Police Abuse

DOJ Expected to Reject Civil Rights Charges Against Darren Wilson

Even if the shooting of Michael Brown was not justified, a federal case would be very hard to prove.


ABC News

The New York Times reports that the Justice Department will not bring federal civil rights charges against Darren Wilson, the white Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, last August. The determination is not official yet, the Times says, but lawyers are working on a memo that explains it, which probably will be released in the next month or two.

Whatever you think of the local grand jury's conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to support state charges against Wilson (or the process that led to it), a federal case was always unlikely because it would require proof that Wilson knowingly and intentionally violated Brown's constitutional rights. The relevant statute is Title 18, Section 242, which makes it a federal crime to "willfully" deprive someone of his constitutional rights "under color of any law." If death results, this crime can be punished by a life sentence or even by execution. But it requires a specific intent to violate someone's rights, and there is little evidence that Wilson had such an intent. Even if you assume that his use of deadly force was not justified (and the evidence on that score is decidedly mixed), the most likely scenario is that he overreacted in the heat of the moment, a state of mind that would not meet the test for federal charges.

NEXT: SOTU and the Cynical Call for Bipartisanship: Four Decades of B.S.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Overreacting and escalation of force is SOP.

  2. Damned you, Sullum! I had just posted this on the P.M. links!

  3. The federal investigation did not uncover any facts that differed significantly from the evidence made public by the authorities in Missouri late last year, the law enforcement officials said. To bring federal civil rights charges, the Justice Department would have needed to prove that Officer Wilson had intended to violate Mr. Brown’s rights when he had opened fire and that he had done so willfully ? meaning he knew that it was wrong to fire, but did so anyway.

    Soon after the shooting, witnesses told reporters that Mr. Brown had his hands up in a gesture of surrender when he was shot and killed by Mr. Wilson on a city street. The investigation, however, painted a murkier picture. Mr. Wilson told investigators that Mr. Brown tussled with him through the window of his police car and tried to grab his gun, an account supported by bruises and DNA evidence. Two shots were fired during that struggle.

  4. Just’a good ol’ boy
    meanin’ blacks harm.
    Beats all you niggas he ever saw
    Been in with the law…

  5. Success.

    They took one ostensibly good shoot, muddied the waters with racism charges and made a cause out of it. The police state lives on.

  6. 1983 ACTION! Settlement! Yeah!!!

  7. Next up: Bridgeton, NJ where video appears to show a black man being shot to death after being disarmed and removed from a vehicle in which he was riding.

  8. Let’s cut the BS – if the DoJ could have claimed with a straight face that they could show Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown in cold blood, they would be prosecuting the case. If a cop shot a guy who was surrendering, and the DoJ could prove it, of course they’d nail the cop.

    If they’re not prosecuting the case, it’s because there isn’t enough evidence.

    But they want to let the rioters down gently.

    1. If they’re not prosecuting the case, it’s because there isn’t enough evidence.

      Oh, Eddie, I actually pity you for once. Your delusional mindset has gone from sad to pitiable.

      1. Ah, Tonio, I can rely on you to show up whenever I appear…


    2. Allow me to rephrase:

      “If a *white* cop shot a *black* guy who was surrendering, *and there were political points for Democrats to score off the incident,* and the DoJ could prove it, of course they’d nail the cop.”

  9. Maybe, just maybe, it happens the way he and 15 black witnesses said it did and this dude was railroaded by a race hustler looking for more tax-free “contributions”
    And those “enlightened ones” who KNOW everything that happens as it happens, and that ALL cops even black, Hispanic, Asian and “other”, male, female and “other”, cops are evil (always) and racist (always)

    Sound familiar?


  10. I’ve been told on good authority that this is all because of racism. If we could just get racism out of policing we could all live in an unjust police state. Equality!

  11. lawyers are working on a memo that explains it, which probably will be released in the next month or two.

    Is it *really* that complicated? If so, just publish all the “evidence” and be done with it.

  12. When Eric Holder and Obama say they want reform, they don’t want reform-reform.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.