Everyone seems to have an opinion about the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri. But, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say, “You’re entitled to your own opinion but you’re not entitled to your own facts.”
Soon after the shooting death of Michael Brown, this 285-pound young man was depicted as a “gentle giant.” But, after a video was leaked, showing him bullying the owner of a store from which he had stolen some merchandise, Attorney General Eric Holder expressed displeasure that the video was leaked. In other words, to Holder the truth was offensive, but the lie it exposed was not.
Many people who claimed to have been eyewitnesses to the fatal shooting gave opposite accounts of what happened. Some even gave accounts that contradicted what they themselves had said earlier.
Fortunately, the grand jury did not have to rely on such statements, though some in the media seemed to. What the grand jury had, that the rest of us did not have until the grand jury’s decision was announced, was a set of physical facts that told a story that was independent of what anybody said.
Three different medical forensic experts — one representing Michael Brown’s parents — examined the physical facts. These facts included the autopsy results, Michael Brown’s DNA on the door of the police car and on the policeman’s gun, photographs of the bruised and swollen face of policeman Darren Wilson and the pattern of blood stains on the street where Brown was shot.
This physical evidence was hard to square with the loudly proclaimed assertions that Brown was shot in the back, or was shot with his hands up, while trying to surrender. But it was consistent with the policeman’s testimony.