The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s recent analysis into the autopsy report has no legal significance as the world waits for a St. Louis county grand jury to decide whether Wilson will be charged in the connection with the shooting
In protests held in Ferguson, Mo., for more than two months, some said 18-year-old Michael Brown had his hands up when he was killed by police officer Darren Wilson. Hence the blaring call: “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
But a forensics expert says Brown’s official county autopsy suggests the teenager may not have had his hands raised after all when he was slain on Aug. 9, according to a story in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. A source with knowledge of Wilson’s statements told the Post Dispatch that the officer told investigators that Brown had struggled for Wilson’s pistol inside a police SUV and that Wilson had fired the gun twice, hitting Brown once in the hand. Later, Wilson fired additional shots outside his patrol vehicle. Wilson reportedly said he fired the shots because Brown charged at him.
Brown has had three autopsies. The Post-Dispatch obtained the official autopsy, released to prosecutors but not the public, for its latest story. A private autopsy done at the behest of Brown’s family, discussed in detail at an August press conference, largely agreed with the official autopsy, but said Brown had not been shot at close range. A third autopsy, the results of which have not been released or been leaked, was performed by the Justice Department.
According to available information, Brown’s blood was in the car, indicating that he was shot near the car during a physical altercation. That is not disputed. However, Brown was running away with his hands up to surrender while several feet away, according to several witnesses, of varying ethnic backgrounds. Then, according to witnesses, Wilson shot the unarmed Brown repeatedly.
The problem with that version of events, from a self-defense legal perspective, is that if a threat is going away from Wilson and surrendering, then that threat is neutralized, and deadly force should not be used. However, in this case, deadly force was used, and at least six shots hit the unarmed teenager’s body.
According to Eric Guster, a civil rights and criminal-defense trial lawyer, “Wilson testified before the grand jury for approximately four hours. It’s rare, though, for a person who could face charges to testify before a grand jury unless he or she already knows what to say to secure a “no bill.” It looks as if Wilson’s extensive experience testifying before juries and grand juries was advantageous in his testimony.”
It also looks as if this case was tainted from the beginning. County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch should have disqualified himself from the prosecution process because of his close relationship with law enforcement in St. Louis County, including Wilson.
“Wilson had another advantage because he had a lot of time before giving sworn testimony to get his story together and make sure the evidence found by investigators matched his version. Unfortunately, given the combination of Wilson’s experience and his colleague, McCulloch, being in charge of the grand jury proceedings, more than likely, Wilson won’t be charged. And it will all happen in secret,” states Guster.
On social media St. Louis Alderman Antonio French (D), a familiar face on Ferguson’s front lines, questioned whether Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch or the U.S. attorney general should investigate the leaky investigation of Brown’s death. “Bob McCulloch and Attorney General Holder should be launching investigations into who is leaking this info,” French posted to Twitter. “Police? Attorneys? Jurors?”
The first indicator of trouble came when the St. Louis County grand jury investigation into the case was extended to January 2015. It’s the coldest month of the year, and it’s possible that this was timed for when protesters might not be out in full force, arguably the perfect time, from law enforcement’s point of view, not to charge Wilson. The grand jury’s deadline isn’t until January 7, 2015. However, as protest that have acutely divided Ferguson back in August occasionally re-ignite, the newspaper’s account, even if cloaked in forensic science leaked to the media, may prove inflammatory.