1408390089660_Image_galleryImage_Officer_DARREN_WILSON_picstlouis13n-14-webThe Grand Jury in Missouri appears to have rendered its decision in the shooting investigation Michael Brown. It is expected to be announced shortly. Below is my column in USA Today.

In anticipation of the decision on whether to indict officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, the town of Ferguson, Mo., is a virtual armed camp. Schools are closed. The National Guard was called out when the governor declared a state of emergency. The emergency? A grand jury announcement.

While most protesters have engaged in legitimate and lawful speech, others used the shooting of the black teenager by a white police officer as justification to loot the town. State and federal forces are assembling in Ferguson in expectation that some protesters will riot unless there is a criminal charge. Those who insist that “justice” can be found only in jail for Wilson are speaking not of real justice but mob justice.

After the fatal encounter on Canfield Drive, there was good reason for many to question the shooting of Brown. The 18-year-old was unarmed, and police say he had committed a minor theft before being stopped by Wilson. Given the continuing cases of the profiling and shooting of black males by police, there was ample reason for suspicion. However, there was also ample reason for caution before declaring Wilson was a murderer.

Dueling stories

Within hours of the shooting, two clear and equally plausible narratives emerged. From the police account, Brown attacked Wilson after the officer confronted him for blocking the street. In the ensuing struggle in the patrol car, Brown was shot when he grabbed for the officer’s gun and then shot repeatedly outside of the vehicle. From the account of Brown’s friend (and others), Wilson gunned down Brown after the stop without provocation, including shooting him when he had his hands in the air. Each account has one of the men acting in an unprovoked and violent manner. If either account is true, it will be determined through investigations, not demonstrations.

Rioters, who somehow rationalized looting as acts of moral outrage, weren’t willing to wait for evidence. What is surprising is that national and local leaders showed the same impatience.

220px-Jay_Nixon_cropSoon after the shooting, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon referred to Brown as the “victim” despite Wilson’s insistence that Brown attacked him. Nixon denounced the police for releasing video that they say shows Brown robbing a store and threatening the clerk as besmirching the victim. Nixon also called for the pursuit of “a vigorous prosecution” for the shooting. A governor’s foremost responsibility is to demand not prosecution but the truth from an unbiased investigation.

Premature federal role

holderericAttorney General Eric Holder was also criticized for his reaction. Holder said he shared the same experience of profiling and abuse at the hands of police. As he did in the Trayvon Martin case, Holder sent in federal civil rights investigators before the initial investigation ended. Such federal investigations are ideally launched after state trials or, at a minimum, after an investigation is complete. When the federal government steps in, it can make the process look political and ultimately fuel discontent when it too rejects charges. Even before the grand jury has rendered its decision, The Washington Post reports that Holder’s investigators failed to uncover evidence to support civil rights charges.

That’s because the evidence in this case gives Wilson a strong defense. Brown allegedly was coming from the commission of a crime where he appeared to threaten a store clerk. The forensic evidence appears to contradict those who insist that Brown was not shot in a struggle but with his hands in the air. There is evidence that Wilson was injured in a struggle, the gun was discharged in the car and Brown was shot at close quarters leaving blood on the gun. Finally, more than a half-dozen black witnesses reportedly gave testimony supporting Wilson. Other scenarios could explain the evidence, and there is still the question of why so many shots were fired. But those questions might never be answered, a reality of some criminal cases.

The law requires us to deal with facts, and when those facts do not support a criminal charge, prosecution is barred regardless of popular demand.

In the end, it rings hollow to cry “no justice, no peace” when you are rioting or looting. There can be no justice if it is merely the result of demonstrations rather than demonstrated facts. Otherwise, the scales of justice become just one more object to throw through the window of an appliance store.

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, has represented both protesters and police officers.

November 24, 2014


  1. HappyP,
    Yet JT said there wasn’t sufficient evidence to have an indictment. Wouldn’t it have been better to have a trail?

    1. Teji Malik

      You should follow this blog more frequently as Mr Turley is a great advocate of police brutality and something being done about it

  2. Please make the internet safer by not asking for our phone numbers,
    It becomes a tracking device, in and of itself.
    I would prefer to have some type of very secure place, protected,
    by the U.S. Government, completely, with many layers, so that it
    cannot be hijacked by a criminal or criminal state. So, far, from
    my experience in telecommunications, and safety, we are not there,
    as yet.

  3. Paul…I suggest that “Teji” acquire a pistol and enter an IPSC competition…he will quickly find out how hard it is to shoot accurately while both you and your target are moving. It’s not real combat (less adrenalin) , but it is a decent simulation. Very difficult to score at all, let alone high on the chart. I first tried it in 1964, then enlisted in 1968 only to discover how much I really did not know.

    1. Aridog – I keep telling people that under stress, like situations like this, the first thing to go is your fine motor skill. That is why they teach you to use two hands to hold the pistol. Personally, I am amazed he got 6 hits in 10-12 shots. 9 if you figure 3 were in the car. That is some fine shooting.

    2. Aridiog writes:

      “Paul…I suggest that “Teji” acquire a pistol and enter an IPSC competition…he will quickly find out how hard it is to shoot accurately while both you and your target are moving. It’s not real combat (less adrenalin) , but it is a decent simulation. Very difficult to score at all, let alone high on the chart. I first tried it in 1964, then enlisted in 1968 only to discover how much I really did not know.”

      LOL Ari. Is jumping to conclusions and pre judging others without knowing anything about them you second nature? I hope not.:)

      FYI, I learned how to shoot since the age of 7 and have won many trophies in the target practices and in other sports concerning arms. Hence I know what I am talking about.

      Next time, please ask questions rather than assuming things that you have no idea about. Giving the benefit of the doubt is a very positive trait in any human being.

      I promise you, by doing that it will make you a learner.:)

  4. Paul…but but but, you mean you can’t “wing ’em” in the shoulder like in the old timely movies?

    Here’s test for the uninitiated with firearms…run a 10 minute 2 miles, with 60 lbs on your back, then take up a firing position and shoot at a target 25 yards or more away…then tell me your 10 ring scores. If you get even one out the first 20, you will have done very well. The training for this exercise is usually at targets from 25 yards out to 350 yards, from any position. And that is just in boot camp.

  5. Darren, you are right. Having said that, we know from the Police Officer’s previous records, his mindset. One should question his anger according to his ex wife’s testimony.

    Were 12 shots- if I am not mistaken- justifiable?

    Why didn’t he shoot at this legs to incapacitate him if he was walking towards him as the officer has implied rather than shooting him on the head and killing him there and then?

    One does not need 12 bullets to stop a criminal.

    What was the officer’s mindset one should ask again as his anger is quite prevalent in the previous testimony?

    There is always a way to avoid things provided the police departments do not turn any scuffle as a war zone in the foreign countries with the equipment they have been handed over. After all he only stole cigars which is a misdemeanor but the police changed that into felony by defining it as a strong armed robbery by releasing the tape from the convenience store with the name of the officer, which was done on purpose to make this kid a thug. The definition of a crime is up to the discretion of the Police Department.

    We are all aware of that.

    1. Teji – this is not the movies or TV. The police and military are not trained to shot for the legs. If you go to their shooting range their targets have no legs on them, torsos only. You only get points for torso hits. Snipers take head shots.

      1. Paul: You are right. This is NOT the movies or TV. Real people and real lives are involved, hence the training should be taken more seriously in a way where lives could be saved. You have just proved my point. The training should be changed especially when the person is not armed. Paul. if it were you, unarmed with your hands in the pockets and got killed, do you think it would be the right thing even if you had robbed some cigars?

        Just think about it.

        1. Teji- go to your local PD and explain to them that they need to change their procedures. Let me know how it goes.

          1. “Teji- go to your local PD and explain to them that they need to change their procedures. Let me know how it goes.”

            Paul. I am. As a civilian member of the HLS, I am invited to all the meetings by them among other concerned citizens. Due to this, we have been successful in making many changes here and all over the country as far as TSA is concerned and how they should treat the handicap people both invisible and the visible one, how to check people who have pacemakers and other devices without pounding on them (I have a pacemaker) and many other things. Now, all of these TSA employees are being trained by the professionals in the subjects all over the country, unlike before when they were handed a manual.

            To answer to your question,we have also been able to change the training of the Metro and the local police departments that surround Las Vegas. I have been to the range with them many times and now, they do have full body target shooting practice with a result, fatalities have been reduced.

            Paul, I think you mentioned that you live in Phoenix where Mr. Sodhi, a Sikh with a turban was killed by an ignorant after 9-11. He was sentenced to death. As Sikhi does not believe in the death sentence, they were able to change that for life without parole. Only by fighting for the positive changes we can all become better.

            Paul, please respond to my previous question,”Paul. if it were you, unarmed with your hands in the pockets and got killed, do you think it would be the right thing even if you had robbed some cigars?”

            Your stance and mentality on the subject that shooting anywhere else but on the torso is common but it is our civic duty as citizens to change it, otherwise your mindset that it only happens in the movies and TV will remain perhaps till any loved one of yours is shot to death which I hope never happens for you to change.

            Paul, we can only create the changes if we get off our Lazy Boys and fight for things to improve the lives of the fellow citizens which as a result also helps the Police officers who do not feel guilty because they were able to save a life or two by shooting at other places rather than killing them because their training was changed.

            Just think about it.

            1. Teji – the killing of the Sikh in Apache Junction was a tragedy and we mourned his untimely passing. His killer was dealt with.
              If I, weighing 300 lbs, high on cannabis, reach inside a cop car and struggle with the officer for his gun, I do not think that I could expect to get away scot free. I am a threat to the officer and everyone on the street. The officer has a duty to deal with me.
              Now, there are some people who just will not go down when they are shot. Many of them are on drugs. We know from reports that this took place rather fast once they got out of the car. He hit him 6 times, twice in the head. This was not a guy who was giving up easy.
              To say you should shoot for a smaller target is just silly. We had the incident where the cops fired 600 rounds and only hit the hostage. Wilson fired probably 9 times after he got out of the car and hit him 6 times. That is damn good shooting under the circumstances.

              1. Paul: Let’s try to be a bit honest here. We only heard one side of the story because the prosecutor wanted like that. If there had been a pretrial then we would have learned the facts. This is HIStory only.

                  1. Paul: Please share your knowledge about the 5000 pages if you have read them. As I said in my other post, facts do matter for me, may be not for you.

                    1. Teji – It is not my place to speak for you. You must do your own reading and evaluation. Do not rely on me for a summary.

                    2. “Teji – It is not my place to speak for you. You must do your own reading and evaluation. Do not rely on me for a summary.”

                      Paul, then please do not flaunt it if you do not want to share knowledge about it.I am sure you have read the 5000 pages. Good for you. 🙂

                    3. Teji – have you gotten through the 5000 pages yet? When you have, let’s discuss this.

                    4. Paul: You can fool no one but yourself with this false claim of yours having read 5000 pages released. When and if you do that, do not hesitate to share.

                      In the mean time you can read WP and its many writers who are still going through those 5000 pages and found some interesting nuggets about Officer Wilson and what he did after the shooting.

                      Oh, I forgot, you know everything what is mentioned in those 5000 pages. 🙂

                    5. Teji – at no point will you see that I said that I read the 5000 pages. 😉 What you infer is on you.

                    6. Paul: Nice cop out now. I expected you would do that after implying your claim twice in your own posts. Trying to fool yourself again. I do not doubt it. 🙂

                    7. Teji – your inference is your problem, not mine. I am usually a careful writer. I write exactly what I mean. As a general rule, don’t read into my writing things that are not there.

  6. The FBI does investigate police shootings by state law enforcement officers when there is the potential for a violation of federal law. This is not the only case where it has occurred. It happens like any other investigation the FBI takes. The difference between this and vast majority of all the rest is that the justice department and the administration made numerous public statements of the matter and top officials even went so far to make news announcements showing solidarity with the family of the other. It was in the beginning prematurely they alluded to the fact that this act was in violation of federal law.

  7. Well said, Professor Turley.

    You set the bar pretty high. Some of the comments rise to that level. Quite a few do not.

  8. Teji,

    Killings by Utah police outpacing gang, drug, child-abuse homicides

    In the past five years, more Utahns have been killed by police than by gang members.

    Or drug dealers. Or from child abuse.

    And so far this year, deadly force by police has claimed more lives — 13, including a Saturday shooting in South Jordan — than has violence between spouses and dating partners.

    As the tally of fatal police shootings rises, law enforcement watchdogs say it is time to treat deadly force as a potentially serious public safety problem.

    1. Elaine: Thanks for highlighting that. We all know the majority of people living in Utah are White.

      I watched the program by an excellent journalist Lisa Ling in which shed the light on the abuse of prescription drugs in Utah which is the highest per capita in the whole US because the Book of Mormon does not prohibit that.

      Those who have not watched it, please go to CNN.com and check it out. It is an eye opener.

      Lastly, it is also the fault of DOD to give war equipment to the Police Departments all over which make them think and act in a more powerful inhumane manner.and we all know that it is easy to abuse that so called power.

      All the cities with the war weapons being brought back from Afghanistan and Iraq will become war zones and the use of deadly force will become like munching a donut for them.

  9. I think we have had enough of blame games from all corners in this blog.

    I would like all the posters to breathe deeply and express their views in the solutions because, USA has a lot of ‘Fergusons’ scattered all over.

    In my opinion, this Ferguson will become a ghost town like many around the US have. The business will not reopen, the poor would not have any other place to move. The Supermarkets, Pharmacies and other stores needed for the everyday survival will not be there anymore.

    So, I urge all of you to STOP any blame games and start brainstorming to solve this problem which is rampant all over. This blog is the best one with the well thought people to start a change to make the lives of all better.

    Let’s hear from ALL. Thanks

  10. What kind of evidence does there have to be for probable cause when someone gets shot 6 times and left on the street for hours.

    What does THAT have to do with anything, how long he laied in the streed Brown was dead…dead….dead at that point. There was no emergency to get him to a hospital. They needed to secure the scene and gather all of the evidence before removing the DEAD body. Sooner might have been better but he was DEAD. Deader than a doorknob. DEAD.

    It is amazing to me that people just cannot accept the facts and refuse to see what is right in front of their own faces.

    Warning: run on sentences below!

    People were convinced, on zero evidence and merely repeating gossip and rumor, that Brown was an innocent gentle giant mowed down by an evil malicious premeditated racist cop while surrendering. They are now confronted with the fact that their bias was wrong, that the witnesses who supported their (false) view either out and out lied or were not there at all. They are confronted with the witnesses who (at great risk to themselves) supported the evidence and supported the several autopsy reports. That the Grand Jurors got to see all the evidence and interview witnesses themselves, is dismissed out of hand.

    The truth doesn’t match their hopes and dreams that Officer Wilson murdered a poor young sainted man and that there would be a hanging.

    You guys still refuse to accept that your dream wasn’t reality and are still making up stories and excuses. Calling people racists who pointed out the reality .

    Cognitive dissonance indeed!!!!

    Get some help.

  11. rafflaw:

    Are you saying this police officer should have been brought to trial, even though a grand jury decided the evidence did not warrant it, just to make a mob happy?

    We are not supposed to do that in America.

    The witnesses who claimed that Brown was either shot in the back while running away or while surrendering LIED. They admitted that they didn’t see that happen at all, and were just repeating what others said. Why in the name of Pete would we put a police officer on trial based on witness testimony that was proven to be a complete fraud????

    Is that how you would want our justice system to treat you?

  12. Law Enforcements pedestal just got higher. Few more similar shootings and I would say that the citizenry will burn the county building down.

  13. @Gigi

    Thanks! I am tired of all the “angry young men” crap. What do they have to be angry about??? The working people are paying taxes to support their children for them. All these thugs have to do is lay around the house, smoke dope, sell dope, and impregnate various baby mamas. Heck, they got it easy.

    To make it worse, there are a bunch of silly white idiots who sit around and wring their hands and moan about these goobers.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  14. There are those who just stood around waiting for a verdict and anxiously ready to riot. I think these select group of people hoped the verdict would be a “Not indicted,” for Wilson, so they could have some night time “fun.”
    Like Michael Brown, they grab, take, steal, and connive to get what they want. Never do they think and consider anyone else, or anyone’s circumstance.
    I pray that those who have suffered damages have good insurance to help them recover from their losses from these riots.
    As I think back at the Los Angeles mid-60’s riots, its plain to see that the Watts neighborhood never really recovered from the all the damage incurred.

  15. Darren, “Timing is everything” is one of my favorite quotes. When I had to go into tough neighborhoods to work it was almost always in the morning or early afternoon, NEVER @ night. And, I would also try and avoid the first few days of the month. If you call this “RAAAACIST” you are an uninformed ideologue.

  16. Barkin, Good comment. I see the real Barkin when you drop the act. I too was impressed by the DA. I gave him a ‘B’ for his prepared remarks and an ‘A’ for his answering questions. I am an honest man. I am going to read the evidence the judge released[rare!] and give my honest assessment. I will be in a distinct minority. I think you will be one of the few who will also read the evidence, Barkin,

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