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No Indictment in Ferguson, and the Reaction

The grand jury in Ferguson declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

What I want to comment upon just now is the Brown family statement responding to the no-bill.  It reads in part as follows:

We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions.  While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.

The principal factor in "the system that allowed [the no-bill] to happen" is the law of self-defense. That law has been around mostly unchanged for about a thousand years.  It sparks almost no controversy and has nothing to do with race.

That the grand jury concluded that Officer Wilson did not act criminally does not change the grief of losing a teenage son.    


Blaming the "system" is surely easier than blaming yourself for raising a thug who would push around a convenience store clerk 1/3 his size for a few boxes of cheap cigars and then attack a cop.

It seems to me that justice was served just fine.

Nailed it.

Justice is dictated by facts. As you point out, the facts here show at the least that the government did not have a decently persuasive case of criminal homicide against Wilson.

Minutes before the episode, Brown robbed a store by shoving the store owner. Wilson got a radio alert to this effect. Wilson saw Brown, walking nearby and fitting the general description of the robber. Wilson thus did not just roust or harass Brown; he investigated in the same way any officer would have done.

From there, the picture gets murkier, but this is what seems to emerge. Brown's hand got inside the police cruiser, apparently in an attempt to get Wilson revolver. The gun went off, leaving traces of Brown's blood on the inside of the car. At the same general time, Wilson's face somehow got bruised and swollen.

Brown then walked or ran away; it's not clear at what speed. Wilson followed him, yelling at him to stop. Eventually Brown did stop and came back toward Wilson, although it is not clear at what speed or in what posture. Wilson and at least one other eyewitness viewed it as a "charge" or "rush." Other witnesses, evidently found less credible by the grand jury, described it differently.

It was at this point, and as the huge (6'3" 292 lb.)Brown got closer to the 5'7" Wilson, that Wilson fired the fatal series of shots, all at Brown's on-coming front.

The controlling question is whether, on these facts, a reasonable grand juror could have concluded that Wilson had an objectively reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily harm or death if he failed to use deadly force. I see no plausible case that a reasonable grand juror could not have reached that conclusion.

That's the end of the supposed murder case. A person does not commit murder when he acts in legal self defense.

It may be a harsh thing to say, but it's true. The blame here lay with a lax upbringing that bred in Michael Brown the thought that (1) it's OK to steal from a storeowner who's smaller than you are, (2) it's OK to wrestle with a cop (and maybe wrestle to get his pistol) instead of obeying orders, and (3) when the cop shows he's serious by continuing to order you to stop, charge at him.

Michael Brown's decisions put Darren Wilson is a spot where his choices ranged from awful to dreadful. Consequences generally work out poorly is such situations, and they did here too. Michael Brown now has no future at all, and Darren Wilson will have to find a new one.

We sometimes get an unhappy justice, and this is one such episode. Unless standards of family discipline improve dramatically, there will be many, many others.

The same situation George Zimmerman found himself in. Setting aside any concerns on how that episode got started (because ultimately it didn't matter), Zimmerman was being pummeled and his head smashed into the ground by a stronger guy who had him pinned down. How would anyone react in such a situation if their only chance to save themselves was to use their gun? How can any of us condemn an act of self-preservation when faced with such a stark choice, made even more harrowing when the person has maybe 1-2 seconds (and under extreme duress) to make a decision? But in today's America such simple truths are merely inconveniences, to be brushed aside in the name of some political or social ideology. And all the Michael Browns continue down the dead-end paths these ideologies have set them on.

In terms of Wilson's need for self-defense, I'm surprised that virtually no one points out that Brown would have been armed if he had succeeded in taking Wilson's gun.

I'm even more surprised that that no one seems to mention that Wilson's gun misfired (3) three times while he was fighting off Brown inside of his vehicle. This information is freely available in published versions of Wilson's testimony.

For whatever reason, Wilson's Sig Sauer, P229, .40 caliber gun was not a reliable weapon that day. (This may be due to something as simple as not properly cleaning the weapon - the cause of 90% of gun malfunctions.)

The fact that Wilson could not trust his own weapon to fire undoubtedly impacted the officer's later decisions. I'm not surprised, for example, that Wilson fired off 12 rounds and kept pulling the trigger even as Brown charging at him. If Wilson's gun had malfunctioned again, then Brown might have taken Wilson's life.

My understanding is that Wilson's gun didn't fire because Brown had his finger between the hammer and the firing pin. I'm no firearm expert but Sig Sauer has a reputation as being one of the finest and most reliable firearms available.

Nevertheless, if you're a policeman and someone is trying to take your gun away you can reasonably assume it's not to buy you an ice cream cone.

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