How A Prosecutor Would Assess The Facts In Michael Brown Shooting


Amid conflicting witness statements and autopsy analyses, dueling videotapes and a loud outcry for justice, there is substantial agreement about many of the facts surrounding the killing of Michael Brown, says St. Louis Public Radio. As a St. Louis County grand jury decides whether to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, it knows this much: Wilson and Brown struggled at Wilson's police car, and Wilson fired his gun twice, hitting Brown's hand, which was near the gun. Brown ran. At some point he turned to face Wilson. The officer shot Brown multiple times, including two shots each to the head and chest, killing him.

Those agreed-upon facts do not provide enough information for a prosecutor or a grand jury to decide whether to charge Wilson with a state or federal crime, experts agree. At least two contested facts are key: Did Wilson fear for his life? and did Brown start back toward Wilson when he turned around and if so how fast? If Brown stopped still and raised his hands, as some say, Wilson probably would not be entitled to use deadly force. David Rosen, a former federal prosecutor of police cases and adjunct professor at Washington University Law School, explained a prosecutor's approach. “You have plenty of witnesses on both sides…so I look at: What do the forensics tell me? How many times did he fire the gun? How far away was he? What do the bullet angles mean? All I am trying to do is get to the point of whether the level of force use was justified.”

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