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by Peter Moskos

November 27, 2014

Who do you believe?

Let me start by saying we'll never know for certain what happened when Officer Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown.

[Update: but we not do have a much better idea based on a DOJ report.]

No. Seriously. Think about it. You don't know what happened. I don't know what happened. So whatever you think, whatever I think... the only thing I can guarantee is that it's probably not true.

And this is the problem I have with these situations. Nobody knows what happened, but everybody fills in their ideological world view. "Racist cop shot a black kid down for no reason" vs. "cop attacked by vicious criminal defends himself."

Now there are other issues, very real and serious issues related to injustice in America in general. I'm talking about 2.3 million prisoners. And in suburban St. Louis in particular I'm talking about towns that seem to exist largely for the feudal financial purpose of exploiting the residents who live there. I'm talking about towns -- majority black, mostly -- that bring in 30, 50, 70 percent of their budged on municipal and police issued fines. This is wrong. But those issues don't actually directly concern the reality of what happened with Police Officer Darren Wilson killed Michael "Big Mike" Brown.

[But boy would it be nice if we could seriously address and rectify the problems in America without some violent spark? But we as a country don't seem capable of that.]

Back to the shooting. Now that we've admitted that we don't know exactly what happened and we never will, let's stop being so righteous, smug, or disparaging of those who don't have your same world-view.

So now let's get to what we do know.

When the shooting first happened, I was presented a liberal narrative by a TV producer who stated that an "another innocent black kid, college bound, was walking down the street when he was stopped by police and shot while he was surrendering while his hands were in the air."
I responded, "I don't believe that, but go on."

Today we know that narrative I was first presented with wasn't true. Some say that doesn't matter. I think it does. If you want a martyred victim, pick a better martyr (and I hate to say it, but there are plenty: Ayers and Diallo jump to mind.)

Dorian Johnson wasn't the only witness, but he was there. And since Michael Brown is dead, he's the only one with a front row seat other than the cop who killed Brown. So Johnson is a pretty good source to have. But Dorian's version of what happened has changed. I think that matters. If you don't tell the truth the first time, I'm much less willing to believe you the second time.

When I was a cop and would ask somebody's name and date of birth after I pulled them over for some traffic violation, often they would have no ID. Maybe, just maybe, they actually did just forget their valid license. Maybe. Once in a blue moon it happened. I wouldn't have a problem with that. So I would call in their name and date of birth. And wait. And then nothing would come back. They were not in Maryland's DMV system. So then they would try again and tell me a second name and/or date of birth. Like I was supposed to believe them the second time? Moskos don't play that game.

Anyway, they would get locked up for a violation and failure to have ID. But they were really locked up because they committed a traffic violation, and I couldn't write them a ticket because I had no idea who they were. And they lied to me about that. CBIF (jail) could sort out their ID. Not my problem. I had other calls to answer.

Anyway, when Brown was killed many people bought the only narrative then at first presented: college-bound angel shot by racist cop for no reason. Many still do. And it might be true... but it probably isn't. There actually is evidence that shows this narrative isn't true. And then of course the narrative changes to match the new evidence. But, like I said, Moskos don't play that game.

So we have two narratives. And for the record I have not yet read all the testimony, but I have read all the testimony of Officer Darren Wilson and Dorian Johnson. Have you?

So here is what they agree on.

[Before I get into all of this let me say that we also know that the Ferguson Police Department handled this and pretty much everything after this just about as horribly as as police department could. Why didn't they say anything? Why didn't they make any attempt to control the narrative? Even if they don't have a PR person, don't they at least have friggin' lawyer?! Why couldn't they get a crime lab there faster? Why didn't they handle the valid feelings of outrage more responsibly? Why didn't they do anything right?! But that is all for another post.]

1) Johnson and Michael Brown go to a corner store and Brown steals a bunch of 79-cent Cigarillos. These are "blunts" used to smoke marijuana in. This is an unarmed robbery. A yoking, as they say in Baltimore. Now Brown is dead so we don't actually know this, but Johnson claims he wasn't expecting this. Maybe he wasn't. But he doesn't seem to think it's a huge deal. He stays with Brown as they walk away.

2) Walking in the middle of the street, they get stopped by Officer Wilson. By all accounts he curses at the two of them. (Though Johnson says Wilson starts with saying "fuck" and Wilson says he doesn't till "fuck" till a bit later. Whatever. I've seen a lot of cops yell at people in the ghetto walking in the street, and it often involves the police cursing.)

Officer Wilson tells them to get on the sidewalk. They don't. For some weird reason they ignore the police officer's request to not walk in the middle of the street.

3) Wilson backs up his police vehicle to block/confront them. This quickly escalates into a struggle between Wilson and Brown. But the nature of this struggle is in dispute. Johnson says Brown is trying to get away and being held by Wilson. Wilson says Brown is attacking him in his police car.

4) Brown, for some reason, is still holding the stolen Cigarillos in his hand and passes them to Johnson.

5) Brown gets shot at by Wilson while Brown is still at the car.

6) Brown and Johnson run away, Wilson pursues. Brown gets shot at again.

7) Brown is shot many times and dies. His body lays in the street far too long.

Those facts are not in dispute. Much of the rest is. Johnson says Wilson treated them disrespectfully by almost backing into them with Wilson's marked police vehicle after Johnson and Brown disobeyed Wilson's order to get on the sidewalk. (Though like Rashomon, much of their seemingly contradictory views can actually be mutually possible... but now I'm getting too deep).

So now it comes down to who you believe. Yes, I tend to believe police officers because I worked with police officers who told the truth ("within the bounds of reason," as H.L. Mencken said). This is hard for many people to believe. It's like people project their own shadiness on police. Lying gets you fired (if you get caught). But the average cop is more honest than the average student or professor.

So I basically believe Officer Wilson because based on my experience, my training, and my having been a police officer, what he says basically rings true. Now you may think he's a lying bastard -- and you may be right -- but, well, I doubt it.

I'm going to tell you why you should believe Officer Wilson over Dorian Johnson. And yes, this involves relativism, character judgment, moral subjectivity, and all that. But seriously, we're talking about trust and honesty.

Here's what we know about Dorian Johnson, based on his own testimony.

Dorian grew up around violence and has been shot. I don't know why. That's neither here nor there. I'm just putting it out there because that's a major life event.

Now he's got a serious girlfriend and a kid and shares a two bedroom apartment. He wakes up around 7 - 7:30am (much earlier than I do, I should add).

This is his typical morning:
I start my morning, I wake up, I take a shower, and ask my girl does she like breakfast, what would she like for breakfast. I head out to go get it. Upon getting breakfast I get me some Cigarillos. I smoke marijuana in my morning when I start my day off, so I was going headed to the store.

Dorian, to put it mildly, is "not real pressed on time." "Because like I said, I was still on the verge of looking for new work."

So he's like a Shaggy who can't cook. I'm not judging. I have no problem with that lifestyle. Seriously. Honestly I'm kind of jealous. To each his own.

So he goes out in his pajama shorts to buy his girl breakfast and meets up with Big Mike. They decide to "match" ("it is just smoking together basically"). OK.

They got to a store and Big Mike, to Dorian's surprise, robs the store. By now it's close to noon and, can I just mention it's five hours later and while he says he's still not stoned he still hasn't gotten his girlfriend's breakfast!

Here's an interesting exchange with the grand jury:
Q: Again, I’m not judging you, but somebody just stole something?
A: Right.
Q: On the video that we watched, he grabbed ahold of the man?
A: Right.
Q: He said something to him and he lunged at him, OK, you are walking down the street?
A: Yes, Ma’am.
Q: The police tell you to "get the fuck on the sidewalk"?
A: Correct.
Q: And you say "I’m almost home." You are thinking to yourself we are not doing anything wrong, didn’t you? Somebody did just do something wrong, so that still begs the question why you did not listen to the police?
Dorian doesn't really answer that one, but goes on to say they weren't stressed because he didn't think they were being stopped for the robbery. See in the criminal's mind, you're only dirty while committing the criminal act. In the cop's mind, the criminal is always dirty.

So on one hand we have a police officer with a good record and a believable story. He also has evidence of being attacked that fully supports his version of the story .

On the other hand we have a stoned if charming unemployed slacker who willingly hangs out with a guy who just robbed a store and then ignore a reasonably lawful order from a police officer. Also, he told his girl he's getting breakfast but failed at this rather simple goal. Also, he seems to see nothing particularly odd with his life style choices.

Look there is a chance that Johnson's version of events is true. But really? Odds are slim. There is contradictory evidence. There is strong evidence that Michael Brown did punch Officer Wilson. There is strong evidence that Michael Brown was partially in the police car when Wilson shot him. There is strong evidence that Brown's hands were not hands-up in surrender when he was shot. Now you can believe what you want. But the factual evidence we have really is, as they say, "consistent with" Wilson's testimony.

So no, I don't believe Johnson's version that Officer Wilson -- unthreatened except for his ego -- fought to hold Brown close to himself, and then shot Brown for no reason, and then chased Brown down and killed him.

Why would you think that is true unless your world view that says society is unjust and all cops are cold-blooded racists?

I think it's much more likely that, as Wilson testified, Wilson realized he was dealing with a guy who just robbed a store, Wilson was attacked by said robber, Wilson fought for his life, and Wilson won. It's happened before.

So what I'm saying is I don't know what happened, but it is totally possible that Officer Wilson is a good police officer who, while doing his job, was threatened by a man who did indeed attack him, and reacted accordingly. Why is it so inconceivable that a criminal who just committed a crime would attack a police officer? Is that less likely that a cop killing a black man for no reason? If so, the world really has gone mad.

Who do you believe?

I remember late one night I pulled over a respectable middle-aged black woman over because her head lights were not on. She called me racist and then called 911 saying she was being harassed and threatened by a cop: me. She was convinced her head lights were on (her parking lights were on). But they weren't. Had they been, I wouldn't have pulled her over. I wasn't even planning on giving her a ticket (but I had to once she complained, which is a whole other story). Anyway, the call comes out for a cop harassing a driver on Broadway. My sergeant comes over to figure things out. He deals with the situation.

So it goes to traffic court. I'm there. She's there. And she's looking as middle-class church-going 50-year-old hat-wearing respectable as any woman can. I give the boilerplate summary of a traffic stop. She calmly tells a story about how her lights were on and she knew it and she has no idea why she was pulled over by a racist cop. The judge wakes up, because this isn't normal for traffic court. He asks if I have anything to add. I do. I tell him this was the oddest traffic stop I even had. I go on a bit more, but it comes down to this: I say her headlights were not on; she says they were. I'm sure as snow that that woman believed she was right (after all, she could see the lights on her dashboard). But her headlights were not on.

It was literally he-said she-said. Now the judge wasn't there when I stopped her. He couldn't know for sure. But he believed me. He paused for a moment and actually banged his gavel (not well used in traffic court) and said, "guilty." I thanked him. She huffed off.

This is the way our justice system works. We need to believe the word of police officers over the word of criminals. (Or else we need to get rid of police). My word as a police officer was trusted over an honest woman because I was a paid civil servant sworn under oath to uphold the law and constitution. Now you may not believe me. But the judge did. As he should.

So in the Darren Wilson case the grand jury did not believe there was probably cause to indict the officer. And they were right. Or at least read more testimony than I did before you disagree.

[Admittedly, the questioning in the testimony wasn't very aggressive. But then while it may be rare a grand jury doesn't indict, it's also even rarer that a grand jury deals with an innocent person! So despite the softball nature of the grand jury, evidence was presented. And, unlike at a trial, and you only needed 9 of 12 to bring charges. They didn't get that. Why? Because and -- do consider at least this possibility that this may be true -- Darren Wilson might, just might be a police officer who was doing his job and had to protect his own life.]

This is where cops and conservatives think Ferguson protesters are crazy. Now *I* don't think that. Because I think there are lots things worth protesting about in this country. It's how we make a better country. And there is injustice in America! I even wrote a book about racial injustice and incarceration (no, not Cop in the Hood. In Defense of Flogging is the one you didn't buy)!

But none of that means Darren Wilson is guilty of anything. As I said, we don't know for sure what happened and we probably never will. But do we as society -- or do you, individually -- really believe Dorian Johnson's version more than Police Officer Darren Wilson's?


Anonymous said...

I stopped reading half way down and have stopped reading period. NO CREDIBILITY except the badge you wore. I have multiple cops in the family. THEY LIE ALL THE TIME especially when their job is on the line.

Jim Greer said...

Peter, I assume you think this should be tried in a court of law though, right? There's enough doubt for an indictment, surely?

Anonymous said...

And that's why there should have been an indictment and trial.

Jim Greer said...

What do you make of this analysis of the prosecutor's behavior?


Jim Greer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David Woycechowsky said...

If Brown had lived then he would have testified that Wilson was trying to pull him headfirst into an SUV (through the front window, I think), and that when he resisted that bit of weirdness, Officer Wilson pulled out a gun and started firing at him. There was only one way to make sure Brown didn't get to tell his story about what transpired at the SUV.

Would Brown have been lying if he said that Officer Wilson tried to pull him into the SUV through the window? Don't know, but from Officer Wilson's perspective that really doesn't matter. There was a serious threat to his badge and it was getting away.

As far as what happened after that -- I am waiting to hear from some of the witnesses who are more disinterested than Wilson & Johnson.

Noumenon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
PCM said...

No. I don't think there was enough for trial. Not if you believe the cop in the slightest, which I do.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know the background on Johnson. Your analysis is an important piece of the puzzle. Breakfast shopping for five hours?

No cop pulls a suspect, large or small into their car. They are taught that getting caught/trapped in the car is a huge officer safety issue, even a death trap. This was a contact that spiraled out of control quickly, and Wilson reacted based on training. We send our children out to police the communities, and sometimes the world, and expect them to make spot on choices in highly chaotic situations without fail, and then we second guess what they do.

I waited to make my call until after the grand jury was done and I reviewed the material. This is what I found.

Wilson is a young cop who was out there doing what communities want them to do. Pro-active policing. What started as a minor issue, walking in the street, turned into a major one when there was "reasonable suspicion" they were involved in the theft/robbery. Wilson had every right to stop them with force if necessary at that point.

I believe there may have been some tactical decisions made by Wilson that weren't the best for the situation, but it is so easy to sit behind my computer and come to that conclusion.

Once Brown was blocking his door, leaning in to the car, and then has his hand on the officers weapon, all bets are off. Training kicks in and Wilson handled it an acceptable manner.

Good kids that are college bound aren't stealing "blunts" and engaging the police with violence. I'm not buying the narrative that was thrown out there driving this "movement." It's b.s.

I agree with you Pete, there are plenty of victims in the world that can be held up as inappropriate police conduct, but this isn't it.

I feel bad for the family, they lost a son. I think the son decided to engage in criminal conduct that turned violent leading to his demise. He had several points where he could have made a different decision that lead to the incident resulting in an arrest without force. He made unwise choices.

I feel bad for Wilson. How does he go back to policing? He is a pawn in a movement looking for a "martyr."

I think Ferguson PD and the local agencies failed miserably in this instance. They could have got the information out much more quickly. They could have handled the protests in a much different manner. The grandstanding state police commander who came in to "save the day" was an absolute joke and fanned the flames more in his self-promotion tour.

Their biggest failure, Ferguson PD, is that they didn't have a relationship with their community before the event. In a community where distrust is already there, your never going to weather a storm, good or bad.

Jim Greer? Its a blog. Its not a book that needs copy editing. I read through the "nowq" telling myself, "I bet Pete meant now." I read pete's blog for content, not to see how many typos he has.

David Woycechowsky said...

No. I don't think there was enough for trial. Not if you believe the cop in the slightest, which I do.

wonder how many of the Grand Jurors were ex- and/or current LEO.

campbell said...

There is strong evidence that Brown's hands were not hands-up in surrender when he was shot.

The physical evidence is especially bad for the surrender stories. Wilson testified Brown charged and that he had to backpedal to avoid being overtaken. Brown covered 25 feet and ended up level with or past every one of Wilson's casings, which means he made it past Wilson's original position when he went down. Here's the diagram and measurements if anyone hasn't gone and looked. NY Times has it all on their site.



bacchys said...

You note that Johnson's story has changed. You don't note that Wilson's story also changed. In his initial interview he doesn't say what the object was in Brown's hands. Later, he recognizes the cigarillos. He never mentions the robbery in his interview: at the grand jury he says he recognized Johnson and Brown as meeting the description and sees the cigarillos.

As for cops telling the truth: "testilying" isn't a phrase because it so rarely happens. Further, other Ferguson police officers were caught lying in the Henry Davis case, and there's no public record of any consequences to them.

Anonymous said...

The shock of a community witnessing what appeared to many as a summary execution was reason enough for a trial. Wilson would probably have not been convicted, but an open trial with an advocate for the victim would've gone a long way towards reassuring the community that the PD gave a damn. Clearly their priority, and yours, is protecting the officer. I wish you spent as much energy explaining why unarmed civilians shouldn't be shot full of holes as you do explaining that we should believe cops stories when their career is on the line.

Frank Serpico was right: the police are useless at investigating themselves.

bacchys said...

The community being shocked isn't reason enough for a trial. Probable cause is reason enough for a trial. The notion that there wasn't probable cause in this case if the prosecutor had wanted an indictment is risible.

PCM said...

(Also, I always welcome corrections. And Jim Greer just happens to be my best friend from college. His and anybody's corrections are always welcome. I first posted this at 4:30am and I really needed to get to bed.)

PCM said...

"Unarmed" isn't enough to mean a person isn't a lethal threat.

Between 2010 and 2012, between 6 and 13 percent of homicides have been committed by "unarmed" people. We're talking perhaps 1,600 victims each year.

The point of justifiable homicide is whether or not the person is threat, not whether they have arms.

So just because Mike Brown or anybody else is "unarmed" really doesn't mean anything until we know know the specifics of the situation.

I'm also unaware of any "initial interviews" with Officer Darren Wilson. Please provide details. If his story changed substantially (as did Johnson's) that is serious. But adding more information isn't the same as changing your story.

Steven Menczel said...

Well written Peter. It's hard to find anything that's produced from a 'neutral' point of view here. It seems that many people have taken this tragic incident and put it to work to peddle whatever agenda it is they're selling. If Wilson's version is to be believed (and of course that's not a given) then this almost sounds like a situation of 'suicide by cop'. If the opposite story (and I've read reports that literally do describe Michael Brown as either 'a child' or 'a defenseless black teenager') is true then that makes Wilson appear to be a terrible cop, disregarding logic and training (again, this could be possible, but it seems unlikely).

bacchys said...

Darren Wilson's changing story: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/11/26/1347733/-Darren-Wilson-s-Changing-Story

No doubt it didn't hurt his cause that the investigators approached the case as one where Wilson was the victim (testified to before the grand jury), that he wasn't questioned at the scene, that he was able to wash up before investigators even saw him, and that he's the one that bagged his firearm.

A lot of potential defendants would have a lot easier time if they could see the evidence before they came up with the story.

campbell said...

The notion that there wasn't probable cause in this case if the prosecutor had wanted an indictment is risible.

The threshold to be met is the Wilson probably committed an act of murder. On the testimony and evidence on this case it's not even close.

Now does Ferguson PD seem to have some serious issues? Yes, and I think they might get put under a DOJ decree after it's all said and done. But this case isn't a murder. If this was a case of mine no way would I be able to get the DA to take it to court.

bacchys said...

That's simply incorrect, campbell. The grand jury wasn't limited in what charge or charges they could choose to indict Wilson.

Wilson shot an unarmed Brown and there are witnesses who say it happened while Brown was surrendering. That's probable cause of murder right there. To say it's "not even close" calls into question your ability to consider the evidence objectively.

Try to keep in mind that there is no requirement for grand juries to be given or consider exculpatory evidence.

campbell said...

Wilson shot an unarmed Brown and there are witnesses who say it happened while Brown was surrendering. That's probable cause of murder right there.

And there are witnesses who corroborate Wilson's charging story and the physical evidence overwhelmingly supports that account. I linked the diagram and measurements in my earlier comment. The shell casings on a Sig being fired with a standard two handed grip are typically going to be going backwards in the 4-5 o'clock range. You'll sometimes get odd ejections and brass bouncing and rolling around and such. But four of Wilson's casings landed on grass and would have stayed where they landed, and Brown's body is level with or past every single casing. There is no plausible surrender scenario where Brown advances 25 feet and overtakes Wilson's position while being fired upon.

Ebenezer Scrooge said...

Did Officer Wilson commit a crime? Damned if I know. It certainly wasn't Murder One, but may have been some lesser species of homicide.

That isn't the issue. For two reasons.

First, just as its possible to frame a guilty man (see "OJ"), it is also possible to whitewash an innocent man. The local prosecutor whitewashed Wilson. The process was corrupt, no matter what one thinks of the result. Contrast this to the Diallo case, which was pretty much conducted according to ordinary process, once you make allowances for the change of venue. Most of the liberals who were howling for the cops' heads accepted the jury verdict.

Second, although what I don't know about policing would fill the entire book, I can't understand why the only issue in these police shootings is that of criminal responsibility. Should cops who commit noncriminal but stupid shootings of civilians remain on the force? They almost always seem to do so.

Anonymous said...

Also, this is a must read article about the "professor" who conducted the private autopsy of Michael Brown.

bacchys said...

@campbell- that looks like a very nice argument for a defense attorney at a trial.

It has nothing to do with whether or not there is probable cause to indict.

McCulloch treated this grand jury like a one-sided trial, instead of an investigative body. Further, he represented the subject of the inquiry instead of the people of Missouri. But he wasn't Wilson's defense attorney. He's the elected lawyer for the people of Missouri.

It might well be that the case couldn't have been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, but we'll never know that. The exculpatory witnesses weren't subject to a rigorous cross examination. The investigation itself was done from the point of view of Wilson as the victim- with the dead man as the perpetrator. Whether Wilson should be convicted of a crime or not- and I'm far from having reached a conclusion either way- this case has exposed the institutional corruption that infects our law enforcement communities.

campbell said...

It has nothing to do with whether or not there is probable cause to indict.

The standard is probable cause, not possible cause, and that standard has to be met on the totality of the case. This is how criminal cases are evaluated, it's not some special standard for Wilson. It is incorrect to say that because some witnesses say Wilson shot Brown while Brown was giving up that we have probable cause a crime occurred. That has to be considered against other witnesses and physical evidence. The DA can't just listen to the witnesses who claim a surrender and ignore other witnesses and clear physical evidence that refute those accounts.

Anonymous said...

But do we as society -- or do you, individually -- really believe Dorian Johnson's version more than Police Officer Darren Wilson's?

The critical part is the fatal shooting, and Johnson's part of the story is the initial struggle. I'd wouldn't be at all surprised if MB got in some licks that Johnson has left out. I don't think he could've hit DW too hard without leaving some more visible injuries. The part that rings true to me is the opening door rebounding off MB and hitting DW. That seems just the sort of thing to escalate a situation.

Remember that DW said nothing about a radio call involving a robbery at his initial interview(the detective who conducted the interview so testified at the GJ - there is no recording or transcript of the initial interview AFAIK). That was added later. That means this was a jaywalking gone bad.

But MB was killed in front of many witnesses, and, granting all the problems with eyewitnesses, the overwhelming impression from them was that DW killed a man who had surrendered.

DW has a much stronger motivation to lie than DJ.

You proclaim nonjudgement of DJ's lifestyle, and then turn around to use them to attack his credibility. Be honest, please.

PCM said...

Thanks for that link, Bacchys, but I don't think it shows a story change. I'm not going to give much credence to details of omission (much less secondhand stories of omission). I'm not saying it's not true... I'm just admitting we don't know (or at least I don't know).

I'm also saying that if you're trying to pick apart a story and that's the best you (not you personally, the article) can do, it's just not good enough. Certainly not compared to the inconsistencies on the other side.

And yeah, maybe it's possible that Wilson was lying about thinking these guys were the robbery guys and instead was just pissed off they were in the sidewalk ignoring his lawful order (hence, disrespecting his authority). So what?

I think it's more likely he didn't mention kind of trivial details until he realized they mattered.

Either way, to me what matters is what we know happened, not so much what people believed.

Whether or not Wilson knew they were robbery suspects (which I do suspect he did) matters inasmuch as it would show Wilson to be a liar. But what happened is much more dependent on what Brown actually did.

PCM said...

Anonymous, of course I'm judging Johnson's character! He's a loser. Or, to be more clear, I think he's a can't-look-for-work stoner who can't even get his baby's mother breakfast after he promises to do so. But the whole point of tolerance is I don't have to agree with his life choices. I don't have to like him. I don't like a lot of people. But I don't judge them in a cosmic sense. Whatever works for him.

If Johnson could live a peaceful slacker stoner life style, I really do have no problem with that. Be a surfer dude. It's not for me. But whatever. Live and let live. That's the part I'm not judging. The part I *do* judge is making promises you don't keep, taking part in a robbery, confronting police, and then lying about the killing of your sort-of friend.

As I wrote: "this involves relativism, character judgment, moral subjectivity, and all that." Was that not clear enough?

Sarah said...

What do you think of cameras for police? I fully agree with you that we will never know what happened, and it drives me crazy when people won't acknowledge that. It seems like the concept of police cameras being standard would protect both cops and citizens. If Wilson's story is accurate, we could have footage that proves it. If Johnson's is accurate, we could have footage that proves it. Either way, the innocent party is protected. Any thoughts?

bacchys said...

What Brown actually did, at least with respect to what we believe he did, is very much dependent on whether or not you believe Wilson and his corroborating witnesses or those witness- including Johnson- who describe a criminal act by Wilson.

So Wilson's credibility- whether or not he would lie in this circumstance- isn't just some minor thing. If he's lying about backing up and making a massive tactical mistake (so much for what "no cop would ever" as an argument), it does call into question the totality of his claims. If he feels the need to embellish to make his case, it's reasonable to wonder why.

Further, it's quite possible for Wilson to be justified in shooting Brown at the Tahoe, yet have committed a crime by shooting him down the street after chasing him. Too much of the dicussion I've read seems to assume that if Wilson was justified in shooting Brown at all he was justified in killing him throughout the encounter. But that's not how the law works, even for cops. A couple of years ago a store owner was convicted of a crime (2d degree murder, IIRC) because, after shooting one robber and chasing off his accomplice, he returned to deliver a killing shot to the robber he'd wounded. He was justified in shooting him the first time. He wasn't justified in shooting him as he lay bleeding on the store floor. The store's security video is what ultimately convicted him.

I don't know if Wilson did anything wrong that day, let alone criminal. But this grand jury was very much unlike any other grand jury run by McCulloch (or any other proscutor)- unless it's a cop being investigated. This grand jury was already sitting when they got the Wilson case. They'd heard numerous cases, and in each of them only inculpatory evidence was introduced and the prosecutor recommended indictment. There was no "totality of the circumstances" and definitely no prosecutor attacking witnesses with inculpatory testimony and uncritically accepting every word of exculpatory witnesses.

There wasn't a full and fair investigation of this incident. From the beginning- and this statement was made before the grand jury- the investigation was conducted based on the assumption that Wilson was the victim.