Awhile back, I told people to slow down, to not rush to get to a place of certainty in the Ferguson case, to wait for the forensics report.
We knew what eyewitnesses said, with just about all of them saying Michael Brown was running away, then had his hands up while being shot, including people who didn't know him.
But based on the more comprehensive evidence just released, I don't see how a jury could convict Officer Darren Wilson, though it's possible a grand jury, with a lower standard for proof, might send this to trial. But even that's not a guarantee.
That doesn’t mean Wilson’s version of events is truer than that of the eyewitnesses. But it does make the case much - much - more complicated and harder to prove ill intent on the part of Wilson.
A jury would hear that there was a real struggle in or at the police vehicle, as forensics now prove. They could believe the eyewitness who said Wilson began the melee, or they could believe Wilson. Each of those stories can be supported by the evidence we currently have. That means it shouldn’t be too hard to conclude there is reasonable doubt, which means Wilson would be found not guilty.
The leaked autopsy report also sheds light on the final and fatal shots. According to independent analysts who examined it, Brown’s wounds do not support eyewitness claims that he had his hands raised or was running a way while being shot.
The prosecution could counter that the shots fired while Brown was running a way and had his hands raised missed. No matter which version of those events you believe - Wilson reportedly said Brown charged him while no eyewitness on record says the same - the evidence is enough to raise reasonable doubt which, again, means a not guilty verdict. Given that, I don’t even see a basis for federal civil rights charges, either.
What does all of that mean?
It means that Ferguson has a lot of healing to do, that all the people who say they care about the place need to be preparing the community now for disappointment, that they need to urge clam and peace, no matter the outcome of these investigations.
The police still have to answer for why they left Brown’s body outside, exposed for 4 hours, why the department selectively released information early on, allowed Wilson to wipe his social media accounts clean before his name was made public, and why they treated peaceful protesters so horribly.
Others in the community need to ask why they did not try to stop people from becoming so certain about what happened based on partial facts and how that led to increased unrest.
As far as what President Obama should do, I’ll say again what I’ve been saying: if he wants to begin healing some of these racial divides, he has to visit communities like this. But he shouldn’t begin in Ferguson; he needs to begin in poor, white areas so everyone understands his purpose, then make his way to Ferguson.
One more thing: this case would have been much different if all of it was caught on video the way that trooper shooting of an unarmed man in Columbia was. No one had to speculate about what happened. More police video would be helpful, for the police and those they encounter.
In that video, the motorist complied with the officer - and was shot any way. The officer claimed the motorist was being aggressive and was at fault. He wasn’t. In South Carolina, we had video that provided a full accounting of what happened, and quick charges. We did not have protests and unrest.