Last week, the DOJ quietly closed the chapter on its investigation of the Ferguson, Missouri incident that sparked protests across the US. Turns out, as with the Zimmerman case in Florida, the DOJ was unable to find any indication that Officer Darren Wilson had violated Michael Brown’s civil rights when he confronted and shot Brown in what he claimed to be self-defense following an altercation.
As in most DOJ cases that amount to nothing the Administration can effectively use to its advantage, the only thing Attorney General Eric Holder mentioned as being wrong in Ferguson, was the government’s standard of proof in civil rights cases. But it turns out, it wasn’t that Officer Darren Wilson had just escaped prosecution by the skin of his teeth and only because, say, the government couldn’t find enough enough witnesses to establish a conclusive understanding of what happened. The DOJ report released today, exonerating Wilson, leaves little doubt that Wilson was just doing his job and most definitely believed his life was in jeopardy.
The Justice Department on Wednesday released a report explaining why it will not pursue federal civil rights charges against Darren Wilson, the white police officer, who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, in Ferguson, Mo., last August.
The department found that Wilson’s actions “do not constitute a prosecutable violation” and there “is no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove Wilson’s stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety.”
Most importantly, the report, which you can access here in its entirety (pages 75-90 are the most interesting), noted that there was no credible evidence that Brown’s hands were up in the now-famous “hands up, don’t shoot” posture adopted by protesters. Instead, witnesses revealed that Brown likely punched Wilson and reached for his gun.
But federal agents and civil rights prosecutors rejected that story, just as a state grand jury did in November. The Justice Department said forensic evidence and other witnesses backed up the account of Officer Wilson, who said Mr. Brown fought with him, reached for his gun, then charged at him. He told investigators that he feared for his life.
“There is no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove Wilson’s stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety,” the report said.
The report found that witnesses who claimed that Mr. Brown was surrendering were not credible. “Some of those accounts are inaccurate because they are inconsistent with the physical and forensic evidence; some of those accounts are materially inconsistent with that witnesses’ own prior statements with no explanation,” it said.
“Although some witnesses state that Brown held his hands up at shoulder level with his palms facing outward for a brief moment, these same witnesses describe Brown then dropping his hands and ‘charging’ at Wilson,” it added.
“Those witness accounts stating that Brown never moved back toward Wilson could not be relied upon in a prosecution because their accounts cannot be reconciled with the DNA bloodstain evidence and other credible witness accounts.”
Fortunately, the DOJ released a series of emails from Ferguson police officers yesterday that do not establish a pervasive racism within the department, but will provide the DOJ with enough cover that they were thorough in their research, so perhaps they’ll escape the fate the Ferguson special prosecutor did not – having the allegations of racism, in turn, leveled at them.
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