Darren Wilson's Pre-Prosecution Report: It's Good to be a Police Officer

An important part of the Darren Wilson pre-prosecution investigation is not what it found, but that it happened at all.


Former federal prosecutor Ken White at the great Popehat blog points out the most interesting aspect of the pre-prosecution investigation into whether a legitimate case could be made to prosecute Darren Wilson for his shooting and killing Michael Brown in Ferguson.

White agrees with the specifics of the conclusion of the 86-page report: that it would be hard for the state to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt if it took Wilson to trial, and that the defense in such a case would likely have a better time of it than the prosecution.

But that's not the end of what we can learn from this report, says White from the perspective of his own experience. We can learn from how unusual this thorough pre-prosecution investigation was:

Most investigations don't involve rigorous examination of the credibility of the prosecution's witnesses. Most investigations don't involve painstaking consideration of the defendant's potential defenses. Often investigators don't even talk to potential defense witnesses, and if they do, don't follow up on leads they offer. Most investigations don't carefully weigh potentially incriminating and potentially exculpatory scientific evidence. If an explanation of the flaws in a case requires footnotes, you shouldn't expect it to deter prosecution.

Instead, I'm more used to the prosecution assuming their witnesses are truthful, even if they are proven liars. I'm more used to contrary evidence being cynicallydisregarded. I'm more used to participants in the system stubbornly presuming guilt to the bitter end. I'm more used to prosecutors disregarding potentially exculpatory evidence that they think isn't "material." ….

Why is this case different? It's different because Darren Wilson is a cop. Cops get special rights and privileges and breaks the rest of us don't. Cops get an extremely generous and lenient benefit of the doubt from juries. Nearly every segment of the criminal justice system operates to treat cops more favorably than the rest of us…..

when you're a black guy who shoots a white law enforcement officer in self-defense, they don't write an 86-page memo with 28 footnotes about it. They just prosecute you.

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  1. It’s good to be King (or work for the King)

  2. Brown is a weak horse to hitch the police brutality wagon to.
    Evidence suggest that he and Travvon were engaged in thuggery when shot.
    Garner, on the other hand, was killed for breaking state-enforced tobacco cartel laws.

    1. That isnt the point.

      He said he agreed with the conclusion, it was the process that was different.

    2. Brown is a weak horse to hitch the police brutality wagon to.

      Unless we’re reading different articles, this one is about special treatment rather than police brutality.

  3. Ken is a National Treasure.

    Clark is a God.

    1. Anyone who thinks otherwise is probably an insurgent on behalf of the now-inevitable pony uprising.

  4. The last line in the Popehat article is the most important, in my opinion: “It’s not unjust that Darren Wilson gets the benefit of the doubt. It’s unjust that nearly everyone else doesn’t.”

  5. when you’re a black guy who shoots a white law enforcement officer in self-defense, they don’t write an 86-page memo with 28 footnotes about it. They just prosecute you.

    This is the money shot, right here.

    Unfortunately, I’m still not convinced this is an issue of race. It’s an issue of procedure.

    If I shoot a law enforcement officer, is my narrow white ass gonna get an 86-page memo with 28 footnotes?

    1. Unfortunately, I’m still not convinced this is an issue of race. It’s an issue of procedure.

      It can be both. I have a problem with people who are certain it *can’t be* or *isn’t* procedural or that it is strictly racist. I don’t think citing race in a specific example precludes or significantly encourages and false presumptions.

      1. It *can* be both, I’m just not convinced it is. Or to take the scientific track on Global Warming’s responsibility to the crisis in Syria, I’m not sure it’s… 50% (to pick numbers out of the air) of the issue.

        It may be 12% of the issue, it may be 9% of the issue, but I don’t give them equal billing, and I definitely don’t give it 85% billing– especially when I’m not going to get an 86-page memo with 28 footnotes if I shoot a cop.

        There’s also the uncomfortable situations where black officers treat black residents equally as poorly as the white officers do– or even in cities like Detroit where a huge percentage of the city leadership and management is black.

        I think the major proportion of the issue is procedure. And I’m using the word ‘procedure’ to simply describe the vast power structure that exists in state and local governments with the singular purpose of preserving and advancing itself.

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  7. The guy is a former federal prosecutor, so I suppose he knows of what he speaks.

    Maybe he could go to the press with details of specific cases where prosecutors abused their power in the way he describes?

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