Michael Brown Shooting

Why Michael Brown's Killer Would Have Been Acquitted

Conflicting witness accounts and ambiguous physical evidence provide plenty of room for reasonable doubt.


Given the contested circumstances of Michael Brown's death, it is understandable that many people were dismayed by a grand jury's rejection of criminal charges against the police officer who shot and killed the unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer. But if Darren Wilson had been indicted, he almost certainly would have been acquitted, precisely because important details of his deadly encounter with Brown are hard to pin down.

This much is undisputed: A little after noon on August 9, Wilson saw Brown walking with a 22-year-old friend, Dorian Johnson, in the street and told them to use the sidewalk instead. Johnson said they had almost reached their destination, and Wilson passed them but moments later backed up his police SUV, stopping right next to Brown.

There followed a struggle in which, depending on whose account you believe, Wilson grabbed Brown through the window of the SUV and threatened to shoot him as Brown tried to get away or Brown punched Wilson in the face and tried to grab his gun. Wilson's gun fired twice inside the vehicle, and one of the rounds grazed Brown's hand.

Brown and Johnson took off at that point, and Wilson got out of the SUV. He fired 10 more rounds at Brown, striking him at least six times.

According to some eyewitnesses, Wilson fired at Brown while the teenager was running away, then continued shooting as he turned around and raised his hands in surrender. According to other eyewitnesses, the officer fired as Brown was approaching him in a menacing manner.

Wilson claims he killed Brown in self-defense, fearing the six-foot-four, 300-pound teenager would rush and overpower him. Under Missouri law, the shooting was justified if Wilson reasonably believed it was necessary to prevent Brown from killing or seriously injuring him.

Wilson also could invoke a provision that says police may use lethal force if they reasonably believe it is "immediately necessary" to arrest someone who "has committed or attempted to commit a felony." Wilson says he backed up his car to confront Brown and Johnson after he heard a robbery report on his radio and thought the two young men matched the description of the perpetrators.

Security-camera footage shows Brown stealing a bunch of cigars from a convenience store earlier that day, pushing past a clerk on his way out. That crime qualifies as a felony, and so does Brown's alleged assault on Wilson. Does that mean Wilson was within his rights to fire at Brown as he ran away?

Not quite. As University of Utah law professor Paul Cassell points out, Missouri's remarkably permissive approach to police violence is "patently unconstitutional," since it violates the Fourth Amendment as interpreted by the Supreme Court. In the 1985 case Tennessee v. Garner, the Court said a police officer may use deadly force against a fleeing suspect only when he "poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others."

Four years later, in Graham v. Connor, the Court said the use of force during an arrest is constitutional when it's "objectively reasonable," adding that "the calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments—in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving—about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation." The upshot is that police have extra leeway in using deadly force, although not as much as Missouri's law purports to give them.   

Wilson's biggest advantage in a trial would have been one enjoyed by every criminal defendant: The prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. With ambiguous physical evidence, conflicting witness accounts, and no conclusive answers to crucial questions such as who initiated the violence, whether Wilson fired at Brown as he fled, and whether Brown was trying to surrender or trying to attack Wilson, it is hard to imagine how the state could meet that test.

© Copyright 2014 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

NEXT: This Thanksgiving, Be Grateful for Property Rights. The Pilgrims Nearly Starved Without Them.

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  1. Wilson says he backed up his car to confront Brown and Johnson after he heard a robbery report on his radio and thought the two young men matched the description of the perpetrators.

    Given how many times that story's changed, a jury could easily disregard the claim as untrustworthy, except cop.

    1. We have only the word of the cop, what appears to be a large number of shitty witnesses, and 'facts' (culled by yet more cops) called forensics.

      Wilson should consider himself lucky that he is in a line of business that is without question above the same laws that apply to you and me and that he killed under very murky circumstances.

      1. The circumstances are only murky if you ignore the forensic evidence.

    2. In fairness the stories that have changed have been the ones told to the media, either by witnesses or by leaks from supposedly knowledgeable sources. The actual testimony before the grand jury is the first time the public has seen Wilson's version of events.

      1. Picking the right shitty witnesses to corroborate Wilson's version is all the grand jury had to go on because cops work for the lord and all.

        The prosecutor said as much. He specifically stated that the indictment could have gone differently depending on what witnesses were chosen.

        We know the witnesses were shifty, lying, imagining shits because the prosecutor said as much in less colorful language.

        1. Yes but a defense attorney for someone else would have done the same thing.

        2. We know the witnesses were shifty, lying, imagining shits because the prosecutor said as much in less colorful language.

          OK, but it looks like it was the pro-Brown witnesses who were the lying shits. The forensic evidence (and some witnesses) supported Wilson.

        3. So in other words "he must be guilty because cops"?

          That's no more just and superior than "he's innocent because cop".

          1. But the combination leads directly to "He will be acquitted, unless the fix is in, because reasonable doubt acquits.

      2. Exactly. I haven't read the transcript, but you can't honestly conflate random media reports with actual autopsy results and sworn testimony. Even setting aside their obvious bias, journalists are just too incompetent to be trustworthy.

      3. In fairness the stories that have changed have been the ones told to the media

        And without fail, they cling to the most inflammatory and damning version of events as the data comes in.

    3. You only know what the lying mainstream media has told you.

      1. The entire transcript is available right now. No need to use the 'lying' media.

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  2. It seems perfectly within reason to try and take out a cop that is intent on killing you. Which might explain Brown's Hulk Hogan-styled advance on trigger-pulling Wilson.

    1. Whenever a cop is killed in the line of duty, my first assumption is self defense.

      1. Contrary to what is deemed normalized American reaction to a cop killing I'll have to concur with you.

    2. A cop isn't going to try to "take out" someone from the seat his car.

    3. What fantasy world do you live in? You think Wilson tried, for no good reason, while he was sitting in his car, to kill Brown?

      1. It's better than that.
        They are saying that the cop decided he would kill Brown, for no good reason, in the middle of the day, in the middle of the street.

    4. ROTFLMAO. What is perfectly reasonable is to stop and get on the ground when ordered by the police.

  3. He was never going to be convicted, he was never even going to get indicted. The only reason he even had to go before a grand jury is because of the protests and the media scrutiny over the shooting.

    Proving to many people that the only way you get a grand jury to look at a police shooting is to protest loud enough and long enough for outside pressure to be put on a craven DA completely in the pocket of the police.

    Good lesson.

    1. exactly this. This is why the Police think they are above us and abuse their power. Because they are.

    2. Exactly this. And the worst part of it all is that he probably shouldn't have gone to the grand jury. I don't blame him for shooting Brown.

      Of course there are any number of other cases of outright murder that don't even go to a grand jury much less trial that the media pays no attention to. This case is just infuriating.

      All Obama and Holder want to do is terrorize people with the mob. That is it. This case is no different than the Zimmerman case. Obama and Holder showed up and got the mob thinking something could be done and then terrorized the community for a bit. Meanwhile, nothing changes except Holder and Obama and their court media move on to find a new mob to aggitate. That is it. That is all this is about. The only reason Obama and Holder's tactics fail is because people are armed and these riots never amount to much or spread to good neighborhoods as a result. If Holder and Obama could have their way and disarm the public, they would be able to terrorize the public into supporting them.

      These people are nothing but fascists.

      1. No, I'm fine with him going in front of a grand jury. And even more fine if it had been with a prosecutor that had any interest whatsoever in seeing that an honest inquiry of the events that took place.

        The shameful part is that it takes a riot for even a corrupt and hollow version of of that inquiry to take place.

        1. I don't this inquirty was corrupt and hollow. If there is any corruption going on here it is that the Grand Jury no doubt felt pressure to indict the guy simply to keep these assholes from burning the town down.

          I said this on the other thread. Libertarians need to walk away from this case. It appears to have been a debatable but hardly outragious instance of the police shooting someone. Maybe others would have indicted him but the this grand jury not is not an outrage. All talking about this case now does is affirm the idea that the mob should be able to determine who is indicted. That is it.

          1. I think sugarfrees point is that its sad that it takes a mob for the slightest bit of follow up of a police shooting, beside simply taking the officers word for it, even one like this.

          2. Nope. Read the marijuana article from earlier. The prosecutor made an argument for justification to the grand jury and presented evidence toward a theory of why Brown attacked Wilson.

            I'm fine with all cop involved deaths going before a grand jury, or at least the same level of inquiry of a group not in the cop-prosecutor-judge circle jerk.

            1. SF,

              It went to the Grand Jury. You just don't like the results. Okay, well what do you want done about it? You want to try him anyway? You want to set the precedent that a grand jury's refusal to indict can be overcome if the mob just burns enough shit down?

              You forget that there is another interest here; the interest in an accused getting a fair an impartial hearing. And remember the Left doesn't give a fuck about police brutality. They want to make it so they, through their mob tactics, get to decide who gets charged and who doesn't. That is what this is about for them.

              So when some well meaning person like you thinks this case ought to be overturned and the process was wrong, all they are doing is furthering the left's goal of the mob determining justice, because that is all that can be done now. There are only two ways forward, live with the Grand Jury's determination or throw it out and bow to the mob. There is no third option.

              1. I don't think it should be overturned, but I'm not going to call it anything like justice. A bullshit grand jury is a bullshit grand jury. It says nothing at all about what happened here. And it certainly doesn't vindicate Wilson like so many want to argue.

                Wilson is going to walk away from this with 400K and his new wife and be fine.

                I'd like to see the prosecutor disbarred and fired, but I know that's not going to happen either.

                Just like with Trayvon Martin, it's glee so many seem to have over Brown's death that sickens me.

                1. "Glee" is a bit much, but I don't shed tears when violent criminals are killed. Both of them died while attacking people. Based on what we know of their lives, both seemed destined for prison. Who knows how much damage and injury they'd have caused if they'd lived. When they died, society got slightly more peaceful and the collective IQ rose a bit.

                2. Saying it's bullshit over and over won't demonstrate that to other people.

                  I get the impression from the above that you think it improper for the prosecutor, when presenting the case to the grand jury, to mention reasons why they might not indict.

                  Given that a Grand Jury is not a trial and has no defense attorney, isn't that, well, a bit odd?

                  Remember, the Grand Jury's job is to decide if there's a case that will stand up to a trial on the face of it; they thus have to take into account the likely defenses, because if there's a decent defense, they're wasting everyone's time bringing an indictment.

                  The entire point of a Grand Jury is to filter out cases that are un-convictable on the evidence vs. the charges. Thus, you know, defenses to the charges are completely relevant.

                  1. You should italicize more words.

                    Wilson got away with it, so why are you so bent out of shape that I think the grand jury was a joke and that the prosecutor is corrupt?

                    Am I only supposed to care about the rule of law when you say so?

                    1. He's bent out of shape because you apparently believe it is the job of the Grand Jury to send a man to trial who, based on the case as it stands, would be acquitted.

                      You want the cop to be punished, whether it can be proved or not. That isn't justice. That's a lynching. Lynching cops is no better than lynching young blacks.

                    2. No. You're only supposed to care when it's written in italics. Silly.

                3. Both Martin and Brown were morons who made the mistake of screwing with the wrong people. I don't have any glee over their deaths. I just don't care.

                  And if Wilson has resigned from is job. So he won't be getting any 401k.

                  1. No, various people felt so sorry for this brave officer, they donated a total of $400,000 to him.

                    1. "No, various people felt so sorry for this brave officer, they donated a total of $400,000 to him."

                      Good!!! Maybe that will help compensate him for the lifetime of fear that he and his family will now have to endure. They should have donated $4,000,000. Where can I send my check?

                4. Why shouldn't people have glee about a thug getting his? You like roughing up Asian shopkeepers yourself?

                  This is a strange hill to die on in the Culture War.

                5. "it's glee so many seem to have over Brown's death that sickens me."

                  Does that include all the blacks who so gleefully looted and destroyed businesses? Laughing. Celebrating. Joyously running out of stores with their arms full as TV cameras filmed. Protests my ass.

                  And yeah, the grand jury decision does, in fact, 100%, beyond any shadow of a doubt, absolutely vindicate Wilson. And I'm sick and tired of the bullshit reverse racism that canonizes a thug punk and demonizes an officer of the law who tried simply to do his duty protect himself in the process. Even black eye witnesses, along with all the forensic evidence, corroborate Wilson's account. END OF STORY! And are you really so stupid as to think that Wilson will be "just fine"? He will have to spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder. And why? Because he did his job.

                  You call this a "bullshit" grand jury. That's the typical bullshit attitude that a lot of people in this country are starting to get fed up with. It's that attitude that says, "my mind is made up, I don't care about the facts, the cop is white, the dead guy is black, indict and try the cop". We are sick and fucking tired of it.

      2. I really doubt it. Obama may have a dangerously inflated view of himself, but he's still just a politician. Voters vote against their fears. Obama's group has operated by staging photoops, guerilla PR, tapping into that mythology that the bootlicking press developed 6 years ago. Unfortunately for him, that's over with. His actions have been cynical, but he's weaker than he looks.

      3. It's the Chaos Umpire strategy. Race hustlers choose to emphasize these specific cases precisely because they know they're likely to be on the "losing" side.

        Their narrative requires a permanent state of injustice. They've already got their manufactured martyr, whether anyone is prosecuted or not. They want to ride each grievance train as far as it'll take them.

    3. Now that's funny. He was never going to be indicted or convicted because there was no evidence or reliable witness to support an indictment. Or do you also believe the bogus stories about him being shot in the back while fleeing, even though the forensics thoroughly debunked that idea.

      Let me ask you this: were the black witnesss who supported Wilson't account also "in the pocket of the police"? Your comment is representative of the view of so many who would not have been satisfied with an indictment, would not have been satisfied with a trial, and would not have been satisfied with anything less than a guilty verdict. And it's why you have no credibility.

  4. Pick the right jury and you could convict him of every crime listed since the Code of Hammurabi.

    Of course he could waive the right to a jury trial, but the judge would still be a crap shoot.

    When people are this wound up, anything could happen and, given Obama's "Justice" department, just might.

    1. but the judge would still be a crap shoot.

      No, not really. Judges and cops are on the same team.

      1. And if the judge decides the defendant has to take one for the good of the team?

    2. Of course he could waive the right to a jury trial, but the judge would still be a crap shoot.

      True, but I've read of instances where a cop charged with a crime elected a bench trial and was promptly acquitted. Judges, prosecutors, and cops are all on the same team, after all.

    3. Holder and his people have already gone through this case with a fine-toothed comb, talked to every single person who was in the vicinity of the shooting, and investigated every single aspect of Darren Wilson's entire work and life history that they could find, the same way they did with George Zimmerman.

      If there was ANYTHING at all that looked even slightly amiss to them or if they thought they had any chance whatsoever of getting Wilson, they would go after him with all the resources at their disposal.

      They're not going to, because they have no case at all, and they know it. Not even if the lowlife velour tracksuit wearing gutter rat Al Sharpscum screams bloody murder on the TV every day for the next year.

      1. Well said. If there was any conspiracy or even just bias about the outcome of this investigation is was pro-Brown not pro-Wilson.

  5. Apparently there were lots of witnesses saying different things. There was evidence of where the bullets hit and how, evidence which at least didn't hurt Wilson.

    And there are the common sense considerations - that Brown seems like a, well, a thug. A violent thug with, perhaps, a not-very-well-developed sense of self-preservation and a willingness to physically confront people.

    I'm not sure that even a "civilian" would have been convicted with this kind of evidence - imagine witnesses saying the deceased tried to take the civilian's gun and then backed up and charged.

    How can you discount such witnesses beyond a reasonable doubt?

    1. You may be right that a civilian would ultimately be acquitted, but I strongly suspect they would have at least been indicted and gone through a trial.

      1. If so, that would be a black mark on our justice system, IMHO.

      2. Which would've been unjust.

      3. Why Zimmerman went to trial with far less but only to placate the mob. The DA knew there was no conviction but that special prosecutor was so sure she could overcharge and got her ass handed to her.

        The DA knew this was a loser and punted.

    2. Heck I could see a civilian not even getting to the point of a grand jury since you probably wouldn't have had the mob threat. That's the only reason this went as far as it did.

  6. It will be interesting to see what kind of consensus emerges once the evidence has been thoroughly evaluated by legal experts and investigators.

    1. Jesse Jackson is on it.

      1. Not who I had in mind, but I'm sure he will share his perspective.

    2. A consesus of the grand jury was reached. Who cares what Monday morning quarterbacks think?

      1. Many of them have more knowledge and training than the grand jury members, so it will be interesting to see if experts in the field identify any irregularities or errors. They may very well not, but I'm glad that they will have an opportunity to review the evidence.

        1. experts in the field identify any irregularities or errors

          What would this even mean if the simple facts are as stated where Brown punched the cop, got shot in the car, walked away, was told to halt and turned and moved toward Wilson?

          This isn't some securities or fraud case where legal minutia is extremely important.

    3. I suspect no meaningful "consensus", sadly.

      People still insist that Trayvon Martin was "murdered by some racist who chased him down and just shot him in cold blood".

  7. I don't believe Wilson would start a fight with the 6'4" 300 lb. Brown from the seat of his car, especially since he fit the description of the perpetrator of a strong arm robbery that had recently occurred nearby.

    1. Wilson likely grabbed the mouthy punk's arm and Brown shoved his hand off.

      Something rather low level between the two sparked the greater altercation which the average cop seems more than thrilled to accelerate since he's heavily armed sees young punks as demons and all.

  8. Wilson may be making stuff up, but is his story Literally Unbelievable ?


    Officer Darren Wilson's story is unbelievable. Literally.

    Other than the waistband thing...is this really "Unbelievable" ?

    1. It's full of boilerplate, that's for sure. You can tell he was coached by a lawyer or two.

    2. The hospital pictures showing the violence committed on him by that bad black boy were so horrific I haven't slept for days.

    3. I disagree with the premise that it is so unlikely as to be literally unbelievable that a dumbass would get into an alteration with a cop. Taken on it's own merits, that is at least plausible if not likely. (Whether Wilson's story is the truth is a different matter.)

      1. Ezra Klein can't believe that an 18-year-old black male who flashes gang signs in photos would ever do something stupid and violent like assaulting a cop. And yet Brown was stupid and violent enough to rob a store with a security camera, then walk down the middle of the street with the loot, and then argue with a cop who told him to move to the sidewalk.

        Ezra's politics is hindering his imagination.

        1. Ezra Klein? No way.

          Dude, it's in a Vox article.

          It must be gospel.

    4. "During his first stride, he took his right hand put it under his shirt into his waistband. And I ordered him to stop and get on the ground again. He didn't. I fired multiple shots. "

      Maybe he had to hold his pants up to run ?

      No so unbelievable.

    5. Why did Michael Brown, an 18-year-old kid headed to college,

      They are still riding this dead nag.

      None of this fits with what we know of Michael Brown. Brown wasn't a hardened felon.

      As if anybody from Vox knows since his juvenile record was sealed. We do know he liked to bully people based on his actions in the store. My guess is that he was going to be an enforcer for the Black Guerrilla Family eventually if he didn't get offed by Wilson.

  9. Not commenting on the Brown case, but in general...

    the calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments?in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving?about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation

    Does it embody allowance for the fact that citizens are often forced to make split-second judgements in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving when deciding how to respond to a threat of force by a police officer? Like maybe when a kid holding a toy gun is given half a second to comply with an order, without flinching, or risk being shot dead?

    1. Only when there is political pressure involved.

    2. What is your point that some cop shooting aren't justified? Well this one was, the 12 year old kid maybe not. The old guy who called in an attempted burglary and got shot when rummaging through his car with his back to the cops NO.

  10. so if your reasoning says he would have been acquitted given lacks of evidence then the grand jury did the right thing by not charging him as there was lack of evidence. Make up your mind Reason

    1. It's the difference between probable cause and beyond a reasonable doubt.

    2. You know, sometimes different writers, even different writers at the same magazine have different opinions.

      1. Whoa!


  11. Ehhhhh.. I distrust cops as much as the next reason commenter, but I'm still not sold on hating Wilson. I could be because the media went full-out Trayvon in describing Brown as a completely innocent, sweet, angelic, gentle-giant.

    Why can't we have a riot over the 12 year old getting gunned down the other day? That's a story where the cop truly deserves to rot in jail.

    1. Because that doesn't encite a culture war or generate any controversy. The name of the game is "divide and conquer" not "unite the populace against the statist regimes".

      1. Well, judging by my facebook feed, it's working. You're either a full-on cop fellator or you're out in the streets burning down liquor stores.

    2. Brown was likely an abject thug punk who deserved a solid beat-down if he indeed jacked up Wilson.

      But nowhere in my brain is there room for justifying a bullet-ridden body.

      Is the standard for self-defense so loose anymore that unarmed people can be killed for charging you?

      1. If you are a cop or a little person?

        1. I'm a wee, brah. A mere wee.

        2. Or a replicant

      2. Is the standard for self-defense so loose anymore that unarmed people can be killed for charging you?

        I know personally that if a large angry man is charging me, I'm going to be afraid for my life. I'm 160 lbs (and none of it is muscle) and I probably wouldn't survive a beating from Michael Brown.

        Cops, of course, need to be held to a higher standard. I don't think it's an easy line to define, and I imagine it's hard to ascertain whether someone is armed or not in the heat of the moment.

        I'm not saying Wilson was right in firing, but I'm not saying it was wrong, either. And an actual jury got to weigh the evidence, so I'm not outrageously outraged as I am in other case of police panic-fire.

        If the blue wall put him on paid vacation and closed the case, then I might be as pissed as the rest of you.

        1. I can appreciate your reflections.

          Putting you on the spot: if you have a cc permit and happen to be charged by an angry 300 pound guy would you kill him?


            I don't know if I would or not, it would depend on the situation.

            Although being honest with myself, I probably wouldn't. I'm the kind of guy who avoids stepping ants. I put stink bugs in a tissue and escort them outside.

            YOU FAGGOT

          2. Yes. Next question?

          3. Same answer as Sego: it depends on the situation. If it's 3:00 p.m. at a crowded mall, no. If things got out of hand others would probably step in. If it's 3:00 a.m. in a deserted alley, you bet. And I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.

      3. "Is the standard for self-defense so loose anymore that unarmed people can be killed for charging you?"

        If he tried to take my gun away, and I knew he had just robbed a store, then probably.

        If I'm not mistaken, I can shoot a person trying to run away (or whose back is turned) if he attacked me with intent to kill.

        1. Except, from the accounts I've read, he didn't know that he'd just robbed a store. (Not that that makes much of a difference.)

          And wouldn't it make more sense to stay in your patrol car and follow the fleeing perp?

          1. The store is irrelevant once he punched the cop and tried to take his gun away. You would be lucky to only get 10 years for that.

            As for the patrol car you are making Monday morning quarterback judgments. He was in pursuit of a fleeing felon who he told to halt so he could cuff him. Brown could have paid attention to the commands and he would be waiting trial in the county jail now. Why aren't you Monday morning quarterbacking Brown?

        2. In some states a fleeing felon can be shot.

      4. Do you have any idea why wrestling and boxing have weight classes? Have you ever been in an actual fight on asphalt where some guy could bash your head in? Do you know how skilled the other guy is who is attacking you?

        Wilson didn't have time to answer those questions.

      5. "But nowhere in my brain is there room for justifying a bullet-ridden body."

        Pity, then, that you have such a small brain. Were you born that way, or is it because of a lifestyle that has killed most of your brain cells? Yes, when a 300 pound...what did you call him, an "abject thug punk"?...charges a police officer after having already tried to take your gun...after having been told to stop, and then he charges you again after having been shot...then yeah, you put as many bullets in his body as necessary to put him on the ground. 6, 20, 30...however many. Absolutely.

        Yeah, you've got a really small brain if you can't comprehend that simple, basic fact.

  12. Just turned on CNN. They were interviewing Al Sharpton asking leading questions about whether he wants the federal government to bring in civil rights charges. Flipped it to Fox News and they were walking down the street showing the looted and burnt buildings.

    That about sums up this whole spectacle to me. Yes, it's a tragedy a young man was killed regardless that he was no angel. But still, justice was done and there is no excuse for looting and burning down other people's property who had nothing to do with it.

    1. The people who are seeing their business torched is a bigger tragedy than anything that happened to Brown.

      1. I strongly agree that the destruction of private property is a terrible crime, but I don't think it quite reaches the level of a dead 18-year old.

        1. It depends on the 18 year old and the property. Brown was a criminal who got into it with the cops and got himself shot. That sucks for sure. But that is not the same as if he had been minding his own business and been run down by some drunk cop doing 120 in a squad car. He is just as dead in both cases but the circumstances make it more of a tragedy. Brown's tragedy if he has one is that he was stupid and violent. In contrast the business owners did nothing except have the misfortune of owning a business in a town where Al Sharpton showed up.

          1. Business owners can lose buildings and businesses for all sorts of random and unfortunate reasons. And for this we have insurance. Most of them will recover just fine.

            1. Easy for you to say. You probably have insurance too. Does that make it not a big deal or not a tragedy if your house burns down?

            2. I've litigated over insurance policies and many have riders that don't cover acts of war or violence like this. Also, even if it did, the owner would still be out a large deductible. Finally, many of the contents may not be covered by the policy (if the policy even covers the loss) or be irreplaceable because of being an heirloom.

              Not sure how you're spinning it into a not a big deal kind of thing.

              1. Also forgot to mention loss of earnings/income from the loss of your business. That requires a separate policy many people don't have. As John said, it is a terrible tragedy for a small business owner to have his/her place burned down by animalistic assholes.

                1. I listened to a radio interview of a tire shop owner 1.5 miles from where Brown was shot.

                  His store was robbed and vandalized. Tires and rims stolen, 14 plate glass windows broken. Business off by 30%+/-.

                  He told his insurance company not to cut a check yet so that they would not have to pay for the damage twice because he knew they were going to riot again. He said 70% of his customers were black.

            3. "co-insurance"

              Also, there are limits on business loss of income coverage.

              1. That's right Swiss. I didn't witness the Brown shooting so I can't say I know exactly what happened. But one thing I can say with certainty, is that insurance companies will move heaven and earth to avoid paying out on a policy. Twelve years of litigating for and against those bastards have at least taught me much.

          2. We don't know with certainty what Brown did to Officer Wilson, but I get your point. However, I do see it as a tragedy given that Brown was so young and still had time to change if indeed he possessed serious character issues (robbery would suggest he certainly had some).

            1. Are you completely oblivious to the fact he was committing major felonies when he punched the cop and tried to take his gun. If he was lucky he was only going to get 5 years in the pen.

              What do you think he would have done there? He most likely would have joined the Black Guerrilla Family and become one of their enforcers.

        2. Nonsense. These people's income is gone. Their jobs, their savings, their whole life's work in some cases. Their family's, too.

          But, hey, the mob generously spared their lives, so they should just call it even.

          1. They should have taken lessons from the Koreans. After the King riots, the range I go to was full every weekend with buses containing Koreans getting weapons training. When the next trial came, the rioters knew the Koreans were locked and loaded.

        3. I strongly agree that the destruction of private property is a terrible crime, but I don't think it quite reaches the level of a dead 18-year old.

          Doesn't seem terribly relevant. Burning down people's businesses is a completely separate crime that still would be pure, inexcusable criminality even if Brown had been a sweet little kid minding his own business and had been gunned down in cold blood by a racist cop out for some black blood.

      2. Brown can no longer get up in the morning. The people who lost their businesses to these criminals can. And most of them are insured which means some of this isn't a total loss.

        1. Brown has himself to blame for what happened. These people don't. Fuck Brown. I have sympathy for these people not Brown.

          1. Aren't you out of your coffin a little early today? You seem more bloodthirsty than normal.

            1. Brown was not a child. He was an adult. Tragedies are things that happen due to no fault of the person they happen to or completely out of proportion to any fault they bear. A tragedy is Brown dying of cancer or in a car accident. This is not a tragedy. It is just not. It is the unfortunate forseable result of Brown's own actions.

              Think of it this way, if instead of the cop shooting Brown what if the owner of the store had shot him? Would you have any sympathy for Brown? I wouldn't. You don't want to get shot, don't go around robbing people. We have gun rights in this country so doing that is a contact sport. Given that, I feel no sympathy for Brown because the cop whom he attacked shot him.

              1. We simply have different vectors on tragedy. I like you too much to punch you in the head with paragraphs.

                But I will say I do not agree with people being shot for stealing under any circumstance unless the thief is armed. So, yes, had the store owner killed this punk over a box of Swisher Sweets I would have been just as pissed.

                Had he shot Brown in the leg to wound him and then hold him down while cops came. Super! Why should any unarmed thief be killed over stealing? That is absurd.

                1. Brown wasn't shot for stealing cigars or assaulting a shop owner. He was shot because he assaulted a police officer, attempted to take his service weapon (resulting in two close range gun shots in the officer's SUV), and then turned around and charged the officer as he was being pursued.

                  1. Wilson shot the punk because he looked like an angry demon. The whole bit in the car is likely a contrived cop story.

                    Without video evidence it's all conjecture laced with worldview. Mine is critical of police misbehavior and yours clearly emanates from wonderment with authority.

                    1. "The whole bit in the car is likely a contrived cop story."

                      You do realize Brown's blood was found in the car, and forensic experts and eye witnesses most likely corroborated Wilson's side of story?

                      Wilson had a pal with him. Once he exited the car, Wilson could claim that he felt Brown might have fled to get help and get another weapon or something.

                      If I recall the autopsy report correctly, Brown was shot mostly on the arm and right side of he chest. He was facing the officer when he was shot, and the only time that could have happened was (1) inside the car (2) when Brown turned around to face the officer while he was fleeing. That's when he was shot in the head.

                      So the kid wasn't executed while in the state of surrendering. Maybe Wilson did get trigger happy in a state of panic, but the kid was 300 pounds, and Wilson just heard he robbed a store.

                    2. "Wilson shot the punk because he looked like an angry demon. The whole bit in the car is likely a contrived cop story."

                      Are you really that stupid, or just a troll? Brown's blood was in the car. Or was that somehow "contrived" by the cops?

                      "Conjecture laced with wordview"...now that's some funny shite! Look, you would do well to keep something in mind. Tossing out pithy catchphrases doesn't impress people. You may think that you're impressing people with your vast intellect, but the reality is that the only thing you're succeeding in doing in this thread is convincing people that you're an effing moron by trying to hold to an untenable position in the face of overwhelming evidence.

                2. You don't have time in the heat of the moment to pick and choose where the fuck you shoot.

                  You aim for the fucking chest because it it is the biggest target and very painful.

                  Shooting someone in the leg does not necessary stop someone.

                  Also, how do you know the thief is unarmed? Maybe he just hasn't brandished his weapon yet?

                  You are living in a world of theoreticals and not actuals.

                  1. "You are living in a world of theoreticals and not actuals."

                    I like to believe I'm living in a world where I need a really good fucking reason to take someone's life no matter how shitty the situation.

                    Christ, there must be something wrong with me in that I'm excessively uncomfortable with killing humans.

                    1. You're noble and pure and the rest of us are bloodthirsty monsters looking for an excuse to kill people.

                      Obviously that's the only conceivable reason why anyone could disagree with the many, many posts demonstrating your superior moral sensibilities.

                    2. "I like to believe I'm living in a world where I need a really good fucking reason to take someone's life no matter how shitty the situation.

                      Christ, there must be something wrong with me in that I'm excessively uncomfortable with killing humans."

                      No, what's wrong with you is that although Wilson had a "really good fucking reason" to take Brown's life, you either don't have enough brain cells to comprehend that, or else you're blinded by your own prejudices.

                  2. Or you could stay in your SUV and wait for backup.

                3. "Why should any unarmed thief be killed over stealing? That is absurd."

                  When you perpetrate a violent crime, like a strongarm robbery, you're choosing to place yourself outside the protections of the law. It's not up to the clerk or the cops to determine if you have a weapon.

                  I don't think you should be hunted down and executed, which is why I initially sided with Brown. But if you're actually caught and yet still persist in doing dangerous and stupid things, then, yeah, getting hurt or killed seems pretty much inevitable.

                  There's no "It's a fair cop, guvn'r! I'll come quietly!" going on here. Sadly we seem to be short on rougish-yet-charming Victorian thieves with a sense of proportion and fair play. Too bad.

                  1. If he had just gotten on the sidewalk, or even said "fuck you pig" and then went to the sidewalk, he probably would have gotten away with it and not be dead. Assuming the official story is more or less accurate, Brown did the worst things he could have done. And if he actually grabbed for the gun, then he was just asking for it.

                    1. "If he had just gotten on the sidewalk, or even said "fuck you pig" and then went to the sidewalk, he probably would have gotten away with it and not be dead. "

                      Or, how about this..."Hands Up, Don't Shoot". Maybe if he had ACTUALLY DONE THAT he'd still be alive.

          2. Well said. That fool got himself a Darwin Award by his own stupidity.

        2. Please stop talking about the insurance because you clearly don't know how it works. See my replies above for how insurance works.

          1. I was in business for over 20 years and held plenty of insurance. I do have an idea, actually.

            1. You made a claim on a casualty or CGL policy? Have you ever litigated what is covered? If "no" to either, then you don't know as much as you think.

              1. Well, fuck, I should have figured out a way to litigate one then, dammit.

                I had casualty, disability, and several hundred dollars of other types for many years. Never had a single claim and I mightily regret this years later especially since you popped into my life because now I'm just a fucking know-it-all that needs a shoe stuck in me yapper. boo boop be boop

    2. Sharpton shows that, indeed, half of life is just showing up. Because, apart from showing up and yelling (and breaking verious laws) what has Sharpton actually done?

      1. If you are able to step back and look at all this from a very broad perspective, it's perhaps a sign or harbinger that our society has enough resources (or spends its resources this way) to pay someone like Sharpton a very large income for doing what he does.

      2. Does suborning murder count?

      3. He has applied to formulae for success followed by the Klan to the prejudices of poor, ignorant black twits (as opposed to poor, ignorant white twits).

  13. When this first happened, people were saying that there was at least one video of the incident taken on someone's phone. Was that not true, or what? If it does exist, why isn't it showing for sure what went down when Brown got shot?
    All of the stuff about whether he was on drugs, whether the cop knew he might have recently robbed the store or whether he was a big scary guy isn't all that relevant to whether it was legitimate self defense or not. What was Brown doing at the time of the shooting? Was he walking or running away? Attacking the cop? Putting his hands up?

    1. It never surfaced, so it was probably just a rumor.

    2. The DA's announcement last night referred to a phone video coincidently in progress during the incident, the audio of which contained the gunfire sounds.

      I inferred that the video portion was not directed at the incident.

  14. Having had experiences on both sides, I alternately respect the police and loathe them.

    Much of the comment here is based upon media conjecture and what commenters heard or think they heard.

    Please go to the Grand Jury report and find that several black witnesses testified that Brown was coming at or "charging" Wilson. That, to me, is important.

    The video of Brown bitch slapping the store owner in the commission of blatant theft was disturbing (minutes before the shooting), as was the video of Wilson threatening to arrest someone for videotaping him (unrelated incident).

    Riots? Lots of inflammatory rhetoric prior to the verdict didn't help and why was there no curfew last night? Also, why release the results at night?

    I like most all of what's discussed on Reason, but let's not become a site that paints with too broad a brush, not all police or black youths are bad, so let's stick to facts.

    1. Agreed. The problem here at Reason is that many of its writers have invested a lot of time and energy into turning the Brown case into a narrative of out of control police violence. Police violence is a big problem in this country and needs to be effectively addressed. But, the Brown case is not that story. And saying it is one only muddies the waters. Unfortunately, there are many cases of police violence. Pick any of those and use it to push change.

    2. Would you charge at someone who just fired shots into your body?

      1. Uhm probably not. Why would you? I would lay my ass down on the ground considering I'm not in Iraq.

        1. Um, because I like breathing air.

      2. "Would you charge at someone who just fired shots into your body?"

        I won't, but someone else might.

        Brown was shot while facing the officer. All of the shots entered through the front of the body.

        Some witnesses no doubt saw the kid charging the officer after he fled.

        1. "Brown was shot while facing the officer. All of the shots entered through the front of the body."

          You're omitting that Brown was very probably shot *AT* while he was fleeing. He was unarmed, and cops don't get to do that, even if someone made a grab for their gun.

          It's very, very likely that at the least Wilson's third shot was unlawful, acc to a 1985 SC decision. Wilson's fourth and fifth shots probably were unlawful, as well.

      3. "Would you charge at someone who just fired shots into your body?"

        Would black witnesses say that he did, if he really didn't?

        You're making this way too easy.

  15. There needs to be a discussion in the country about police behavior and there needs to be change associated with that discussion in many departments across this country. I personally know how common it is to have an overhyped, dictatorial police man who wants to be judge and jury pull you over and hassle you because you fit the profile either my color or by the type of person that might have a bit of weed on them.

    This country also needs to have a discussion about why so many inner-city minorities have lost hope that they can survive. So there is reason to be upset. The problem with this case is that it is a bad, bad example of what the problem. The 'hang the cop' mentality is just the lynching mentality wrapped up in a different package. The kid was a criminal that attacked the officer. The officer's injuries are pretty clear. I'm not saying the kid deserved to die, but when you attach an officer you should realize that it is a possibility that you might get shot.

    I get the riots in response to the Rodney King case. Those officers should still be in jail. That worthless piece of crap that murdered Travon Bryant should be in jail too. Those trials raise a legitimate question about the US justice system. The Brown case is NOT the same thing and it is a shame that it has muddied the waters.

  16. Bit of a weasel move not to discuss the forensics in the article, treating the case as a "some say x/others say y" scenario. It isn't. The forensics back up the account given by the officer and some of the witnesses who said that Brown was shot because he assaulted Wilson, attempted to take his service weapon (resulting in two close range gun shots in the officer's SUV), and then turned around and charged the officer as he was being pursued.

    I get it. Some of the writers here have invested a lot of energy into casting the Brown story into one about out of control police violence. That is a problem in the country, but that is not the issue here. Pick any of the unfortunate cases we've read here and elsewhere and plant your flag on them.

    1. You mean those 'facts' meticulously collected, collated, and studiously examined by all those other cops who would never ever in a gazillion years do anything that would mysteriously help one of their own?

      Forensics is far from perfect. Especially when handled by the same people you work with.

      Hence, the overall problem with law enforcement worldwide. It is a closed system afforded plenty of legalized internal discretion.

      1. Well, you clearly have access to facts that somehow every one else missed. Care to share?

          1. All that article pointed out was that there are limitations to this type of evidence. Okay, got it. Learned this as an undergrad. This doesn't mean that the evidence used here is worthless. Again, if you know something specific about the evidence in this case, fine, then. Let's hear it. But, dismissing forensics because it isn't perfect isn't going to get you very far in a rational argument.

            1. This. Agile Cyborg is a twat.

          2. Witnesses sympathetic to Brown said he was shot near the vehicle and ran with Wilson chasing and shooting at him. They say Brown eventually turned, got on his knees and put his hands over his head in surrender.

            The crime scene investigation revealed Brown's blood farther from the police vehicle than his body. The only way this is possible is if Brown proceeded farther from the vehicle than where his body was found. He had to have moved back toward the vehicle before he collapsed. While this doesn't necessarily prove that Wilson's version of the story (that he was charged by Brown) is true, it is clearly inconsistent with the claims that Brown turned and went immediately to his knees in surrender.

            Current police procedure coupled with (inspired by?) the idiotic "War on Drugs" creates an atmosphere where cops are considered infallible, leading many on the force to feel untouchable. This disparity in authority between citizens and the people charged with their protection has predictable results. This problem needs to change and is worthy of protest.

            That being said, Michael Brown is the wrong spark. His death may serve as the impetus to get protesters in the street, but the people whose minds need to change will sympathize neither with Brown, nor with anyone who loots or burns.

            1. You might be interested in an early Harlan Ellison story from before he succumbed to hype, called "Daniel White for the Greater Good." In it black leaders are confronted with the issue of how to deal with a scumbag (I'm not implying that was true of Brown)and his possible martyrdom.

              Dorothy Parker liked the story, at any rate.

      2. If cops are crooked to begin with and the judges are on their side, then why even have a trial?

        Eyewitness testimony + forensic evidence + autposy "Cops are bad, so I don't trust anything they say"

      3. I'm sure that you'd be just as eager to point out how forensic evidence can be swayed by political pressure if the grand jury decision had gone against Wilson. Right?

    2. "Bit of a weasel move not to discuss the forensics in the article, treating the case as a "some say x/others say y" scenario. It isn't."

      Exactly so. What the hell happened to Reason on this story? Did they jump the gun at the beginning and assume Wilson was guilty? I didn't follow it that closely back then so I don't know. But I'm very disappointed in the unreasonable coverage by Reason.

      1. I'm very disappointed in the unreasonable coverage by Reason.

        Yeah, for a magazine called Reason! DRINK!!!1

  17. The cops and the prosecutor have done nothing but muddy the waters from Day One. Why the fuck should I believe anything they say?

    1. Have the cops and prosecutors muddied the waters, or was it mostly media speculation.

      It seems to me like the Cops and Prosecuters did everything they could to avoid leaking as much evidence as possible, and now that I've read the testimony in the GJ case, I think I know why. They had the witness(s) they wanted. They had a man or woman who corroborated almost every important detail of Wilson's story, and this witness's account also lined up with the forensic evidence. By keeping the rest of the evidence from the public, they kept other witnesses from changing or adapting their stories, and prevented a plausible alternative narrative. Was their star witness coached? Shown the evidence? Who knows. But I can say for sure that after receiving conflicting accounts from people who swore they saw the shooting, it was a good strategy to keep as much information from the public as possible

  18. At the end of this article:

    ? Copyright 2014 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

    I don't recall seeing this on Reason articles. Whassup?

    1. I think it is because this is an article that is syndicated and not a feature written specifically for Reason magazine.

  19. Missouri's remarkably permissive approach to police violence is "patently unconstitutional," since it violates the Fourth Amendment as interpreted by the Supreme Court.

    So why don't the race hustlers do something useful for a change, like challenge the Missouri law? Rhetorical question.

  20. OT: What would be the appropriate police reaction to rioting in Ferguson?

    1. Wear civilian clothing and notify the protesters that none of their crowd control equipment were made by the military.

      "Whew, all the police are wearing Hawaiian shirts instead of camo suits. The urge to burn down my community is..... slowly dissipating. AAAHHHHH"

      1. "Whew, all the police are wearing Hawaiian shirts instead of camo suits. The urge to burn down my community is..... slowly dissipating. AAAHHHHH"

        Depends on what kind of Hawaiian shirt and what kind of community. I know, right?

  21. Regarding the argument that GJs almost always indict someone, and that the prosecutor doesn't allow the accused to tesitfy -



  22. So the CNN reporter suggested that Michael Brown should have been creative and found a way, perhaps using his teeth, to avoid performing oral sex on Bill Cosby.

  23. Reason's very correct general stance on police brutality and overreach shoul;d not blind its writers to cases where it doesn't apply or is misplaced. This is one such case.

    I expect the Left to be unwavering in its bias on such matters when people of color are involved. I expect more integrity from Reason.

    While unfortunate, this case doesn't fit with more suitable examples of police brutality like Rodney King or the guy who strangled to death in Brooklyn for selling cigarettes.

    1. I know, I don't get it.

      If you are arguing that police shouldn't try to arrested robbery suspects (which Brown was) or use force when that suspect attacks them, well, I don't think you're ever going to win that argument.

      Or should.

      I realize that many libertarians have this fantasy that they are Rambo and can protect themselves and their property by mowing down criminals.

      But really, that's the one thing police should do - safeguard property rights.

      Criticizing them for the drug war, or harassing people or other things, but trying to stop a robbery suspect? I don't get it.

    2. Well said. I'd also add taking on police incompetence. An NYPD officer accidentally shot a man in a stairwell because it tried to open a door well holding his pistol in the same hand he tried to open the door with. As a shooter that is borderline farcical in the amount of gun safety standard violations.
      Stuff like that really deserves media coverage and legal action. Not a punk winning a Darwin Award under circumstances a civilian would walk under.

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  25. Two questions/ clarifications: First, for the law that allows you to use lethal force when some "has committed or attempted to commit a felony," I would think means while he's arresting him for that felony. That part of the arrest is in dispute. Second, "the prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt." Doesn't the burden of proof switch a self-defense case, and the defendant must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he feared for his life?

    1. Also, for the first one, where does the burden of proof lie?

    2. As soon as Brown assaulted Wilson, Wilson has the legal right and responsibility to use whatever force necessary to detain and arrest Brown. As soon as Brown tried to take Wilson's gun, Wilson had the right and responsibility to take whatever force necessary to end that threat.

      1. Ok, but that's not what the article said. "Wilson says he backed up his car to confront Brown and Johnson after he heard a robbery report on his radio and thought the two young men matched the description of the perpetrators." This is the felony it was referencing.

        And are you sure the police are allowed to shoot someone for assaulting them? Can anyone do that? I can't believe that's the case. This is why i'm asking where the burden of proof is. Does Wilson have to prove he needed to you lethal force in the or does the prosecution have to prove he didn't?

  26. This article ignores the details of the forensic evidence which showed that Brown was facing Officer Wilson when he was shot.

    1. Learn something about the law. Wilson is not permitted to simply execute a suspect fleeing from him, for example. Start w the Supreme Court's decision, Tennessee v Garner. It's a fascinating point of law.


    2. My other post was in response to the inaptly, ineptly named "TheTruth." Reason's comment system is ridiculous. Even Disqus would be a huge improvement.

      In your case, the autopsies showed it was extremely likely a number of shots, probably at least the third through the fifth, were fired as Brown was fleeing.

    3. Reason is biased against cops- forensic evidence doesn't suit their agenda.

  27. How was the third shot fired, and it would have been very likely provable as fired by Wilson while Brown was running away, not unlawful in light of Tennessee v. Garner, which prohibits firing even at fleeing felons, and even to prevent their escape, unless the person fleeing presents an imminent threat of severe bodily harm, which would not have been the case here?

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  30. Is "Reason" is so biased against cops that you omit facts? Such as, Brown's DNA was on the cop's gun. 3 black witnesses confirmed exactly what the cop said. Blood spatter shows Brown was charging the cop. Toxicology showed Brown had THC is his system.

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  32. What a horrible article, from a purported 'libertarian' no less.

    His argument essentially boils down to "we should expose a man to the very real jeopardy of a criminal trial even though I think he would be found not guilty."

    Because??? Oh some sort of vague benefit to society.

    Rothbard wept.

    1. ^ this ^ I'm afraid Reason has jumped the shark on this topic. Their editorial agenda and priorities don't fit the facts, so we get articles like this.

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