A review of the grand jury testimony of Ferguson, Mo., police Officer Darren Wilson opens up a window allowing us to see how police testimony is treated in an investigation. In the case of the shooting death of Michael Brown, Wilson often gets favorable treatment even in several questionable and eyebrow-raising passages.
If Brown’s family brings a civil lawsuit, it will be interesting to see what attorney Benjamin Crump can uncover in any cross-examination of Wilson.
During his testimony, Wilson received no tough questioning. And because the Ferguson police conveniently failed to take photographs of the crime scene or record measurements of distances regarding where Brown and Wilson were when Brown was shot, what we’re left with are photos from bystanders from Aug. 9, the testimony of Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson and Wilson’s grand jury appearance.
There are (at least) five specific points Wilson makes that are highly questionable:
1. Wilson admits that he dislikes the community Brown is from and that he views the neighborhood negatively, saying the neighborhood "is just not very well liked."
The entire passage on Page 238 of Wilson’s testimony reads as follows: "There’s a lot of gangs that reside or associate with that area. There’s a lot of violence in that area, there’s a lot of gun activity, drug activity; it is just not a very well-liked community. That community doesn’t like the police."
2. Wilson, who is 6 feet 3 inches tall and 210 pounds, says Brown had superhuman strength.
“I felt like a 5-year-old holding on to Hulk Hogan,” Wilson testified to the grand jury, even though Wilson himself is large—6 feet 3 inches tall and 210 pounds—and was initially inside a police SUV. Wilson also testified that he considered using mace, an asp (a metal retractable baton) and his flashlight to allegedly fend off Brown. Wilson ultimately unholstered his gun, a Sig Sauer P229 .40-caliber that he would end up firing 12 times in less than 2 minutes.
3. Wilson testified that Brown handed cigars to his friend Johnson at the same time Brown was allegedly hitting Wilson in the face.
Johnson, who was with Brown the day of the shooting, told CNN in the days after Brown was shot that Brown passed him a handful of cigars as he ran away. But Wilson testified before the grand jury that Brown was punching him in the face with his right hand—the same right hand in which, Wilson told the grand jury, Brown held the cigars.
On Page 209 of his testimony, Wilson said, “When I start looking at Brown, first thing I notice is in his right hand, his hand is full of cigarillos.”
Then, on Page 211 of the transcript, Wilson is asked, “Now, he was hitting you with what hand?” and Wilson answered, “I believe it was his right.”
Wilson further testified that Brown freed his right hand by placing the cigars in his left hand and then handing the cigars to Johnson.
4. Wilson refers to Brown as “it” and says that he looks like “a demon.”
“The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked. He comes back towards me again with his hands up. At that point I just went like this, I tried to pull the trigger again, click, nothing happened,” Wilson testified.
It’s interesting that Wilson referred to Brown as “a demon” and then acknowledged that Brown had his “hands up.”
5. Wilson is given two opportunities to explain exactly why he pulled out his firearm. Both explanations reveal that he decided to unholster his gun after backing up his police SUV to confront Johnson and Brown.
Wilson claimed that he pulled his car alongside Brown and grabbed his arm. Johnson said the confrontation began when Wilson grabbed Brown by the neck through his car window.
“I felt that another of those punches in my face could knock me out or worse,” Wilson testified. Wilson then unholstered his gun after Brown allegedly struck him.
Photos of Wilson’s face revealed a bruise and a slightly reddened area—not a major black-and-blue area that the confrontation he described would likely yield. Previous reports that Wilson had damage to his “orbital eye socket” proved to be false.
The point at which Wilson took out his firearm is a crucial moment around the issue of the use of deadly force and is almost certain to come up again in any civil suit.
Also on The Root: “Read Darren Wilson’s Grand Jury Testimony”