Friday, November 28, 2014

More Commentary on Ferguson Story Worth Reading / Seeing: What's the Pattern Here?

Lawrence O'Donnell discusses what St. Louis Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kathi Alizadeh accomplished by handing the grand jury, at the start of its hearing about Darren Wilson, a copy of a Missouri law declared unconstitutional in 1985 by the U.S. Supreme Court:

The Assistant District Attorney Kathi Alizadeh then handed the grand jury a copy of a 1979 Missouri law that was ruled unconstitutional in 1985. She was handing them something that had not been law in Missouri during her entire legal career. But it was very helpful to Officer Darren Wilson that the Assistant District Attorney handed the grand jury an old, unconstitutional law which said incorrectly that it is legal to shoot fleeing suspects simply because they are fleeing. By handing the grand jury that unconstitutional law, the Assistant District Attorney dramatically lowered the standard by which Darren Wilson could be judged. She was telling the grand jury with that document that Darren Wilson had the right, the legal right, to shoot and kill Michael Brown as soon as Michael Brown started running away from him. She was telling the grand jury that Darren Wilson didn't have to feel his life threatened at all by Michael Brown. 

Only right before the grand jury reached its verdict did Ms. Alizadeh correct her error (and then with baffling imprecision and beating about the bush) — after Darren Wilson had testified, with the grand jurors assuming that the unconstitutional law they had been handed at the start of the hearing should frame their deliberations. As O'Donnell concludes, "With prosecutors like this, Darren Wilson never really needed a defense lawyer."

And more from MSNBC: as Steve Kornacki notes, reporting on this Washington Post article by Jerry Markon and Tom Hamburger, the documents released from the grand jury hearing contain the following "jaw-dropping" details: after he had shot Michael Brown, Darren Wilson left the scene of the shooting, returned to the police station unescorted, washed the blood from his hands and placed his fired pistol into an evidence bag himself. 

Police interviews with Wilson were not taped. An investigator with the St. Louis County medical examiner's office did not take any measurements at the scene of the shooting. He said there was no need for this, since it was self-evident what had happened. This same investigator also said that he could take no pictures at the scene of the shooting because his camera batteries had died. Instead, he chose to rely on photos taken by the police themselves.

There was no police officer back at the station to take photos of Darren Wilson himself before he washed the blood from his hands. When asked if it's common practice to allow an officer involved in a shooting incident to handle and package evidence himself, a detective testified that this is not acceptable practice in St. Louis, but he didn't know about Ferguson. 

PBS offers a helpful chart summarizing what witnesses told the grand jury they thought they saw as Brown was shot. As the chart makes plain, and as Jaeah Lee and AJ Vicens note for Mother Jones, more than half of witnesses — 16 out of 29 — told the grand jury that Michael Brown had his hands up when Darren Wilson shot him.

At TPM, Josh Marshall explains why he finds Darren Wilson's description of what occurred unbelievable:

It's Wilson's description of how the incident began that just does not ring true. To believe Wilson, you have to believe that Brown, an 18 year old, is stopped by a police officer on a street in broad daylight. The police officer is armed. He's in an SUV. And Brown's immediate reaction is to begun screaming and cursing him, physically attacking him and before long literally daring him to shoot him.

Finally, for Think Progress, Alice Ollstein points out the amazing similarities between what George Zimmerman said after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, and what Darren Wilson said about his shooting of Michael Brown: both spoke of having been attacked by menacing black males with seeming superhuman strength, beaten about the head, and made to fear for their lives when these same unarmed men reached into their waistbands.

It's as if there's a pattern here, isn't it?

(P.S. In the past, some readers have reported that they cannot get MSNBC videos to play. I find I have the same trouble, and have found a fix that works for me. I run AdBlock on my computer, and as long as that program is running, the MSNBC videos will not play for me. When I pause AdBlock, they immediately play.)

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