Friday, March 6, 2015

The Obama Administration Declares Full Agreement with the Ferguson Grand Jury Decision Not To Indict!

      President Obama’s Justice Department  has just issued "Department of Justice Report Regarding the Criminal Investigation into the Shooting Death of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer Darren Wilson" (March 4, 2015). It’s surprising. It unequivocally exonerates Officer Wilson and says that he was acting in self defense. It doesn’t just say, “there isn’t sufficient proof” or “we cannot say beyond a reasonable doubt”.  It goes into specifics and says that the conventional story, pushed by the mainstream media, was completely false. The Justice Department  has not only failed to indict Wilson, they have decided it’s not even worth bringing the matter before a federal grand jury.

  Will there be mass protests? Will Washington, D.C. be burned down? Will there be calls for President Obama to resign? Do black lives matter?

    I thought the Ferguson grand jury documents definitely proved Officer Wilson innocent, that the Ferguson grand jury acted correctly in not indicting, and that it was even questionable whether the prosecutor should have brought the matter before a grand jury (but probably justified in light of public concern, for transparency).  But that doesn’t seem to be the perception of many people, even educated people, though I don’t know if any of those people actually looked at the evidence. This could be the subject of a fascinating case study, perhaps even a comparative one comparing it to France’s Dreyfus case (though that took years to finish), on how elite opinion is formed by initial news reports and is hard to change even as more credible evidence appears.

 Some quotes from the Justice Department report:

 Multiple credible witnesses corroborate virtually every material aspect of Wilson’s account and are consistent with the physical evidence.

 

 Not only do eyewitnesses and physical evidence corroborate Wilson’s account, but there is no credible evidence to disprove Wilson’s perception that Brown posed a threat to Wilson as Brown advanced toward him. Accordingly, seeking his indictment is not permitted by Department of Justice policy or the governing law.

 

 The evidence establishes that the shots fired by Wilson while he was seated in his SUV were in self-defense and thus were not objectively unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

 

 Accordingly, there is no credible evidence that establishes that Wilson fired at or struck Brown’s back as Brown fled.

 

 Wilson’s version is further supported by disinterested eyewitnesses Witness 102, Witness 104, Witness 105, Witness 108, and Witness 109, among others. These witnesses all agree that Brown ran or charged toward Wilson and that Wilson shot at Brown only as Brown moved toward him

 

there are no witnesses who could testify credibly that Wilson shot Brown while Brown was clearly attempting to surrender

 

Other witnesses who have suggested that Brown was shot with his hands up in surrender have either recanted their statements, such as Witnesses 119 and 125, provided inconsistent statements, such as Witness 124, or have provided accounts that are verifiably untrue, such as Witnesses 121, 139, and 132.

 

The media has widely reported that there is witness testimony that Brown said “don’t shoot” as he held his hands above his head. In fact, our investigation did not reveal any eyewitness who stated that Brown said “don’t shoot.”

 

For all of the reasons stated, Wilson’s conduct in shooting Brown as he advanced on Wilson, and until he fell to the ground, was not objectively unreasonable and thus not a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242.

 

 Because Wilson did not act with the requisite criminal intent, it cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt to a jury that he violated 18 U.S.C.§ 242 when he fired his weapon at Brown.

 

 For the reasons set forth above, this matter lacks prosecutive merit and should be closed.”

      Compare this with the March 4  article, “After Ferguson, the ripples across Harvard: National concerns over racial justice lead to campus introspection, discussion, research, and action” in the Harvard Gazette, an official Harvard publication:

“They are short, stark sentences, seared into the public consciousness in recent months: Hands up, don’t shoot. I can’t breathe. Black lives matter.

 

 The killings of unarmed black men by white police officers last summer — the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the chokehold death of Eric Garner, captured on video, in Staten Island, N.Y. — and the grand jury decisions against indictments in those cases sparked shock and outrage that led to massive protests across the country, including here at Harvard....

 

 The death of two unarmed black men by white officers in Missouri and New York raised questions in every corner of Harvard University. A shift from protests to calls for discussion prompted events across campus. A Harvard Law School symposium, “Law School or Justice School: Connecting the Dots Between Harvard and Ferguson,” was held in February. Dean Martha Minow (left, photo 1) and Kimberlé Crenshaw, Distinguished Professor of Law UCLA, addressed a capacity crowd at the event (photo 2). A fall panel at Harvard Kennedy School, convened by Professor Charles Ogletree (left, photo 3), reflected on the broad social, legal, and political issues raised by the protests in Ferguson, Mo. ...

 

 Students and faculty at Harvard Divinity School (HDS) were energized early on by the Ferguson protests. Led by the Rev. Jonathan Walton, the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister, about a dozen students, including Melissa Bartholomew, M.Div. ’16, drove to Missouri in August to lend their support and their voices to the outcry.”

   The Justice Department also released a report on the Ferguson police department the same day, to try to politically balance the Brown exoneration and push it out of the news. I might blog on that at some later time. 

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/law_econ/2015/03/the-obama-administration-declares-full-agreement-with-the-ferguson-grand-jury-decision-not-to-indict.html

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