Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A judge has ordered the release of the full transcripts

One complication in the study of the Ferguson incident is that many words of the transcripts released to the public have been whited-out. The words have been whited out in order to protect the identities of the witnesses, who were promised anonymity.

Many witnesses perceived that there were people with criminal mentalities in Ferguson who would attack "snitches" who told the truth about the incident to police investigators and to the grand jury. The anonymous "snitches" contradicted the public liars and caused the grand jury to refuse to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson.

Keep in mind that many people in the neighborhood participated in massive rioting, looting and arson after the killing and again after the grand jury's no-indictment decision was announced. The inciters of arson included Michael Brown's stepfather Louis Head, who urged the neighborhood mobs to "burn this bitch down!".

Immediately following stepfather Head's incitement many businesses and automobiles were destroyed by arson.

In these circumstances, the witnesses who actually did see the incident and then testified truthfully to the grand jury still have good reason to fear for their safety if the Brown family and the neighborhood's looters and arsonists ever learn their identities.

The Brown family is trying to sue for a huge monetary compensation for the death of Michael Brown. For that lawsuit, the family's lawyers have demanded to obtain the full transcripts in order to identify all the witnesses. Now the family has a monetary interest in "persuading" witnesses who previously testified about what they actually did see, in order to match the testimony of the liars who did not actually see the killing.

Recently a federal judge consented to the Brown family's demand but imposed restrictions on the lawyers' distribution of the new details. This decision was reported by AP reporter Jim Suhr, but his article did not explain whether the family members themselves -- or just their lawyers -- will obtain the details to identify the witnesses. 
Michael Brown's family will get unredacted transcripts of grand jury proceedings involving the officer who killed the 18-year-old, a federal judge said Monday, marking the first time someone other than a prosecutor or grand juror will see uncensored details of the secret proceedings. 
U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber's protective order spelling out terms of the release requires St. Louis County prosecutors to hand over the testimony and the names of grand jury witnesses to attorneys for Brown's family, which is pressing a wrongful-death lawsuit. The order bars the attorneys designated to see the grand jury items from making any of them public, lest they be jailed for contempt.  ....
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch publicly released heavily redacted transcripts of the grand jury testimony, but he refused to release the names of witnesses, who were promised anonymity.
An attorney for McCulloch's office, Linda Wasserman, had opposed the disclosure request and later sought to limit it. In a recent court filing, she cited "continued grave concerns, in light of the lives at stake, regarding the efficacy of a protective order in controlling the short-term and long-term threat of personal harm to innocent persons called as witnesses in this case." 
Monday's order also calls for authorities to release unredacted transcripts of witness interviews, written statements obtained by St. Louis County police, audio-record transcripts and autopsy and scene photographs not previously disclosed. 
"We now get the chance to have an unblemished look at who said what to whom and under what context," Anthony Gray, the family's attorney, told The Associated Press. "We consider this to be a huge development in the case — very significant and monumental in terms of discovery." 
Brown's parents are suing Wilson, the city of Ferguson and its former police chief, Thomas Jackson. 
Peter Dunne, an attorney for the defendants, declined to discuss Monday's order, saying he did "not want to get sideways with the court" by speaking publicly about it. 
"It was done with a tremendous amount of concern expressed by the judge and others about making sure that proper balance was struck between the need for the information and concerns expressed by people who frankly didn't want information about them disclosed," Dunne said. ....  

Many witnesses saw the incident from their apartments, and so the whiting-out of their addresses in the transcripts causes difficulties in picturing their narratives. The reader must use the clues that remain in the transcripts. For example, a witness might remark that he was looking at Brown's left side as Brown was running away from the police vehicle. The witness might remark that he saw Brown's footwear fall off, right before Brown disappeared from his view. The witness might remark that his apartment was on the building's second story. Analyzing such clues, the witnesses standpoint might be determined.

For example, the witness whom the Justice Department designated as Witness 129 and whom I designated as Stairwell Man was sitting in the stairwell outside his apartment, which faced a parking lot. The released transcript whited-out his name, his address on Canfield Drive, and a location description (which floor? facing which direction, etc.).

When he heard noise on Canfield Drive, he looked out from the stairwell. He could see some moments of the incident but could not see other moments, because another building blocked some of his view. Based on the moments when he saw Brown's footwear fall off and when he saw Brown and Wilson disappear from his view, I deduced that Stairwell Man was sitting in this location:

Stairwell Man could see Brown and Wilson at some moments
but could not see them at other moments, so Stairwell Man's
location can be deduced. 
Suppose that the Brown family's lawyers identify and re-question Stairwell Man. He already has been recorded telling police investigators that he could not see either Brown or Wilson during the fatal shots, because his view of both was blocked by the neighboring building. So he will not be able to provide new insight into the fatal moments.

Rather, Stairwell Man might surface considerations that the Brown family's lawyers would prefer to remain ignored. For example, Stairwell Man told the grand jury that a white car turned around and approached the police vehicle where Brown and Wilson were arguing. That remark of Stairwell Man's was ignored during the grand-jury questioning. That remark might open a can of worms for the Brown family's lawyers in a civil trial. After all, Dorian Johnson jumped into a nearby white car during the incident.

Having studied the available testimony, I fell certain that re-questioning witness and clarifying their statements will hurt the Brown family's argument much more than help it. More, better information works to the Brown family's detriment.

A civil trial would end in defeat for the Brown family, but the trial would cost the Ferguson city government a lot of money and more controversy. The Brown family's various legal procedures to identify and re-question witnesses aggravate the nuisances and so motivate a settlement.

Besides, if the Ferguson government gives a huge amount of money to the Brown family, the Obama Administration will compensate the Ferguson government by awarding that much more federal aide to the city. The Obama Administration always is looking for clever ways to give money to African-Americans with bogus complaints, and this would be another opportunity to do so.


Because the full transcripts are being released to the Brown family's lawyers, I suggest that the District Attorney's office should be open to adjusting some of its decisions about text that was whited-out. For example, the Stairwell Man transcript might continue to white-out his precise address, but an annotation might confirm that he lived in Building 3.