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Today’s Reads 007 (Michael Brown, Pt. 4)

Further coverage of the Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice murders, the Grand Jury trials, recent protests across the country, and other related stories found on the Internet:

  • Viral photo of Ferguson protester doesn’t withstand close scrutiny (Politifact)
    A photograph that went viral purports to show a protester in Ferguson, holding a sign that said, “No mother should have to fear for her son’s life every time he robs a store.” However, the photo was manipulated by a social media user, who later acknowledged the alteration. The change in wording turns the sign’s message completely on its head, so we rate the claim Pants On Fire.
  • England abolished grand juries decades ago because they didn’t work (Public Radio International)
    “You might get some witnesses who say they saw Darren Wilson, the police officer, shoot Michael Brown and he wasn’t resisting arrest. Then, of course, you heard Darren Wilson himself and you hear what he says,” Rozenberg says. “So this was really what we would regard as a trial, but a trial behind closed doors.” And that’s what happened with the Ferguson grand jury. So if this is the case, why do we still have a grand jury system? What’s the purpose of a secret procedure in a country that that televises court proceedings? Rozenberg isn’t actually sure. “Why not have everything out in the open and let both sides say, openly, in a public forum, to an ordinary jury what their arguments are — and then let an ordinary jury decide?” he asks.
  • New lie in the shooting death of Tamir Rice discovered: Police never saw the tip of the gun at all (Daily Kos)
    “Due to this dangerous loss of composure during live range training and his inability to manage this personal stress, I do not believe Ptl Loehmann shows the maturity needed to work in our employment,” Polak concludes. “For these reasons, I am recommending he be released from the employment of the city of Independence. I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies.”
  • Missouri AG confirms Michael Brown grand jury misled by St. Louis DA (Daily Kos)
    There are two clear possibilities here.  Either the St. Louis County District Attorney’s Office was aware of this conflict and deliberately attempted to give the Grand Jury a false impression of the law, only to slip in a unclear, unexplained “correction” at the last minute which would be far too weak to override the prevailing impression gained from weeks of testimony which had been reviewed through a jaundiced lens… Or… The St. Louis County and other DA’s throughout the state have been regularly misleading juries and grand juries with the mistaken and wrong impression that probable cause is not required for law enforcement before deliberate deadly force can be deployed legally because they just don’t know any better.
  • Grand jury rejects criminal charges in death of Robert Saylor, man with Down syndrome (Washington Post)
    In February, the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Baltimore ruled Saylor’s death a homicide as a result of asphyxia. On Friday, Smith said that the report indicated that Down syndrome and obesity made Saylor more susceptible to breathing problems.
  • The Police in America Are Becoming Illegitimate (Rolling Stone)
    The press and the people who don’t live in these places want you to focus only on the incidents in question. It was technically a crime! Annoying, but he should have complied! His fault for dying – and he was a fat guy with asthma besides! But the real issue is almost always the hundreds of police interactions that take place before that single spotlight moment, the countless aggravations large and small that pump up the rage gland over time.
  • Unequal Treatment of 2 Protesters in Eric Garner Case, One White and One Black (New York Times)
    “But Mr. Perry, a white man, and Mr. Torres, a black man, say what happened to them showed disparate treatment in subtle and stark ways. The president of the seminary has written to Mayor Bill de Blasio to suggest that the experiences of the students were ‘an object lesson’ for retraining officers; the Police Department said it would have to review the details of the matter.”
  • I Hope “Die-In” Protests Made You Late Getting Home (Philadelphia Magazine)
    “It’s damned inconvenient to be a black man in America… So if the protesters got in your way this week: Good. If they made you stop and have to think about whether they were justified, better. If they made you cranky and offended, well, that’s the best thing of all. Maybe your life needs a little disruption. A man died, needlessly. It happens all the time. You’re going to be home a bit late because of it? That’s ok. You’ll live.”


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Today’s Reads 006 (Michael Brown, Pt. 3)

Further coverage of the Michael Brown murder and related stories from across the Internet, including essays related to the Eric Garner murder in New York City:

  • Unorthodox police procedures emerge in grand jury documents (Washington Post)
    “An officer driving himself back? Wrong. An officer booking his own gun into evidence? Wrong,” said David Klinger, an expert on police shootings with the University of Missouri at St. Louis who is also a former police officer. “The appropriate investigative procedures were not followed.’’ A 2013 Justice Department manual on processing crime scenes, designed in conjunction with police departments across the country, addresses what experts said was perhaps the most serious breach of protocol after Brown was killed: Wilson washing the blood off his hands.
  • Ferguson Grand Jury Evidence Reveals Mistakes, Holes In Investigation (Huffington Post)
    Talking with police investigators and before the grand jury, Wilson claimed that Brown had grabbed at Wilson’s gun during the initial incident in the police car and that Brown’s hand was on the firearm when it misfired at least once. Wilson also told police that he thought Brown would overpower him and shoot him with his own gun. “I was not in control of the gun,” Wilson said. Eventually he regained control of the weapon and fired from within the car. Investigators could have helped to prove or disprove Wilson’s testimony by testing his service weapon for Brown’s fingerprints. But the gun was not tested for fingerprints. An investigator argued before the grand jury that the decision was made not to test the weapon because Wilson “never lost control of his gun.”
  • How Not to Use a Grand Jury (The New Yorker)
    But the goal of criminal law is to be fair—to treat similarly situated people similarly—as well as to reach just results. McCulloch gave Wilson’s case special treatment. He turned it over to the grand jury, a rarity itself, and then used the investigation as a document dump, an approach that is virtually without precedent in the law of Missouri or anywhere else. Buried underneath every scrap of evidence McCulloch could find, the grand jury threw up its hands and said that a crime could not be proved. This is the opposite of the customary ham-sandwich approach, in which the jurors are explicitly steered to the prosecutor’s preferred conclusion.
  • Darren Wilson’s Grand Jurors Were Told To Base Decision On Law Ruled Unconstitutional In 1985 (Addicting Info)
    You will not find another legal proceeding in which jurors and Grand jurors are simply handed a law, and then weeks later handed a correction to that law; and then the Grand jurors are simply left to figure out the difference in the laws by themselves. That is actually something you would do in a law class,” O’Donnell said. “Figure it out by yourself.”
  • Five ugly and uncanny parallels between lynchings and police killings in America (Daily Kos)
    In spite of extremely egregious circumstances surrounding all lynchings and many police killings, it is a rare occurrence for the killers to be held liable. While definitive stats are hard to come by, some estimate that over 95 percent of the perpetrators of lynchings or police killings never served a single day in jail. During the days of public lynchings, it was popular for entire families to come and view them. Photos, as seen in the exhibit, Without Sanctuary, were regularly taken of the lynched bodies on display and made into postcards that were sent all over the country. Little legal interest truly existed in bringing the perpetrators to justice. In modern America, even in extreme cases like the March, 2012 shooting death of high school football star Kendrec McDade, police claimed they heard McDade take multiple shots at them and even saw the flash of the bullets exiting his gun, but it turned out McDade was unarmed. Police were completely exonerated. The constant exoneration of police who kill unarmed African Americans lends itself to the belief that, like during the time of lynching, little true interest exists in bringing justice to the families of the victims.
  • The American Justice System Is Not Broken (Deadspin/The Concourse)
    America is a serial brutalizer of black and brown people. Brutalizing them is what it does. It does other things, too, yes, but brutalizing black and brown people is what it has done the most, and with the most zeal, and for the longest. The best argument you can make on behalf of the various systems and infrastructures the country uses against its black and brown citizens—the physical design of its cities, the methods it uses to allocate placement in elite institutions, the way it trains its police to treat citizens like enemy soldiers—might actually just be that they’re more restrained than those used against black and brown people abroad. America employs the enforcers of its power to beat, kill, and terrorize, deploys its judiciary to say that that’s OK, and has done this more times than anyone can hope to count. This is not a flaw in the design; this is the design.


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Today’s Reads 004 (Michael Brown, Pt. 1)

Articles covering Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Missouri and Robert McCulloch’s abuse of the grand jury system. Includes photographs of Darren Wilson’s alleged injuries following Brown’s death:

  • It’s Incredibly Rare For A Grand Jury To Do What Ferguson’s Just Did (FiveThirtyEight)
    Former New York state Chief Judge Sol Wachtler famously remarked that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.” The data suggests he was barely exaggerating: According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them.
  • Ferguson tragedy becoming a farce (Washington Post)
    One might give McCulloch the benefit of the doubt, if not for his background. His father was a police officer killed in a shootout with a black suspect, and several of his family members are, or were, police officers. His 23-year record on the job reveals scant interest in prosecuting such cases. During his tenure, there have been at least a dozen fatal shootings by police in his jurisdiction (the roughly 90 municipalities in the county other than St. Louis itself), and probably many more than that, but McCulloch’s office has not prosecuted a single police shooting in all those years. At least four times he presented evidence to a grand jury but — wouldn’t you know it? — didn’t get an indictment.
  • These Are the Photos of Darren Wilson’s “Injuries” (Gawker)
    In the aftermath of Brown’s death, as Wilson essentially turned himself into a missing person, various reports were circulated about the severity of his injuries. One, passed around conservative circles, purported to show Wilson with a broken eye socket—that story was quickly debunked. ABC News reported that a source said Wilson suffered a “serious facial injury,” but these photos certainly seem to refute that characterization.
  • Why We Won’t Wait (Counterpunch)
    The criminal justice system is used to exact punishment and tribute, a kind of racial tax, on poor/working class Black people. In 2013, Ferguson’s municipal court issued nearly 33,000 arrest warrants to a population of just over 21,000, generating about $2.6 million dollars in income for the municipality. That same year, 92 percent of searches and 86 percent of traffic stops in Ferguson involved black people, this despite the fact that one in three whites was found carrying illegal weapons or drugs, while only one in five blacks had contraband.
  • The St. Louis County Prosecutor Implicitly Conceded the Need for a Trial (New Republic)
    The problem with this is that we already have a forum for establishing the underlying facts of a case—and, no less important, for convincing the public that justice is being served in a particular case. It’s called a trial. It, rather than the post-grand jury press conference, is where lawyers typically introduce mounds of evidence to the public, litigate arguments extensively, and generally establish whether or not someone is guilty of a crime. By contrast, as others have pointed out, the point of a grand jury isn’t to determine beyond a shadow of a doubt what actually happened. It’s to determine whether there’s probable cause for an indictment, which requires a significantly lower standard of proof.
  • St. Louis Prosecutor Bob McCulloch Abused the Grand Jury Process (New Republic)
    In effect, McCulloch staged a pre-trial trial in order to vindicate his personal view of Wilson’s innocence. But grand juries simply aren’t the proper forum for holding a trial. The most obvious reason is that they’re not adversarial settings. The prosecutor gets to present his or her view, but there’s no one to present the opposing view—a rather key feature of the criminal justice system. This isn’t a problem when the prosecutor believes the defendant is guilty, since the result is an actual trial. But when the prosecutor stage-manages a grand jury into affirming his view of the defendant’s innocence, that’s it. That’s the only trial we get.