If there is rampant institutional racism in this country, as Barack Obama and his outgoing and incoming Attorney Generals submit, a remedy for it is not for witnesses to commit perjury in an investigation of an incident in which a black individual dies. Yet, a report released on March 4 by the Justice Department on the shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson points to a litany of fabricated claims, exaggerated accounts, and delusional tales.
According to the report, the St. Louis County grand jury heard testimony from some 150 eyewitnesses to the altercation between Wilson and Brown that led ultimately to Brown’s shooting death. At best, accounts of what went down are tangled and confused and at worst they are out-and-out baldfaced lies.
The Smoking Gun notes that “federal investigators dismissed versions of the Brown-Wilson confrontation provided by 24 separate witnesses” whose “testimony … was alternately branded inconsistent, not credible, unreliable, incoherent, and based on rumor and hearsay.” But a reading of the 86 pages of the report suggests that almost no one who testified told the unvarnished truth.
Interestingly, one witness whose testimony was deemed credible was one of five convicted felons who appeared before the grand jury. Identified as Witness 103, he is described in the report as “a 58-year-old black male … who served time in federal prison, and has a son who was shot and injured by law enforcement during the commission of a robbery.”
This witness told DOJ investigators that when he “stopped his truck on Canfield Drive [the street on which the exchange between Wilson and Brown occurred], … “he saw Brown punching Wilson at least three times in the facial area, through the open driver’s window of the SUV. Witness 103 described Wilson and Brown as having hold of each other’s shirts, but Brown was ‘getting in a couple of blows.'”
Contrast that testimony with the account of Witness 126, which is more typical of what investigators were told. From the Smoking Gun:
“Witness 126,” a 53-year-old woman, was “admittedly untruthful to the FBI, suffered from memory loss” and gave federal agents an account that lacked credibility. The woman, who has “several felony arrests and a misdemeanor conviction.”
Or consider the testimony of Witness 148, “a 26-year-old back woman who did not report to federal authorities that she witnessed the shooting until late February, 2015.” Brown, she said, “looked scared and it’s not like he’s a giant or anything.” In contrast, she “described Wilson as ‘possessed’ based on the ‘look in his eyes,’ as though ‘he wasn’t human.’” The cop, “Witness 148” added, shot Brown while the teen was “surrendering.
When asked why she had not come forward sooner, “Witness 148” said that she feared the Ferguson Police Department. The woman, a convicted felon who participated in protests over the teenager’s killing, claimed to have recently met with Brown’s mother. “Witness 148 explained that as a mother herself, she wanted to share with Brown’s mother what happened to Brown,” according to the DoJ report.
Like so many before her, “Witness 148” was dismissed as “inherently unreliable” by federal investigators.