Eight Things That Stuck Out To Us In The Pile Of Grand Jury Evidence | St. Louis Public Radio

Eight Things That Stuck Out To Us In The Pile Of Grand Jury Evidence

Nov 26, 2014

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch released more than 5,000 pages of testimony, forensic evidence and investigative reports after announcing that there would be no indictment of officer Darren Wilson.

We've spent the past few days combing through the documents and found several things that raised our eyebrows.

1. In the initial investigative report, Wilson said he only shot once in the car. He told the grand jury it was twice.

On Aug. 9, the day of the shooting, Wilson told St. Louis County detectives that he only shot his gun once in his car. "The firearm discharged one round of ammunition which traveled through the driver's door," the report states.

A photo of Wilson's car door. You can see where a bullet has entered near the handle, as well as some blood nearby.
Credit Grand jury evidence

But weeks later, before the grand jury and under oath, he testified that he was "certain" that he fired twice in his car.

He told the grand jury that he pulled the trigger several times without the gun firing due to Mike Brown's hand blocking it from functioning. Wilson told the grand jury that he was eventually able to get the gun to fire. An assistant prosecuting attorney asked him how many times he fired.

"It went off twice in the car," Wilson responded. "Pull, click, click, went off, click, went off. So twice in the car."

"Are you certain?"

"Yes."

2. Wilson testified Brown punched him hard in the face twice. Photos and medical examinations give credence to there being an altercation, but little evidence it was that extreme.

Wilson told the grand jury that Brown punched him twice in the face while he was in his patrol car -- an SUV.

He tells the grand jury that he thought "it was a full-on swing, but not a full shot. I think my arm deflected some of it, but there was still a significant amount of contact that was made to my face," Wilson said. Wilson added that the blows were so hard that he was concerned "the third one could be fatal if he hit me right."

Wilson told the grand jury that, after the shooting, he didn't think he needed to go to the hospital, but did so when his superior officer told him to. At the hospital, the report shows Wilson was "Well-appearing; well-nourished; In no apparent distress."

The exam showed "no bleeding, no laceration; no ecchymosis [another word for bruising]." Photos taken at the hospital show some redness on the right side of his face, where Wilson said he was punched.

A photo of Wilson at the hospital, hours after the shooting.
Credit Grand jury evidence

The official medical diagnosis was "contusion of mandibular joint area" -- a bruise at his jaw.

3. Wilson was allowed to go back to the Ferguson police department, apparently unescorted, after the shooting.

According to the 200-page incident report prepared by St. Louis County police, Wilson's supervising sergeant told the officer to go back to department headquarters because of the angry crowd who had gathered. This appears to take place not too long after the shooting.

Wilson drove himself back to the station. The report does not say how long it took him to do so, though he appears to have been observed by an unidentified Ferguson detective when he arrives. The first interview with Wilson, with his attorney present, takes place around 2:00 p.m. at the Ferguson police station.

Additionally, Wilson washed blood from his hands and arms, and was allowed to place his own service weapon in an evidence bag.

The Washington Post also found other "unorthodox" police practices.

4. Michael Brown's grandmother saw her grandson just before he was killed.

Around 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 9, St. Louis County detectives were directed to an officer handling crowd control, who introduced them to a woman who said she was Brown's grandmother. 

She had been released from the hospital just that day. As her daughter was driving her home, they passed  her grandson and Dorian Johnson, who were walking up to the Ferguson Market.  Her daughter stopped the car briefly, and Brown told her he would be right back. It was not that long after that that Brown's grandmother received a call from her other daughter, presumably Brown's mother, that Brown had been killed.

The grandmother also gave St. Louis County police the number of a man who would later schedule an interview.

5. The county police spent about six hours in Canfield.

During those six hours, detectives found 10 witnesses who were willing to give recorded statements to detectives. One did so despite fears of retaliation. Detectives also spoke to another 25 or so people who said they did not have information to provide.

Commanders on the scene made a decision to only canvass apartments that faced the crime scene over security concerns. The police report also mentions that over those six hours, there was an "increasing necessity for uniformed officers to respond to the area" to help with crowd control and safety concerns. 

6. Prosecutors were not always as neutral as they could have been in their presentation of evidence.

Mae Quinn, a law professor at Washington University, focused her review of the grand jury evidence on the process - that is, what the grand jurors were told, how attorneys asked the questions, etc.

She said while she doesn't believe St. Louis County assistant prosecutors Kathi Alizadeh and Sheila Whirley intended to so, they would often vouch for the accuracy of witnesses.

“Telling the jurors that you’re going to hear from witnesses who we have worked with closely from the very beginning is an imprimatur," she said. "There’s an official stance that follows that what you are going to hear is credible."

Quinn called on Gov. Jay Nixon to appoint a special prosecutor to convene a second grand jury proceeding. Nixon told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he would not do so.

7. In addition to testimony and witness statements, the jurors considered forensic evidence and reports

One set of documents provided by the St. Louis County prosecutor's office was not witness testimony or interviews. Instead, it is made up of written evidence in other forms. These range from the St. Louis County Police Department's investigative report, which is 200 pages long, to autopsy reports, toxicology, firearm and DNA reports, to radio traffic.

Some things we've learned from these documents:

An analysis of "green vegetation" found in a plastic bag in Michael Brown's pocket showed it was 1.589 grams of marijuana. The toxicology report done on Brown's body shows he had THC in his blood and urine.

The emergency room records show Darren Wilson was admitted to the ER at 2:20 p.m. on Aug. 9. There were X-rays taken of his jaw, which were negative for fractures. Wilson was diagnosed with a "contusion of mandibular joint area," a bruised jaw. He was prescribed Naprosyn, a pain medication similar to Aleve.

DNA analysis of a sample collected from Brown's left palm showed DNA that was likely Wilson's. Additionally, Brown's DNA was found on the inside driver's door handle of Wilson's vehicle, as well as on Wilson's gun.

8. But even the forensic evidence isn't without conflicts

The autopsy report done by the St. Louis County medical examiner said there were small scrapes on Brown's left thumb, wrist, fifth finger and forearm. The private autopsy says there were no injuries to the backs of Brown's hands or fingers.

Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter: @csmcdaniel

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Follow Brent Jones on Twitter: @brentajones