If Darren Wilson Is Not Indicted, Who's To Blame?
Yesterday the offcial autopsy report on Michael Brown that was leaked to, and released by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sent shockwaves through the nation. According to expert analysis, the official autopsy report on the shooting death of Brown at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson indicates that Brown was shot at close range and that there was a significant alteration in the vehicle. The accompanying toxicology report shows Brown had been using marijuana.
The article relied heavily on the analysis of two experts, namely Dr. Judy Melinek, to cast doubt on eyewitness accounts and legitimize Wilson’s version of events. Dr. Melinek was quoted as stating that the autopsy report “supports the fact that this guy is reaching for the gun, if he has gunpowder particulate material in the wound.” She further states, “If he has his hand near the gun when it goes off, he’s going for the officer’s gun.” Melinek was also credited with stating that the autopsy did not support witnesses who have claimed Brown was shot while running away from Wilson, or with his hands up.
However, in an interview on MSNBC’s “Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” Dr. Melinek made it clear that her words were misconstrued. It is true Melinek compared the evidence in the official autopsy to Wilson’s statements and found them consistent. The wound to Brown’s right thumb indicates it was in line with the barrel of the gun when it was fred, which means he could have been reaching for the gun.
However, Dr. Melinek emphasized that the wound could be consistent with any number of scenarios.
“I’m not saying that Brown going for the gun is the only explanation. I’m saying the officer said he was going for the gun and the right thumb wound supports that,” she said. “I have limited information. It could also be consistent with other scenarios. That’s the important thing. That’s why the witnesses need to speak to the grand jury and the grand jury needs to hear all the unbiased testimony and compare those statements to the physical evidence.”
Melinek noted that forensic findings are subjective and cannot be interpreted in a vacuum. She added that she did not have access to crime scene information, witness statements or other documents acquired through the police investigation when she provided her analysis.
Therefore, a number of other scenarios could also be possible, including Brown trying to protect himself, she said.
This latest leak follows a series of troubling developments with the way the grand jury process is being conducted. Typically, grand juries convene in secret behind closed doors away from the public eye and the media. However, information from the Brown grand jury continues to leak to the press, including Wilson’s testimony.
From the beginning, it appears that the grand jury process was fashioned to result in Wilson not being indicted for the death of Brown.
The St. Louis County prosecutor’s office took the peculiar approach of having grand jury members review all of the evidence in the case including exculpatory evidence which tends to exonerate Wilson. Further, the prosecutor left it up to grand jury to decide which charges Wilson should face, if any. This approach, frankly, is unprecedented.
The saying “a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich” exists for a reason. The grand jury process is designed to ensure indictments for prosecutors. Only the prosecutor is permitted to present evidence to the grand jury. Defense attorneys are even excluded from viewing the proceedings. The prosecutor tells the grand jury members what charges to bring and tailors the evidence presented to jury to persuade them to indict. The prosecutor is under no obligation to present any evidence which might lead the grand jurors to issue a no bill.
If seasoned prosecutors struggle with analyzing technical forensic evidence and witness statements to determine what charges are appropriate in a case, how can a jury or ordinary citizens be expected to take on such a monumental task? When and if the grand jurors in Brown’s case decide not to indict Wilson, we should not find fault with them, but place blame where it squarely belongs: the St. Louis County’s District Attorney.
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)