You were not there. You’re prejudiced, entirely. And you will always pay for such head in the sand intransigence. Just look at this case, not that other one. This is a cop confronting a suspected felon who resisted. And no cop wants to get into anything as messy and horrific as a charge of wrongful death. You pretend there aren’t consequences, just as you pretend (God knows hoe) that black criminality isn’t sky high, or that it in fact rains down on blacks like hellfire everyday…you don’t even care. This is just another chance for you to spout nonsense and feel good for a moment in your mess.
      Hers’a a fresh idea: assign responsibility where it belongs, and come up to the level of reality.

  6. AP
    November 30, 2014 at 20:56

    you would think with all the advanced forensics/ballistics/blood splatter it would be extremely easy to ensure the veracity of the claim. was it ever presented and cross-checked with the defender testimony? cmon everyone watched Dexter :)

    • AP
      November 30, 2014 at 20:58

      sorry, the smiley face was out of place there.

  7. November 30, 2014 at 19:23

    The photo of Brown accompanying the article misleads the reader into thinking Brown was a child of normal size. In fact he was a large adult.

    • F. G. Sanford
      November 30, 2014 at 20:11

      And, your point is?

      • Anonymous
        December 2, 2014 at 06:10

        FG, you just can’t face anything, can you? You really need an explanation of the difference between absorbing punches from a young adult of 6’4″ height and perhaps 240 lbs, and a skiny little kid?
        Please go to a boxing club, and jump in the ring with a big strapping 20 year old hevyweight. Your brain will never recover. But you don’t care about truth, and you’d never put your question to such a test. You just want the world to be molded to your wishes and fantasies. You’re a prime example of why humanity evolves at a snail’s pace.

    • Joe Tedesky
      November 30, 2014 at 21:34

      That’s the same racist comments the Breitbart crowd made against some of the Trayvon photos…you people need a new script writer!

    • KHawk
      December 1, 2014 at 18:58

      How old is he in that picture, nospam?

  8. F. G. Sanford
    November 30, 2014 at 17:51

    Gerry Spence must be getting pretty old; if he’s still alive, I’d be curious to have his ‘take’ on all of this. It occurs to me that the Dunning-Kruger effect is at play here – the innate lack of ability to conceptualize the solution precludes any possibility that it will be recognized, even when suggested or demonstrated. This has been used to explain why successful people who are promoted to positions for which they are incompetent are the most vehemently opposed to the notion that they are in fact incompetent. A Dunning-Kruger approach looks at the mythos/logos difference between the conservative/liberal cognitive processes and notes that a conservative, whether right or wrong, tends to make a more forceful, effective argument based on the conviction inspired by his ‘mythos’. The liberal relies on ‘logos’. As a result, a rational argument based on the evidence is put forward to explain an outcome consistent with the facts. But lacking the impetus of conviction inherent in ‘mythos’ (I hesitate to say courage instead of conviction, but that word is begging to be said.), the liberal fails to make an effective emotional argument.

    Relying on ‘mythos’, the conservative mindset embraces the Warren Commission Report, a monument to making the facts fit the emotionally inspired loyalty to the politically acceptable dogma in an environment mixed with grief, shock, fear and uncertainty. Meanwhile, ‘logos’ confronts the impossibility of the outcome based on the facts but fails in its confrontation with patriotism, the reputations of ‘honorable men’, and the tediousness required to wade through mountains (26 volumes) of self-contradictory evidence. Brilliant legal and historical scholars have systematically torn that report to shreds. But they cower at the simplistic, emotionally charged rebuttals which effectively castrate them without ever confronting the facts. Their courage simply melts.

    In this case, Michael Brown got the same ‘justice’ as Lee Harvey Oswald. A mountain of emotionalized testimony studded with triggering adjectives was presented as ‘evidence’ to a jury of frightened, confused white people. That poor, maligned, frightened policeman really had no choice but to defend himself against the enraged, demonic and irrational Black monster, who by the way, had just committed a crime. Note the cognitive gymnastics employed to pursue the idea that even that ‘misdemeanor’ coupled with Brown’s behavior might have actually constituted a ‘felony’. So Oswald, like Brown, is vilified and convicted by unrelated events. Oswald was a ‘communist’, and Brown was a thief. Convicting the victim, who is already dead, provides closure to the ‘mythos’ of “justice served”.

    Gerry Spence, like me, saw “the other side of the tracks” as a young man. By the way, my birth certificate says I’m caucasian, so I have no racial motivation to malign Darren Williams. My ‘take’ on all this is much simpler than the “group think” version of applied Dunning-Kruger ‘logos’. Because I’ve heard lots of white people say, “They need to declare ‘open season’ on…” well, I’m sure most of you can finish the sentence without my help.

    • Anonymous
      December 2, 2014 at 06:04

      FG Sanford:
      That sure was one long exposition. And totally lacking in substance. Even further removed from the very harsh realities of being a cop getting pummeled by a miscreant. While you’re playing with Sophomore (and sophomoric) philosophy, a cop got into a nightmare situation where he was compelled to use deadly force against a sociopath with nothing to loose, and a head full of mean, brutal hate. He got his head blown off, the cop lost his career, and this will follow him the rest of his life. Your long-winded nonsense sounded like a B- paper at community college. God only knows what relevance it could possibly have in this tragedy perpetrated by the corpse without the top of his skull. Why don’t print that silly drivel out on your Brother printer and smack a cop in the face with it. Get ready for a nightstick in the solar plexus. That’s what people get when they come after the badge with force. Go ahead, try it.

      • Anonymous
        December 2, 2014 at 10:33

        Sounds like a typical cop response. But here’s the thing. Your version ASSUMES that the cop’s version is the true version. And that is the altar our justice system places cops on. You are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, but a cop’s testimony has been elevated above that of the citizenry. A cop’s life has been elevated above a citizen’s life. But a cop is just a person, too. Why would a cop lie? Because he has to justify his actions–that’s why? It’s easy to say, “Why would a cop go after him for no reason?” Same is true in reverse. More so. This cop’s authority was questioned. He got angry. He caused a situation by being confrontational–a situation that he failed to diffuse. He failed to wait for back up. This 18-year-old was dead within minutes. But we shouldn’t worry about it bc he’s just another “thug.” And what everyone conveniently has forgotten here: The chief of police stated, on national television that Darren Wilson was unaware of the theft at the market and it in no way was the cause for the stop. It was used, after the fact, to justify the excessive use of force employed by this officer. Where was the store owner during the grand jury testimony?

      • Zachary Smith
        December 3, 2014 at 00:45

        Your version ASSUMES that the cop’s version is the true version.

        How could it be otherwise? Scary big black guy vs heroic and virtuous policeman. It’s obviously a slam dunk.

  9. WG
    November 30, 2014 at 16:20

    I’d be interested in hearing what the hypothetical charges would have been for Brown and Johnson if they had been charged with the incident at the store.

    I’ve recall reading several conflicting accounts of what actually happened at the store. That the caller was a customer, that the store never reported anything being stolen, that the store owners will not publicly talk about what did or did not happen. Also isn’t Dorian Johnsons account of what happened at the store unreliable? In order to avoid Felony charges relating to a Robbery and then the death of Michael Brown in the commission of a felony, wouldn’t he basically agree to any narrative he was asked?

    The author mentions that Brown had “likely committed petty theft.” (Misdemeanor) After watching the surveillance video from the convenience store I’m curious whether the violent shove and the aggressive step forward, suggestive of menacing/intimidation doesn’t make this something like Robbery (2nd degree felony)? The shove/intimidation seem to elevate this beyond simple theft.

    I personally don’t think Wilson was aware of any of this at the time of the encounter but I’ve always found it strange Johnson wasn’t charged and the blame shifted over to him. This would only make sense if there wasn’t actually a robbery.

    All in all good article, the fix was definitely in at the grand jury.

    • Anonymous
      December 2, 2014 at 05:51

      Well, WG, let’s see: Can one imagine a reason why store owners would now want to steer 180 degrees from any involvement in this case, where businesses are being burned down? Gee, got a clue? Second, the officer’s testimony was he WAS aware of the robbery, that the assailant fit the description, and was carrying the stolen merchandise. Yet you think otherwise (why would you…were you present in any of this? Is there something you know that the grand jusry did not? Oh yeah, the “fix was in.” ) Can you not accept the very high probability that the deceased committed theft, shoved the clerk, in fact had a serious juvenile record, lived a life of crime? Forget all that as you’re likely to dismiss it; do you REALLY think a cop is likely to just stir up unnecessary trouble and shoot someone over a tribial matter? What planet are you from? Cops face an intense hailstorm of trouble for using deadly force. If there are questionable circumstances, and God forbid, a dead body, well, obviously you have no idea what’s in store for that cop, including loosing his job, all his retirement, criminal indictment and prison, for everything up to MURDER. The LAST thing any roughly sane cop wants, is to get in a needless altercation and then shoot someone. It does not go away, EVER. It’s a career -ender in many cases. This kid was a thug. He resisted arrest, and pumelled a police officer. Did you see the ER photo? Did you read the attending ER physician’s report? Or is that all ascribed to conspiracy for you? Look, fact is, and it’s blatantly, screamingly obvious: Black VIOLENT criminality is sky high. I’m not saying that from the safe sidelines, I’ve been a victim of it, I’ve seen it up close in many cities, and, a remarkable element of this is, when blacks attack whites (I’ve experienced it first hand), they often call out with glee and anger, that they’re going to give the white guy hell, kill him, etc., for being white. Pure race crime, if it went the other way, but IGNORED in the present, twisted social landscape. If you HIT A COP , you have pretty much sealed your fate, no matter who you are…unless you’re a very feeble drunken idiot who’s falling down and puking. If you’re a crazed, strapping huge young man, and you punch the hell out of a cop, it’s no wonder if your head gets blown off. And you were somehow thinking it would / could/ should be some other way? A thug takes on the badge, the law, and the society in THAT way, and you cling to the self- serving wish that this is somehow someone else’s fault? You are immune to reality, and you’ll always suffer the effects of your delusion or willful blindness. Accept responsibility and the harsh reality of sky- high black criminality. Look at the records from unbiased sources…they’re everywhere. Or spend a few nights in a place like Detroit…get chased for your life. Have a mob after you to kick your head to pulp, just because they’re bored, and hate you because you’re white…or Mexican…or Asian. Man, you’re either a denier, or you’re just lost.
      By the way, I’m part African. I KNOW racism affects some cops- and judges actions…I KNOW if an African American who’s got a chip on his shoulder, no dad, a record, and is not of particularly high intelligence, he could end up on a railroad to prison. It’s no joke. White people get railroaded all the time, too. Blacks are NOT the sole victims of miscarriages of justice. But you must accept the glaring realities that only blacks can ultimately solve their own problems regarding such high rates of violence. The worst of them are going to end up dead at the hands of cops and more likely, other blacks of the same ilk. This is most likely just another example of the same thing that plays out every day: black thug goes feral, predates, and is taken down. What were you expecting?

      • legendary bigfoot
        December 3, 2014 at 21:21

        Since your entire essay is based on evidence never examined in a court of law your presumptive bias is clearly exposed. You have simply decided that the narrative that matches your prejudice is correct and so long as the black person is dead in the street justice must have been done. Authoritarian follower behavior.

      • Zachary Smith
        December 3, 2014 at 21:29

        You see…You saw nothing. You’re speaking your heart, your wishes, your beliefs. You were not there. You’re prejudiced, entirely.


        This is just another chance for you to spout nonsense and feel good for a moment in your mess.

        First you state the obvious – that the other poster wasn’t at Ferguson when a white policeman shot a black man. That his post expressed his ‘beliefs’ was obvious in that he said that was the case in second word of his first sentence. Then you go on to double down and start claiming he ‘spouted nonsense’. And began framing your own opinions as if they had come down from Mt. Sinai carved on stone.

        This thread by Ms. Cohn is about ‘strange’ behavior by a prosecutor. His devious efforts served to prevent a public trial of a major case in dispute. By putting his fist on the legal scale, that prosecutor was able to prevent Wilson from facing cross examination for any of his curiously strange statements.

        If you read this, I’d certainly invite your opinion about the latest grand jury failure to indict. A black man named Eric Garner was executed ON CAMERA by a white cop.

        Any thoughts about that one? As in, should there have been a trial to sort matters out?

        Or are you one of those types who support the proposition that when any suspicious black man is killed by any white policeman there ought not be a trial?

      • Zachary Smith
        December 3, 2014 at 21:32

        Since this was a long and complicated thread, I managed to post at the wrong place. My response was meant to be to

        “Anonymous on December 2, 2014 at 6:16 am”

  10. Bill Bodden
    November 30, 2014 at 14:27

    What should be alarming about this practice of killing others (mostly people of color) because of an alleged fear is how the public at large has been acquiescent, especially in the case of unarmed victims where there is no justification for killing. Even if we give the benefit of doubt and accept a risk of injury to the shooter, are the alleged attacker’s head and torso the only places that can be shot? Shooting the alleged attacker in the leg would eliminate the feared threat in all but exceptional cases. Of course, given that targets on police gun ranges don’t have legs it is not surprising cops go for the torso or head.

    • Anonymous
      December 2, 2014 at 05:20

      You are not thinking or commenting from a place of reality. When a person strikes a police officer, the officer must use overwhelming force. The officer was clearly struck, as confirmed by the physician who treated him, and it’s OBVIOUS in the photo of his face. Police will certainly club someone in the head (deadly force) or shoot them, if that’s the viable option, and you just don’t get or accept that if you assault a police officer, you’re demanding a brutally violent response. And if the officer was pinned in his car, and being beaten, a gun to the head is about the only thing he could do. The dead man’s friend said the assailant had yelled an insult at the cop when the cop tried to stop him. He had robbed a convenience store earlier that day. There are now reports that the assailant had a serious juvenile record including being charged with 2nd degree murder. This may or may not turn out to be true, of course, but if it is? You don’t get, or won’t accept that police (though no doubt some are power-drunk, some are racist, and some are not ultra-skilled, have to deal with brutal thugs, drunks, meth-heads, and all manner of very dangerous people. It is NOT their job to be targets. When one fights a police officer, he/ she is simply asking for the most intense response. This young man appears by the weight of evidence to have been a true thug. Blacks in this country have an astronomically higher rate of criminality-especially violent criminality (rape, assault, armed robbery and murder) than whites. Most police officers are white, as perhaps 70% of the nation’s people are-surprise-white. Those two obvious statistics mean that when violent blacks encounter cops, and get beaten or shot down, it will most likely be a white on black action. But all this pales massively to the literal war blacks have on blacks…as the massive tidal wave of black crime, crashes on BLACK victims. Yet VERY few “Activists, be they all the “reverends,” the Farrakhans, the President, or liberal whites, mention this stark reality. No one seems to care…except in black neighborhoods, where peaceful people are sick of being menaced all their lives. Guess it just isn’t a story for our times. Blacks kill thousands of blacks every year= no big deal. A handful of white police officers kill blacks in cases where deadly force or circumstances merit or even unfairly draw the media and “civil rights” circus to come to town, and black thugs riot, loot, burn, run totally amuck, and the country convulses in a wave of senseless retaliatory black on white murders, while the Jesse Jacksons and other charlatans shift gears into blaming it all on white racism. Get a clue. Blacks are almost 100% responsible for their own fate, to put up with such criminality and not openly face it. Charles Barkley has it exactly right when he assails the bad, backward, violent, childish, moronic element of African American society, and lays the blame for present day dysfunction at their feet. You have to take stock of police vs. assailant encounters in the same way. In any sane world, he who charges a cop, beats on a cop, violently resists arrest, etc., is just going to bring the wrath down upon himself. In a perfect world, Cops would all be ninja demigods. In this real one, sometimes they have to pull out their service weapon and put holes in the assailant, and sometimes they blow their head off. If the assailant was guilty of attacking a cop, NOBODY should bend reality and decry the poor crook’s fate. Remember what that thug would do to YOU, and you don’t even have a badge!

      • legendary bigfoot
        December 3, 2014 at 21:17

        Since your entire essay is based on evidence never examined in a court of law your presumptive bias is clearly exposed. You have simply decided that the narrative that matches your prejudice is correct and so long as the black person is dead in the street justice must have been done. Authoritarian follower behavior.

        • Anonymous
          December 4, 2014 at 18:57

          Wow, it’s like you’re just having a conversation with yourself in your head. Your conclusion that if a black person is dead in the street, then I must think justice is served is absurd. I made no such inference. I have never seen such a bunch of blinkered people. Are you thinking at all, or just emoting. Yes, the world gets that you see white racism all over, and that this kid was innocent, and the cop was a bad white man. But what evidence (regarding this case) are you privy to? You are acting on YOUR prejudice, which runs counter to massive, unbiased evidence regarding the sad state of African -American criminality, at the very least. I merely state that what the cop was accused of doing (murdering a person for no reason) is a far, far leap of logic, given the immensely harsh consequences of a cop being accused of such an act. Even shooting someone can be a career-altering or ending event. There are undoubtedly power- drunk police officers, black and white, Latino, etc. I have seen them. The point is, there are very few runing around with the notion of killing black men for sport. You seem to think this is just something they could do without radical consequences. And you can in fact see the intensely destructive consequences of this incident…mass looting and violence, reprisal murder (black on white), the officer has resigned, and the event will haunt him the rest of his life, regardless of what his intentions were. Elements of the black community have simply gone berserk, with widespread violence and theft, property destruction, as with many, many previous cases where a white officer shot or killed a black suspect, or in a case where a black person was convicted. Seriously, you seem blind to that glaring, predictable reality. Even though, as objective, unbiased crime stats provided by the government show that the massive amount of assaults and murders perpetrated on blacks are about 85-90% perpetrated by black assailants. White people are not engaged in some race war against blacks. Blacks are killing one another all over, at the drop of a hat. But do YOU CARE? where is your outrage over this travesty? Nowhere. Just like Al Sharpton, you pick up on the easy target, though it’s probably wrong target. It makes you feel good, because you get to point the finger at someone other than of your skin color, or of your sociopolitical mindset, if you’re white, and say “THERE, there is our enemy! What’s to be done if you and so many like you, act this way? Nothing. You’re going to have to think in a responsible manner, and police yourself. You will have to do it, because the cops can’t save you from yourself, though they try, at great peril. They go to crime scenes over and over, where black men have murdered other black men (and children, and women, and babies, where guts and bone and brains are on the sidewalk, and splattered in cars, and ther’s nothing they can do. They have to apprehend criminals and unfortunately run into criminals on routine traffic stope, or are obliged by their every day duty to apprehend people like the deceased man in this case. and very often, in many cities, these cops, black, white, Latino, Asian, etc., will be subject to violence and the real threat of death. You gloss over this entirely. You don’t understand or accept that, flawed as many cops are (as the average person is an idiot, it serves that plenty of cops are, too), these cops still have a rotten job. Like someone really wants to get into pulling a weapon because a suspect pummelled them? You must think. Use logic. Don’t substitute your feelings for rational thought and empiricism. You’ll think this is just too cookie-cutter, but if you listened to Charles Barkley, you’d get closer to a responsible, workable reality. This isn’t your crib, this isn’t play land. The black community still has a lot of people who refuse to enter on reality and face up: tough and even unfair as things are (life is hard, often terribly so), THEY and only they can solve their problems regarding violence, and until they do, they will continue to suffer terribly, almost entirely at their own hands…yet you revel in blaming a white cop for an incident you have no connection to, never wittnessed, and can get no firsthand knowledge about. You live your fantasy. It’s going to cost you dearly.

  11. Blossom
    November 30, 2014 at 12:53

    “These biases surely contribute to the fact that African Americans are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than whites in the US”
    3 very close friends of mine are cops. They tell me that black suspects are 100 times more likely to fight with them than whites. So, yeah, they’re gonna get shot more.

    As for the “fixed” grand jury…the evidence was all over the place. There’s no way a trial jury would ever come to a conviction. Way too much reasonable doubt. So why take it to trial? It would be the Travon Martin trial/farce all over again.

    • Edward
      December 1, 2014 at 18:17

      Did your friends also tell you that they confront blacks 100 times more than whites?

    • Jay Reardon
      December 2, 2014 at 02:37

      3 friends? Well, then, that issue is settled, we used some numbers. The stupid burns.

    • legendary bigfoot
      December 3, 2014 at 21:13

      That might mean that three of your best friends are part of the problem.

Comments are closed.