New music by Dälek, from the soundtrack to 6 Angry Women. Don’t just put it on in the background. Make sure you watch the video.
Below is an extension of the “Today’s Reads” posts I’ve been putting up over the last couple of weeks. The two posts here concern the Michael Brown Grand Jury and the presentation of a fake/unreliable witness that prosecutor Robert McCulloch must have known was lying. I feel that, among everything I’ve read, these stories deserve extra attention. This is just one of the many problems that reporters have discovered after combing through the Ferguson Grand Jury documents. You can read about others, including how Darren Wilson was allowed to destroy evidence and how the prosecution misled the jury concerning Missouri state law, by looking through the other “Today’s Reads” posts.
- Ferguson Prosecutor Busted Presenting Fake Witness Before Grand Jury (VIDEO) (Addicting Info)
So, you are Prosecutor Bob McCulloch. You have a grand jury investigation with the entire world watching. One of your witnesses in support of the officer is revealed by the FBI to have made up her entire account. What do you do?Apparently you present a discredited witness to the grand jury anyways. He played the FBI interview, which revealed that Witness 40’s car was not at the location, that 40 could not have exited in the manner described, that 40 did not even tell anyone her story until over two weeks after the shooting. They tore her apart, showing that she changed her story several times while sitting on the stand. For example, in her interview, 40 claimed to have made no contact to the police for two weeks, then later claimed that she did contact them several times before agreeing to be a witness. And that is not the only occasion they caught her changing her story, with other times her lack of knowledge of the crime scene, how her journal and testimony did not match, how the exit for the complex did not exist where she claimed all being revealed. That interview, found on pages 86-184 of Grand Jury Testimony Volume 15, completely discredits her as a witness.
Then, fully knowing this, Bob McCulloch brought her before the grand jury, and entered her hand written journals filled with racist language into the record. And this testimony, by a discredited witness, is the one cited by right-wing media outlets in their attempts to support former Ferguson officer Darren Wilson. Claims of Michael Brown charging like a bull? Her account, and only her account. (More after the link)
- Please read Witness #40’s FBI interview and grand-jury testimony. Just read it. (Daily Kos)
To understand just how discredited is Witness #40, you need to read at least part of her interview and testimony.The night of the first Ferguson riots, Witness #40 was posting racist rants online, including [brace yourself, for real]: “They need to kill the fucking niggers. It is like an ape fest.”
She formed an organization to raise money for Darren Wilson and to get schools to send him Christmas cards. For real.
She’s the person who allegedly came home and wrote down the events of August 9 — but she didn’t reveal this fact until months later, at the very, very, very end of her testimony to the grand jury, long after she’d been contacting county officials, been interviewed by the FBI and DA, and testified to the grand-jury, and the split-second before that jury adjourned for the day, only then does she mention the ‘journal’ entry.
The only person she told was her ex-husband, but he has mental issues so he allegedly doesn’t remember it. How convenient.
She emailed her ‘friend’ in Ferguson, which would at least prove she her story that she was coming to visit, but she deleted that email. How convenient.
The FBI cannot find any video of her or her car being where she said it was, including in a Ferguson gas station near the crime scene, which — she testified — she both walked in and drove through. She lied about how she exited the parking lot (because the FBI checked and that exit has long been blocked, although the roadblock doesn’t show up on the Mapquest page she used).
She ‘refreshed’ her memory by reading right-wing websites about the shooting.
She was convicted of check fraud c.2007. She apparently had a traumatic brain injury from a head-on collision some time ago. She seems to have some other mental challenges herself, since age 15. (More after the link)
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.”
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.
More coverage of the murder of Michael Brown and other related articles from across the Internet:
- How Often are Unarmed Black Men Shot Down By Police? (Daily Kos)
91% of the people killed by Police in Chicago in 2012 were Black? 87% in New York? 100% in Saginaw and Rockford? I gotta admit even after focusing on this subject for over 30 years, since Ron Settles was killed, I find that kind of shocking. The report goes on to say that 47% of these killings (146 cases) occurred not because of the person brandishing a weapon (as noted above less then 30% of them HAD a weapon, or were even thought to have a weapon), it’s because the Officer or Citizen – “felt threatened” and were in “fear”. In only 8% (25 cases) did the suspect fire or discharge a weapon that wounded or killed Police or others while Officers were on the scene.
- The law may have spoken but the Ferguson verdict is not justice (The Guardian)
So when it comes to the lethal use of force the police do not just constitute a special category, but a protected and elevated one. In this “nation of laws” those charged with enforcing the law evidently operate above it, while the judiciary exists not to mediate between the police and the public but to defend them from the public. And they employ these privileges with great prejudice. According to analysis by ProPublica, black kids are 21 times more likely than their white counterparts to be killed in police shootings. If white youths were killed by police at the same rate they would die at a rate of more than one a week.
- Amid Conflicting Accounts, Trusting Darren Wilson (The New York Times)
The officer’s testimony, delivered without the cross-examination of a trial in the earliest phase of the three-month inquiry, was the only direct account of the fatal encounter. It appeared to form the spine of a narrative that unfolded before the jurors over three months, buttressed, the prosecutors said, by the most credible witnesses, forensic evidence and three autopsies. But the gentle questioning of Officer Wilson revealed in the transcripts, and the sharp challenges prosecutors made to witnesses whose accounts seemed to contradict his narrative, have led some to question whether the process was as objective as Mr. McCulloch claims.
- Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid (The Atlantic)
“Property damage and looting” is a fairly accurate description of the emancipation of black people in 1865, who only five years earlier constituted some $4 billion in property. The Civil Rights Bill of 1964 is inseparable from the threat of riots. The housing bill of 1968—the most proactive civil-rights legislation on the books—is a direct response to the riots that swept American cities after King was killed. Violence, lingering on the outside, often backed nonviolence during the civil-rights movement. “We could go into meetings and say, ‘Well, either deal with us or you will have Malcolm X coming into here,'” said SNCC organizer Gloria Richardson. “They would get just hysterical. The police chief would say, ‘Oh no!'”
- What do the newly released witness statements tell us about the Michael Brown shooting? (PBS News Hour)
We read and analyzed more than 500 pages of witness testimony and compared each statement to those given by Wilson. Below is a chart comparing several key details of the officer’s report to the witness statements. Was Brown facing Wilson when he was shot, or was his back turned to him? Did Brown have his hands in the air, or were they reaching toward his waist?
- Think riots have never caused change in America? Think again (Al Jazeera America)
Many of those criticizing destructive behavior in Ferguson over the past week have cited the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s as the model for nonviolent, orderly resistance. Peaceful demonstrations — sometimes in the face of violent policing and provocation — were certainly a key feature of the civil rights era. So, too, were outbreaks of violence such as the 1965 Watts Riots in Los Angeles. While Dr. King never advocated violent and destructive behavior, he also said it would be “morally irresponsible” to condemn riots “without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society.” – “These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention,” King said in a 1968 speech. “And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”
Killer Mike in USA Today:
As recent research has revealed, rap lyrics have been introduced as evidence of a defendant’s criminal behavior in hundreds of cases nationwide, frequently leading to convictions that are based on prosecutors’ blatant mischaracterizations of the genre. Ignoring many of the elements that signal rap as form of artistic expression, such as rappers’ use of stage names or their frequent use of metaphor and hyperbole, prosecutors will present rap as literal autobiography. In effect, they ask jurors to suspend the distinction between author and narrator, reality and fiction, to secure guilty verdicts.
And on CNN:
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.
Finding several music websites unwilling to publish his work, Josh Hall recently posted an essay to his blog about William Bennett, the Cut Hands project, and Bennett’s by now well-known affinity for taboo subjects and for far-right politics and imagery (meaning, in this case, fascism).
Response to the essay has been about as varied as you could expect. Some reactions are incredulous or condescending (“Of course William Bennett is making offensive art! Duh!”), others have been more glowing (“thanks for finally bringing this up!). I’m sympathetic to the questions that Hall raises, though I think he muddles his message with the accusations he levels against Blackest Ever Black and Tony Wakeford. Whether or not it sits well with you, Bennett’s already addressed his use of fascist imagery and language on his blog. He might have been an idiot, but as Hall acknowledges, it’s unlikely that he was ever pro-Nazi.
The bits in the article about colonialism, racism, misogyny, and the appropriation of foreign cultures are much stronger, and the accusation that Bennett is entirely responsible for the Extreme Music from Africa compilation is way more interesting than any of his juvenile fascist obsessions ever were.
I’ve read several negative reactions to the article that bring up artist’s rights or censorship—the idea being that Hall is putting unfair ethical expectations on Bennett’s music by criticizing his use of African art. After all, virtually everyone borrows ideas from other cultures these days. That can’t be as insidious as Hall suggests it is, right?
But the issue at hand, as best as I can tell, is the quality of Bennett’s work, not whether or not he should be allowed to produce it, or whether or not an artist can borrow ideas from another culture without somehow trivializing it. Hall simply argues that Bennett produces poor art, and that part of what makes it so poor is its obliviousness . He then goes on to point out that shockingly few writers have written about the political and philosophical particulars of that art.
It seems to me that Hall finds the lack of discussion surrounding Bennett’s music just as troubling as the music itself (though I think the music isn’t nearly so interesting as that; it’s how Bennett dresses his records that catches my attention). How could anyone, for instance, pass up the opportunity to press an interviewee who thinks “Buchenwald is just a name?” And why is it that we are forgiving of confrontational artists who make radical statements, but so indignant toward audiences who are confrontational or skeptical in return? Is art so sacrosanct that we can’t question it, even when it offends us or stirs some doubt in the back of our minds? Is it that we think there is only one right way to read Bennett’s work?
Some of the issues Hall raises are enough to make me question what Bennett is up to, and that is all he needs to do. That’s what good journalism is supposed to be about. It’s with that in mind that I recommend reading Hall’s essay, whether you find that his analysis is accurate in the end or not.