Juror13

True crime and trial opinions from a layman's perspective

The Content of our Character

A man walks past a burning building during rioting after a grand

“Progress is a nice word.  But change is its motivator.  And change has its enemies” – Robert Kennedy

Michael Brown was killed on August 9, 2014, at the age of 18, in a town called Ferguson.  He was an African American man walking down the street with a friend; targeted by a white police officer, gunned down like an animal.  We’ve heard this story before, right?  Aren’t they all the same?

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They say he had his hands up and everything”

“That’s what they said… shot him some more while he was on the ground”

And in light of such a heinous act, shooting an innocent man while he is surrendering, and then shooting him again while he is lying face down on the ground, the anger is palpable.

“Burn this bitch down” – Michael Brown’s stepfather

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For a week now, Ferguson has not stood alone in their protest of Michael Brown’s death.  Cities across America from New York to LA have rallied together to send a message that hatred is unacceptable and we need to stop killing our children.

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Isn’t that what Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about all those years ago… judging people based on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin?

Is that what we have achieved and are now fighting to uphold?

Is that what you believe?

Because if you do… I’m sorry, but you’re wrong.  Dead wrong!

Every day, we are still judging people by the color of their skin and the color of their uniform.   Sometimes we judge blacks, sometimes we judge whites.  Sometimes we judge cops.  For no other reason but for the way that they look.  And every day we are still killing people because of the color of their skin.  But the Ferguson case is not one of those cases.

Would this case even be a discussion if Darren Wilson was black?  What if Michael Brown was Hispanic or Asian or Caucasian?  Would anybody care?

It was the same issue with Trayvon Martin.  Everybody said it was a racially charged crime, a white man shooting a black man.  Except… George Zimmerman wasn’t white.  He was Hispanic… but close enough.

If you want to address racially charged crimes, then do your homework and identify those crimes.  Don’t use situations where the deceased inflicted violence upon another individual and then ended up dead to serve your purpose.  When you do that, nobody wins.  You are only fanning the flames of hate.

[For my thoughts on the Martin / Zimmerman trial click here]

How did the town of Ferguson react when they heard gunshots in the middle of the day? Without seeking information, without actually seeing firsthand what happened, they engaged in chants of:  

“kill the police”

“no peace, no justice”

That crowd quickly grew from a handful of bystanders to over 400 people requiring 50 officers to block off the street and protect the on-going investigation.   Some bystanders even fired off their own guns in protest.  Why? Why do people act this way without even knowing what happened? Because there was a white man holding a gun and a black man dead in the street.  It’s action based on emotion and assumption fueled by hate.

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These people were not aware, or simply did not care, that Michael Brown and his friend had just robbed a convenience store. Michael was high on marijuana, as evidenced by the toxicology reports and drugs that were found in his pocket.  A call was put out over the police scanner and Officer Wilson heard that call.  He identified two men walking down the middle of the road causing cars to drive around them, and he asked them to get on the sidewalk.  They did not move out of the way and told Wilson that they were almost to their home.  When Wilson asked them again to move out of the street, they basically told him to fuck off.

Wilson called for backup and then attempted to get out of his vehicle.  Michael Brown forcefully shoved the door of the vehicle closed preventing Wilson from exiting.  He did this repeatedly with Wilson trapped in his car attempting to protect himself while Brown, 300lbs, leaned inside throwing punches at him.  That fight then led to a physical struggle to gain control of Wilson’s gun.

I’m not telling you this to imply that Brown deserved to die.  I’m telling you this because we need to face the truth of what happened that day.  Actions come with consequences.  The moment that we stop pretending we are all perfect, and that we’re merely victims to all of the world’s evil, is the moment that perhaps we have a real chance at affecting change.

On that day in August, the truth of the matter was that Michael Brown was a threat to the police and a threat to society, and his actions did directly lead to his demise.  You want to save your children?  Tell them the truth!

I’m tired of people wearing t-shirts that say “I am Trayvon” and now, “I am Mike Brown”

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You are not Trayvon and you are not Mike.  And dare I say it… you shouldn’t want to be.

You know what would be refreshing in the midst of these conversations?  Just one loved one of these lost young men to come forward and say…

Our child was not perfect.  He made mistakes that had a profound effect on his life.  Don’t let your child’s life end this way.  Let’s demand more from ourselves first and then demand the same from others.

Isn’t it time we stopped turning a blind eye to the drugs that our youth are using today.  Everybody thinks that marijuana is a joke, that it’s no big deal.  But it’s destroying the minds and ambitions of our children and causing them to act irresponsibly and in dangerous and criminal ways.  Spare me the bullshit about it being a peaceful drug.  It’s a drug!  And our children deserve better than our ignorance and laziness in accepting its use.

We also need to stop accepting our children’s defiance towards authority and use of violence as a means to act out.  If you attack an armed police officer, chances are you are not going to fare well.  There is nothing in this case that suggests that Wilson was a racist that targeted black men.  He was an officer on patrol, doing his job, trying to keep the city safe who asked two young men to obey the laws and move out of the street.  That act was met with violence which everybody now wants to ignore.

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Darren Wilson police interview:

interview-po-darren-Wilson

Darren Wilson post-grand jury interview:

I have not commented on this case in the past four months for one reason and one reason alone.  Because I didn’t know the evidence.  On the surface of this tragedy, I too heard the reports of an unarmed man shot upwards of 10 times and was disturbed by that story.  But in the absence of information, I know better than to make assumptions.

“True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it” – Karl Popper

Earlier this week when the grand jury decided not to indict Wilson, the evidence was released and since then I have had the opportunity to read through it.  Here are just a few items that I have learned:

1. Brown’s body was in the street for four hours while the investigation took place. This is an average time frame for a body to remain at a crime scene while an investigation is on-going. For the majority of that time it was covered with sheets and concealed with barriers yet the bystanders and media complained that his body was left there in the open with no care or concern. That was inflammatory information.

2. Physical evidence and witness statements substantiate the fact that Brown initiated the altercation at the police vehicle. The mirror on the driver’s side was pushed against the car, skin tissue and blood from Brown were found on the outside of Wilson’s vehicle, as well as on in the inside of the driver’s side door. A bullet hole can be found on the inside of that door (shooting outward) just below the blood spatter. This shows that Brown’s hand was inside the car when struck.  There would be absolutely no reason for Brown’s hands to be inside that car unless he was assaulting the officer.

3. The gunshot to Brown’s palm had black soot (stippling) around the injury indicating close proximity to the barrel of the gun. Blood stains found on that gun were identified as Brown’s which support the testimony from Wilson that there was a struggle over the weapon. The media criticized the police for not fingerprinting the gun to definitively prove that Brown’s hands were on it. But the investigators testified that you cannot conduct both fingerprint and DNA testing in the same spot on a piece of evidence. They had to choose one. In light of the fact that it was a moving struggle, the chances of finding a print with ridge detail for identification was slim. They ultimately decided that a DNA test would be more fruitful and it did identify Brown’s matter on the gun. Brown’s blood spatter was also found on the front of Wilson’s uniform.

4. Contrary to the multiple, hysterical reports of Brown surrendering with his hands up, his body came to rest with his left arm tucked under his waist and hand balled up in to a fist. His right arm was down and slightly out to the right. If his hands had been up in the air at the time of being shot in the head, he would not have landed in this position. The closed fist is consistent with Wilson’s statement of Brown charging at him in a fighting position with his hands in his waistband. Even though we now know that Brown was unarmed, at the time there was no way for Wilson to know that.

5. There are blood droplets from Brown that spanned from the police vehicle to the far end of the scene (20-30 feet away). Brown’s body was found in the middle of that distance (about 8-10 feet from the vehicle), proving that he had initially run away but then turned around and was charging back towards Wilson when killed.

6. Wilson explains that he shot Brown but that did not prevent Brown from continuing to move towards him. He yelled at him repeatedly to stop, as witnessed by people at the scene, but Brown did not. The final bullets that were fired and that hit Brown in the head and chest were fired from a downward trajectory showing that Brown’s body was in a forward slightly downward stance (charging forward) when hit. Brown got to approximately 8-10 feet away from Wilson when the final bullets were fired.

7.  One of the issues with the case against Wilson were the largely inconsistent witness statements from the scene.  Many of the individuals were either inside their homes with limited view of the incident, were reporting hearsay or only caught bits and pieces and not the full event.  There were a few statements given that mostly corroborated what Wilson had to say in his interviews.

interview-witness-10

witness-40-journal-entry

interview-witness-14-02

My goal is not to dictate to you what is right in this case and what is wrong in this case.  I want YOU to read the evidence, watch the videos, listen to the interviews… arm yourself with information, not hate, not sensationalism, and make your own decision.

Stop listening to hatemongers like Al Sharpton, who only care about perpetuating divide and inciting riots.  Stop listening to political leaders who hypocritically tell us to respect the legal process and then in the same breath encourage the public to peacefully take action.

Spend more time paying attention to our children… children like this who are longing for understanding and are desperate for peace

ferguson hug

A day after the decision on officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, the Harts went downtown “with the intention of spreading love and kindness” by holding signs such as “You Matter” and “Free Hugs,” Jennifer Hart said.

“Devonte was struggling. He wouldn’t speak. He was inconsolable,” his mother wrote. “My son has a heart of gold, compassion beyond anything I’ve ever experienced, yet struggles with living fearlessly when it comes to the police… He wonders if someday when he no longer wears a ‘Free Hugs’ sign around his neck, when he’s a full-grown black male, if his life will be in danger for simply being.”

“Knowing how he struggled with police, his bravery and courage to catch my eye and approach me were impressive,” Barnum said. “And it’s a blessing for me that I didn’t miss an opportunity to impact this child.”

Hart said the moment was about:

“listening to each other, facing fears with an open heart.”

http://news.yahoo.com/portlands-ferguson-protest-boy-hugs-officer-174417767.html

WE NEED MORE OF THIS!

More compassion… more honesty… more conversation.

Brown’s family states:  “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 – Courtesy of WNEP 16.

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I agree that we do need to fix the system that allowed this to happen, but I’m not referring to the legal system, I’m referring to our greater system of families and communities…  The families that make excuses for their children who are disrespectful to authority and prone to violence, communities that claim they stand for peace and then burn their neighbors’ businesses to the ground, societies that are littered with drugs and weapons and hateful people who are destroying everything that leaders like MLK and Bobby Kennedy fought so bravely for…

This is the brutal truth…

The grand jury in this case spent 70 hours considering the evidence that can be found here:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/11/25/us/evidence-released-in-michael-brown-case.html?_r=0

Twelve people who know this case better than anybody else, better than the family, better than the bystanders at the scene who saw 5 seconds of the shooting thru a window 200 feet away, better than the media with disingenuous agendas, better than you and I.

Although we now have evidence to review, we were not in that courtroom, we did not get to see the witnesses firsthand and share that experience with our fellow jurors.  Nine votes out of twelve in favor of indicting are required for a case to move forward and in this case, that requirement was not met.

Instead of assuming that the system is broken and that the jurors are racist and/or uncaring people, take the time to educate yourself with the evidence that they examined.  Don’t be hypocrites.  Don’t fight for the sake of fighting.  Don’t hate for the sake of hating.  Don’t form an opinion because a celebrity has one and told you to stand with them.  Become informed, have your own opinion… and then start the conversation.  And then maybe we can finally look in the mirror and be proud of the content of our character.

“To tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world” – Aeschylus

#Restoration

14 comments on “The Content of our Character

  1. FrankieUK
    December 1, 2014

    Well that tells it as it is.

  2. Jason
    December 1, 2014

    Okay, it does seem the officer was assaulted in his car & an attempt was made to grab his gun. I assume the neighbourhood heard all this but decided to ignore it. It was the first time this officer had used his gun. He seems to suggest he had to quit the force because he would otherwise have been targeted.

    • juror13
      December 1, 2014

      It would be impossible for him to carry on and do his job, he would forever be a target. That need for vengeance from the community would be too dangerous for everybody. He had no choice but to quit.

  3. Nick van der Leek-Photo
    December 1, 2014

    Great post Lisa. I do think if you’ve just had an aggressive altercation your adrenalin is pumping and you’re gonna be jumpy. And reactionary. More so than if it’s simply a verbal, non physical confrontation. The problem with inflaming these incidents is you make racists worse on both sides, and that doesn’t help anyone except criminals and would-be looters.

  4. Stephen
    December 1, 2014

    Very well written and, frankly, very brave of you to be so forthcoming on your thoughts and feelings about this incident. It is greatly appreciated.

    • juror13
      December 5, 2014

      Thank you, Stephen. I appreciate that.

  5. Jason
    December 2, 2014

    Now we have 5 NHL players giving the so-called Ferguson sign – which seems to be going viral. It’s strange because whatever grievances some might have in this specific case it seems the police officer had few options available to him given the way he was attacked and the behaviour of the deceased. Did this officer not have a partner? He seemed to be the only one in the car and didn’t seem to have anyone supporting him?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-echochambers-30221442

    On a separate matter it seems that the US is potentially having a Jimmy Savile moment with “Bill Cosby” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-30190860

  6. FrankieUK
    December 2, 2014

    You are going to be jumpy and reactionary with adrenalin pumping, if year on year, an average of two to five police officers are killed a week! No doubt their deaths are on notice boards of every police station and defence included in an officer’s training.

    Here in England it happens, but it is rare. Nevertheless, go out with a gun to commit a crime here and a police marksman will take you out.

    The police officer was physically at a disadvantage and, there was the potential of his own gun being taken off him. In a similar situation here with two teenagers walking down the centre of a road, the officer would exit his vehicle and read them the riot act. He would not fear being killed.

    75% of violent crime in the US is committed by African Americans and if one could say it is males, then it means 75% of violent crime is committed by around 5% of the population.

    Instead of inflaming a situation, it is time black leaders led the way to asking what can be done to make changes.

    • Jason
      December 2, 2014

      Maybe Obama after he has completed his final term of office could consider taking up such a role.

      Just to note the “black community” is possibly as varied as the “white community”

      Also note the US is a federation of states and states are collection of communities – suggesting some form of hierarchic structure is needed.

    • Jason
      December 2, 2014

      Also we have to recognise the influence of the media in possibly
      a) making molehills seem like mountains (turning a local incident into a national incident)
      b) misrepresentation
      c) inflaming the situation
      This would require regulation which I think would be impossible in the US (free speech doesn’t have to be accurate reporting).

  7. FrankieUK
    December 2, 2014

    Jason very interested in your discussion, but what you don’t want is regulation of the media.

    Truly bad people love a regulated media and if they gain power, the first thing they do is control the media. People like Robert Mugabe.

    I have had a lot of dealings with journalists and in general they are not bad people, they cover the stories that are happening. There were a lot of shops and businesses smashed and burned in Ferguson and that must be reported, as law abiding citizens must be informed.

    I know what you mean by my term black community. That is an English/London expression.

    But if you look at crime in the USA, the African Americans are relative few in number about 12/13 million and they commit a large proportion of violent crime.

    These riots and smashing and burning are a disaster for the people concerned. Why the leaders don’t speak out and stop it I don’t know. I suppose they just want to continuously promote their victim agenda.

    One of the senior police officers in a video on this website was talking to media and he said he must leave to attend another crime. A five year old little girl had been shot in the head by a stray bullet. That is what they must deal with.

  8. Jason
    December 3, 2014

    I have been reading Freakonomics Levitt & Dubner 2006 in which is written

    “Black Americans were hurt more by crack cocaine than by any other single cause since Jim Crow”

    He paints a fairly complex picture of US social development … including city gang culture during the mass immigration period of the late nineteenth to early twentieth century where gangs formed as a half way house between immigrants arrival then later dispersal. He talks about the Jim Crow laws, civil rights, desegregation bill of 1964 for hospitals, black Chicago gangs of 1970s then the arrival of crack cocaine in the 1980s. The US seems to have had an extremely complex and rapid development – a melting pot of cultures … not sure how stable that system is in all its multitudinous parts. I suppose one advantage the US has is a huge amount of space,

  9. FrankieUK
    December 3, 2014

    We can analyse, but the bottom line is no country or society or ethnicity has had an easy ride throughout history. The suffering in the United States during the Great Depression is not something to forget.

    Fifty million people were killed during WW2 and certainly here in London, as a child I remember whole areas of London had been flattened by bombs.

    With a population of 30,000,000, 500,000 were killed, 69,000 of them civilians and that is without all those injured or, who lost their homes.

    People did not riot. They did not burn stores down or smash cars. It will solve nothing and further entrench prejudice.

    Arabs were still landing their boats on the shores of the UK in the 19 Century and kidnapping people for slavery!

    Now a peaceful march and sit down demo that is different. It gets the point across but, as long as a police officer knows he acts first or could (note I say could) be murdered, he will act and some innocent people will be killed.

    African American leaders should stop and think about the future of their young people and instead of inciting violent protest, encourage education, stable families and a future.

  10. Jason
    December 3, 2014

    Finished reading Freakonomics: it seems that Steven Levitt is suggesting a reactionary Black Movement – Black Panther Movement continued after the Civil Rights – Desegregation Federal Laws of the 1960s – forming a focal point to warn Blacks against assimilation – leading to attempts to remove certain “white behaviours” from themselves and to establish separate African American identities. This coupled with the crack cocaine boom of the 1980s helped to establish the spirit of certain Black communities. Of course there are also other factors involved.

    I have read a few Angry White Men books of Michael Moore and he puts a “slightly” different slant on things. This brings in the white flight from the city centres to the suburbs (William Levitt built Suburbia) – suggesting desegregation laws are one thing and on the ground rules are another.

    I am sure the answer lies somewhere in between.

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This entry was posted on December 1, 2014 by in Ferguson and tagged , , , .
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