No Incident Report in Ferguson Shooting May Give Officer Advantage In Court
The St. Louis Police Department finally released the police report for the Aug. 9 shooting
death of Michael Brown after nearly two weeks of demands from the public and journalists. The two-page report released by officials, however, is devoid of any details or even basic information surrounding the killing of the unarmed teen.
The incident report was released in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) demanding the incident report be made public pursuant Missouri’s Sunshine Law. Missouri’s Sunshine Law requires law enforcement agencies to promptly provide incident reports that include, among other things, “the name of the victim and immediate facts and circumstances surrounding the initial report of a crime or incident.”
This incident report, only contains the date, time, and location of the incident. The report which classifies the offense as a “homicide” contains no information about what transpired that fateful night between Brown and Officer Darren Wilson.
More peculiar is that it appears the report was not generated until Aug. 19, 10 days after the deadly shooting. As a result, the officer’s account of what occurred leading up to the shooting remains a mystery. TIME reports that Brian Schellman, a spokesman for the St. Louis County police department, said the department does not intend to release the investigative” component of the incident report, which details Wilson’s version of events. According to Schellman, the department is not required to disclose this portion of the report under the Sunshine Law in Missouri and therefore, it will remain confidential unless it is presented by a prosecutor.
Some reports indicate that such a narrative may not exist and the officer may have been advised by counsel not to provide a statement. If true, officer Wilson will have a tactical advantage before the grand jury and if charged, at trial. Officer Wilson has the benefit of knowing all of the evidence against him including autopsy reports and eyewitness statements.
Without having given a previous statement, he is now free to carefully craft a narrative of events that is consistent with the evidence and justifies his use of lethal force. He can also testify before the grand jury without being confronted by the prosecutor with a previous statement that contradicts his testimony.
Moreover, eyewitnesses to the shooting have been making the rounds in the media.
Multiple interviews mean more opportunities to have variations in their stories. Seemingly small and inconsequential differences in their statements, will be picked apart by Wilson’s defense team and used during cross examination to discredit the witnesses.
Conversely, Wilson’s silence on the matter allows him time to rehearse and memorize his story in order to remain as consistent and appear credible before a jury. The road to justice for Brown will be long and riddled with obstacles.
Stacy M. Allen has served as counsel on an array of legal matters including civil and criminal law, family law, bankruptcy, and even terrorism cases. Stacy is a proud graduate of St. Edward’s University where she graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations with a concentration in Latin America, and of Howard University School of Law, in Washington, DC, where she served as President of the Huver I. Brown Trial Advocacy Moot Court Team. Her current practice focuses on a variety of civil litigation and criminal law matters.
Stacy M. Allen, Attorney at Law (@SMAllen_Esq)