You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Get Ready for Ferguson to Be Back in the News

The story never went away

Getty Images News/Scott Olson

The story of Michael Brown’s killing may seem like a distant memory. After dominating the news for several weeks in August, and focusing national attention on race, it gave way to the Ray Rice controversy and then Ebola—and largely fell from public view. But the saga is far from over, as the people of Ferguson, Missouri, would be the first to tell you.

The details of what happened on August 9, when Officer Darren Wilson shot Brown in the middle of the street, are still unclear. And the legal ramifications are, as of this moment, undetermined. Everybody is waiting for a Grand Jury to finish sifting through the evidence and to render its judgment—not on whether Wilson is guilty of a crime, which only a trial could settle, but whether there’s even good cause for charging him. 

Deliberations are secret, so nobody on the outside knows what the Grand Jury members are thinking. But two developments from the last 48 hours may offer clues about what the final decision will be. One is an official autopsy report, produced by the St. Louis County medical examiner and then obtained by reporters at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The other is a story by reporters at the Washington Post.

My colleague Danny Vinik has been through the reports and can walk you through the details. Among the key findings, he explains, are signs that Brown did not have his hands up to surrender, as some witnesses have claimed:

… the county autopsy showed that the sixth shot to strike Brown took a trajectory—entering the forearm from the back, traveling into the inner arm from there—that’s inconsistent with Brown having his arms in the air, palms facing outward, in an attempt to surrender. ... the Post reports that “seven or eight African American eyewitnesses have provided testimony consistent with Wilson’s account, but none of them have spoken publicly out of fear for their safety.”

The new evidence, although not conclusive, would seem to lend some credence to Wilson’s claim that he fired in self-defense. But, as Danny says, there are questions about how reliable the evidence is. From the get-go, Brown’s family did not trust local officials to conduct an impartial investigation. That’s why they commissioned their own autopsy—which, Danny notes, reached some different conclusions.

A decision to charge Wilson was never that likely, given the broad leeway that Missouri law gives to police who say they are acting in self-defense. If these new reports are correct, an indictment is even more improbable. That’s unlikely to sit well with Ferguson residents, whose grievances reflect long-simmering resentment over the treatment of a largely black population by a largely white police force. Brown's killing instigated protests and, eventually, confrontations with police. But the problems existed long beforehand. 

Jonathan Cohn

News from Wednesday

EBOLA: The CDC announced that all visitors from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa will be subject to 21 days of "active monitoring," which will include daily checks from local or state health authorities. It's not a travel ban, but it may be better. (QED)

TAXES: Kansas's experiment in slashing personal income taxes is still not going well. Josh Barro reports on new numbers that revenue came in below projections once again. (The Upshot) 

MIDTERMS: Democrats still seem likely to lose control of the Senate, Sam Wang writes, but their prospects in gubernatorial elections seems brighter. (New Republic

Articles worth reading

Trouble in paradise? South Miami passed a resolution in favor of South Florida becoming the 51st state. The reason? Florida isn't doing enough to address sea level rise. (Adrienne Cutway, Orlando Sentinel

Should Obamacare come in copper? Some Democratic candidates are calling for a new "copper" plan that allows for lower premiums and a higher deductible. Ramesh Ponnuru explains why that's a bad idea. (Bloomberg View) 

Living Through Ebola: Three stories from people confronting the disease in West Africa, as told to Julia Belluz. (Vox)

What does Detroit owe its residents? In its bid to right its finances, Detroit is cracking down on residents who aren't paying their bills. David Graham asks an important question: "Is a social contract still a social contract when the demands of austerity can cancel its provisions?" (The Atlantic

Old enough to vote, too young to run. Osita Nwanevu argues that age minimums for political candidates keep qualified people from running, and should be abolished. (Slate)

In memory of a legend. Legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee died on Tuesday, and his newspaper published a touching, extensive memorial. (Robert Kaiser, Washington Post


Rebecca Leber calls out Politico for publishing an opinion story that appears to exonerate BP for its role in the oil spill...until you realize a BP flack wrote it. Danny Vinik points out that Republicans were eager to lay high gas prices at Obama’s feet, but they’re mum now that prices have taken a dip. 

Links complied by Claire Groden and Naomi Shavin