Ferguson.

First, it is worth pointing out that Michael Brown robbed a store shortly before the encounter with Darren Wilson. Brown shoved the much smaller store employee who tried to get in his way. Soon afterward, he shoved the door of the police car shut when Officer Darren Wilson tried to exit. Then he struggled with Wilson. Was Brown, in fact, a “gentle giant”? Or did he have a history—written or unwritten—of violent encounters? If Brown was the “gentle giant” alleged by friends and family, what brought on this fit of physical aggression on the day he died? What put him over the edge into serious anger on his last day?   I haven’t seen any reporting that addresses these questions. Based on the little I have read about Michael Brown, he appears to have been an unpleasant person. This is not a capital crime.[1]

Second, I think that Darren Wilson succumbed to rage during his encounter with Michael Brown. I myself succumbed to rage one time. During a prolonged argument, someone did something that put me over the edge psychologically. During this episode, I was “outside myself” in some sense. Unthinking. Acting—I guess—on some deep impulse. Not feeling pain, and with time slowing down. That’s evidence for a huge adrenalin dump. At the last moment, God saved me from beating the other person to death.[2] So, that’s the basis for my thinking about this particular aspect of the case. The whole thing took place in a very compressed span of time” 90 seconds. What critical things happened? Brown shoved the door closed on Wilson when he was trying to exit the vehicle. Wilson grabbed Brown around the neck through the window. They struggled. Wilson at least believed that Brown had reached for his weapon, so he drew and fired within the car. Brown broke off and moved away. Wilson exited the vehicle, fired at Brown, and ordered Brown to stop. Brown turned to face him, then approached Wilson. It isn’t clear to me what happened after that. In any case, Wilson then shot Brown a bunch of times. The last one went into the top of Brown’s head while he was lying on the ground. A fatal wound, even if the other ones were not, fired after Brown posed absolutely no threat. To me, this is evidence that Wilson had lost control of himself. He revved through most of his mag, firing a total of twelve rounds. Racism and Rage aren’t the same thing.

Third, I think that District Attorney Robert McCulloch chose an unusual path for the grand jury, one that was unlikely to result in an indictment of Darren Wilson. In Anglo-American law, a trial is a confrontational procedure in which both the prosecution and the defense seek to structure the evidence to generate conflicting interpretations of that evidence. A decision emerges from the confrontation of the interpretations.   The jury must find for guilt or for innocence unanimously. Otherwise, you get a mistrial and a go-around. However, District Attorney Robert McCulloch short-circuited that procedure. Dumping all the information available in the case in an unstructured mass into the lap of the grand jury, with no one to provide an alternative explanation, and then letting them sort it out for themselves is a ludicrous procedure. If he had wanted to find out what happened, then he would have actively sought an indictment. New York judge Sol Wachtler once said that if a prosecutor wants to, he can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. Apparently, Darren Wilson isn’t a ham sandwich.

[1] At least, I hope that it isn’t for my own sake.

[2] Afterward, I felt dirty, and empty, and afraid—not of the Law, but of my newly-revealed, previously-unknown self. If I had killed the other person, then I would have been guilty under the law of some form of homicide. I imagine—and I hope with all my heart—that I would have been racked with guilt and felt deep remorse. Perhaps Darren Wilson feels these things. The circumstances for feeling remorse or expressing regret are not favorable.

 

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