Michael Brown spent his last day with his friend Dorian Johnson. Here’s what Johnson saw. – Vox
By Ezra Klein
November 25, 2014
Earlier today, I wrote that Officer Darren Wilson’s newly released account of his altercation with Michael Brown was unbelievable. Which isn’t to say it was wrong. It was just hard to believe that events played out exactly as Wilson described.
But the story Wilson tells makes much more sense if you also read it alongside Dorian Johnson’s testimony — and use the two accounts to balance each other out.
Johnson, remember, was Brown’s friend. He was there when Brown robbed the convenience store. He was there when Wilson first saw Brown. And he was there when Brown was shot and killed.
The story he tells confirms some key aspects in Wilson’s account. But it contradicts others. Wilson presents Michael Brown as a rage-filled lunatic attempting to commit suicide by cop. Johnson presents a more nuanced picture of provocations on both sides, followed by escalation, followed by a fight in which both men grew enraged — and in which one man had a gun.
But let’s start at the beginning.
The convenience store robbery
A man stands in front of the Ferguson Market & Liquor which remains boarded up but open for business after being looted during unrest following the death of teenager Michael Brown. Scott Olsen/Getty
Johnson calls Brown, exclusively, “Big Mike.” And he says he only knew him for a few months before the shooting. But though he liked Brown, Johnson’s portrayal of him isn’t flattering. In fact, his story begins on the morning of the shooting, when Big Mike commits a brazen, bizarre crime that puts Johnson in considerable danger.
Johnson says he ran into Brown on his way to buy some cigarillos from the convenience store. The two men decided to smoke weed together later, so Brown goes with Johnson to get some cigarillos of his own. Only Brown doesn’t buy any cigarillos. He steals them — in fact, he steals a lot of them — and then shoves his way past the clerk.
In Johnson’s telling, he’s shocked. And he’s terrified. Brown, he says, “is basically laughing it off, be cool, be calm…but in my head I’m like, I can’t be calm, I can’t be cool, because I know what just happened and we were on camera.” Johnson has a daughter. He has a girlfriend. And now he’s Brown’s accomplice in a robbery — a robbery that was probably caught on a security camera. His friend has put him and his family in danger.
IF YOU DO BELIEVE JOHNSON WAS INNOCENT, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT IS WEIRD
Or so he says. Johnson has some incentive to portray himself as an innocent bystander in this robbery. But if you do believe Johnson was innocent, what happens next is weird. Rather than abandon Brown so he’s far, far away if the cops come to pick up his friend, Johnson walks home with Brown to smoke. Johnson professes to be stunned at what Brown did in the convenience store, but he doesn’t act stunned, or angry, and in any case, he drops it pretty quickly.
“Get the F on the sidewalk!”
It’s a Saturday morning, and the streets are empty. A few blocks from home, Brown and Johnson are walking in the middle of the road. This is when Officer Darren Wilson pulls up — and when Johnson and Wilson’s accounts begin to both converge and diverge.
As Wilson tells the story, he was extremely, unfailingly polite — more befuddled than anything else by these two young black men who seem to have forgotten to use the sidewalk. “Hey guys, why don’t you walk on the sidewalk,” he remembers saying. That’s not how Johnson tells it.
“He said ‘Get the F on the sidewalk!'” Johnson tells the grand jury. Either way, on this next point, Johnson and Wilson agree. It’s Johnson who replies and says they’re just a minute from their homes, and they’ll be off the street shortly.
This is the break point in the story. This is the moment when, even though you know how it ends, you’re hoping against hope that things play out differently, because it so clearly could have gone a different way. But here is when Wilson and Johnson begin telling stories that only barely converge.
THIS IS THE MOMENT WHEN, EVEN THOUGH YOU KNOW HOW IT ENDS, YOU’RE HOPING AGAINST HOPE THAT THINGS PLAY OUT DIFFERENTLY
As Wilson tells it, he then asks, “what’s wrong with the sidewalk?”, and Brown’s response, as reported by Wilson, is “fuck what you have to say.”
As Johnson tells it, Wilson never says “what’s wrong with the sidewalk,” and Brown never says “fuck what you have to say.” Rather, both Johnson and Brown think Wilson is satisfied with Johnson’s answer and is driving off.
“We continued to walk and have our conversation,” Johnson tells the grand jury, “but almost a split second [later], we heard the tires screech, and the officer, he pulled back in the truck very fast at an angle [where] if we didn’t hear his tires screech, the back of his cruiser would have struck one of us.”
Click here to read the rest of Ezra Klein’s article on Vox.com
Curated from www.vox.com
JUST IN: Newly released photos of Officer Darren Wilson’s injuries, presented to the grand jury
Darren Wilson pic, at hospital, from deep inside the grand jury documents. pic.twitter.com/HFiQJP5Qtq— Chico Harlan (@chicoharlan) November 25, 2014
Click here to see TPM’s original article.
Report: Ferguson Grand Jury Witness Admitted Racist Views In Journal
Official evidence released on Monday revealed that one of the witnesses to the police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown held self-admitted racist views, recorded in a journal entry on the day of the shooting.
“Well I’m gonna take my random drive to Florissant. Need to understand the Black race better so I stop calling Blacks Niggers and Start calling them People,” the witness wrote in
The journal entry of “Witness 40” was one document included in the docket of evidence released by St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch’s office Monday.
“Cop took a couple steps forward then backward and the gun went off 2 more times,” the witness wrote. “The last one on the top of the kids (sic) head. Omg the blood.”
Click here to see TPM’s original article.
A tragic death at police hands, fed-up African American residents, and a militarized police force converged to draw national outrage fixed on Ferguson, Missouri. Coming weeks after New York Police Department officers killed Eric Garner using an illegal chokehold, national attention turned to the cases involving these two men. But as protests roar over the grand jury’s decision not to press any charges, the community isn’t just angered about Brown and Garner, or even all those who came before them.In just in the few months since Brown’s death, police in other jurisdictions took the lives of countless others, many with allegations just as outrageous as those in Brown’s case, and with no greater police accountability thus far. In the movement fighting police brutality, each of their names has become hashtags. But much of the public hasn’t heard nearly as much about them:
Darrien Hunt; Saratoga Springs, Utah
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/RICK BOWMER
22-year-old Darrien Hunt was carrying a sword his mother said was a toy when he wasshot dead by officers in the small town of Saratoga Springs, Utah. Hunt was wearing an outfit that bore a striking resemblance to the Japanese anime character Mugen prompting suspicion that his sword was part of a costume. In the weeks after his death, his family found drawings of a number of Japanese anime characters, including several carrying swords.
A county autopsy revealed that Hunt was shot six times toward the back of his body, corroborating other evidence that Hunt was shot while running away. But In a quiet announcement, the local prosecutor said earlier this month he would not file charges against the cops who shot Hunt. In fact, the cops were slated to have their jobs back within days of the announcement. After the prosecutor’s announcement, Hunt’s lawyer released police documents showing that one of the officers involved in Hunt’s death was wearing a body camera — but he didn’t turn it on.
Ezell Ford and Omar Abrego, Los Angeles
Outrage fomented in Ferguson as residents demanded the release of the officer who shot Brown — now known to be Darren Wilson. But it’s taken even longer for police to share information on the fatal police shootings of two victims in South Los Angeles that occurred a week apart.
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MARK J. TERRILL
One victim was Ezell Ford, who exhibited signs of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Friends said he was a quiet guy whose mental illness was known by community members and police. There is no indication that he was armed during the fatal incident. Instead, police say he was trying to take their gun. Police also issued a press release after the incident stating “It is unknown if the suspect had any gang affiliations,” implicitly raising the possibility of gang activity. There is no known evidence of gang activity.
Three months later, police haven’t even released Ford’s autopsy, although Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti reportedly ordered the autopsies to be released soon. Among the reasons provided for a “security hold” on the autopsy were a rap video by a South LA rapper who referred to Ford as “cousin.” The Los Angeles Police Protective League sent an email to its members warning that the video — which it alleged was created by “a Los Angeles street gang” — raises “safety concerns for all officers” because they simulate a pistol with their hands and say “Fuck tha Police.”
Less is known about the other victim, 37-year-old Omar Abrego. What we do know is that his autopsy had also not yet been released as of earlier this month, and that he died several hours after a brutal police altercation that left him with a severe concussion and “multiple facial and body contusions.” Abrego was pulled over for allegedly driving erratically in the same South Los Angeles neighborhood, and was pursued by police on foot after he started to run away, according to police.
Tamir E. Rice And Tanesha Anderson; Cleveland, Ohio
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MARK DUNCAN
Cleveland also saw two fatal shootings over a period of weeks. One involved 12-year-oldTamir E. Rice, who was gunned down by police while carrying a toy gun at a playground. A worried 911 caller told a dispatcher there was a “guy pointing a gun at people” although he said twice it was “probably fake” and that the person was “probably a juvenile.” None of this information was reportedly communicated to police, and they said when they asked Rice to put his hands up and he seemed to reach for the toy gun, they fired two shots. It is far too early to know what the outcome will be. But in another mistaken shooting last year of a 13-year-old carrying a toy gun, a Santa Rosa, California, police officer never faced any charges.
Tanesha Anderson’s death did not involve a gun. But it did also involve a call to police for help. Anderson suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Police reported to her family’s home after a caller reported she was “disturbing the peace.” Police said they were planning to take her for a psychiatric evaluation, but astruggle ensued that family members said involved a “take-down” move in which Anderson was thrown to the pavement. Police counter that witness report, saying Anderson went limp in officers’ arms. Police officials have thus far deflected questions about officers’ training on mental illness.
John Crawford; Beavercreek, Ohio
CREDIT: OPEN CARRY OHIO
22-year-old John Crawford III had just picked up a BB gun stocked on the shelf of the WalMart where he was shopping that he seemingly intended to buy when he wasshot dead by officers. Surveillance video reveals Crawford never even pointed the sporting gun. But in September, a grand jury decided not to file any charges against the officers, as one of the cops was already back on the job. Announcing the decision, special prosecutor Mark Piepmeier conceded that “Mr Crawford did not commit a crime that day … He didn’t do anything wrong.” He added, “They took the lives of someone that didn’t need to die.” Piepmeier nonetheless defended the officers’ conduct that day, citing their training on “active shooters” and several other factors that culminated to lead to Crawford’s death.
In the days leading up to Wednesday’s grand jury decision, hundreds of community members and activists marched 11 miles from the WalMart to the courthouse where the jury deliberated, demanding an indictment as well as the release of the tape. They’re still fighting for some justice. [ … ]
Click here to finish reading this article on ThinkProgress.com
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 August 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.
The nail in the coffin of “equal justice under law” came on November 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.
[ … ]
Click here to read the rest of Marjorie Cohn’s article on HuffPo.
The Rewrite on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell:
Shocking mistake in Darren Wilson grand juryIn the Rewrite, Lawrence looks at a major correction the assistant prosecutors had to make to the grand jury in the Michael Brown case.
Click here to be taken to The Last Word on MSNBC.
What white people need to know, and do, after Ferguson
Benefiting from white privilege is automatic. Defending white privilege is a choice.
In the days before the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson, when Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon decided to impose a pre-emptive state of emergency, a white relative posted on my Facebook page, “Better to be prepared for the worse, than to have racially charged riot. [sic] At that point, no one cares what your political view points are, who you married or what God you pray too, only that you are White and you are Wrong.” This essay is for my cousin and every other white person who is well meaning but somehow feels hopelessly polarized in a racially polarized debate. It doesn’t have to be that way.
When black people are protesting in Ferguson and across America, they’re not protesting against white people. Maybe this seems obvious, but it’s worth stating. In fact, in the case of Ferguson, the protests weren’t (primarily) about one white cop. Black communities are ultimately protesting systems of injustice and inequality that structurally help white people while systematically harming black people. Just because you’re white and therefore generally benefit from those systems doesn’t mean you inherently support those systems — or need to defend them. Benefiting from white privilege is automatic. Defending white privilege is a choice.
Privilege is like oxygen: You don’t realize it’s there until it’s gone. As white folks, we can’t know what it’s like to go through life without racial privilege because we literally haven’t. You may have heard stories about black friends being monitored in department stores or seen the research that black names on resumes get half as many job interviews as white names on the same resumes. Maybe you know that a black man or boy is killed every 28 hours in America by police or vigilantes. Maybe you’ve read the studies on implicit “shooter bias” — how we’re all more likely to pull a simulated trigger on unarmed black men than unarmed white men — and maybe you know that even the most egalitarian Americans harbor unconscious negative attitudes about black people. The studies and the stories are overwhelming. Just this week, police shot and killed a black 12-year-old for holding a BB gun. [ … ]
Click here to read the rest of Sally Kohn’s op-ed.