Witnesses Suck

Watching too many TV crime shows will blind you to a stark reality:  Witness testimony sucks.  Look at the linked comparison of witness testimony in the Michael Brown shooting grand jury.  Take any column, like the last one with number of shots fired.  Its a total mess!

When videos emerge of police brutality, police defenders often say that video can lie.  But I would argue that it is a hell of a lot better witness than the average person.  My guess is that police like this kind of variation in witness testimony, because they know that in most, perhaps all, cases, they will be given the benefit of the doubt when the testimony conflicts.


  1. Onlooker from Troy:

    Yes, I've come to completely distrust eyewitnesses as I've gotten older and wiser. No matter how certain they seem to be about what they've seen.

  2. Sam L.:

    A big reason for body cameras for the cops.

  3. elambend:

    About a decade ago a friend who was a prosecutor in the Atlanta area told me a problem she always had to be diligent about was cops lying on the stand. She said it was nuts because in most cases it wasn't 'needed', as in the case was nearly slam dunk anyway (as are the majority of criminal cases).

  4. Ann_In_Illinois:

    You may be right that the police often benefit from conflicting testimony, but it's pretty clear in this case that the officer is being persecuted for no valid reason. The physical evidence and the testimony of several credible African-American witnesses back up the officer's story.

    But CNN is still quoting selective parts of the statements of the accomplice, Dorian Johnson, without mentioning that Johnson also claimed that Brown's hand was never in the police car, that Brown was shot in the back and that he remained exactly where he was with his hands up after turning around (whereas blood spatters show that he had traveled 25 feet back towards the officer, and shell casing show that the officer was backing up as he said he was, while Brown was charging towards him).

    And now they're spinning the Cleveland case, asking why the police didn't take time to talk to the 12 year old in the park, when that 12 year old responded to an order to put his hands up by pulling what looked like a gun out of his waistband. After one officer shot the boy in the park, the other ran over to kick the apparent gun out of his hand. Are police supposed to stop and talk to someone who is pulling a gun on them?

  5. Matthew Slyfield:

    The only way that police perjury will stop is if the officers involved start suffering personal consequences (the defendant getting off doesn't count) for doing it.

    If your friend really cared, she would start filing perjury charges against the officers.

  6. NL7:

    Wilson admitted that he shot Brown in the back as he was fleeing. It's unlikely Brown would be dead if Wilson hadn't shot him in the back.

    Wilson's allegation is that Brown was shot, then turned around to fight his armed assailant. But the alternative interpretation that Brown was running over to surrender is at least as plausible an explanation. If one could forgive Wilson for the imprudence of shooting a young man running away, then one could forgive Brown for the imprudence of not realizing that running toward a gun-wielding police officer is the equivalent of suicide.

  7. NL7:

    Witnesses are terrible, mostly because we believe they aren't. Memory is not indelible, it shifts every time you reimagine it. Your brain rewrites memories on every retelling, subtracting some details and supposing others. You may eventually come to have absolute faith in your recall of key details that were actual fabrications of your memory. This is especially the case when the initial event was sudden and traumatic, giving you little time as a firsthand witness but extended experience reimagining the trauma in your head. And if the event becomes heavily commented on and politicized, then you will re-analyze the memories through personal lenses such as "deference to police" or "no justice for young black men."

    A witness could easily miss crucial facts in the few seconds an event happens, then improvise details later based on the narrative frame of either the senseless death of another young man or the life-saving efforts of a hero in blue.

  8. Onlooker from Troy:

    Well said. A pretty good demonstration of this problem is the in the latest Radio Lab podcast about the mall shooting in Kenya: http://www.radiolab.org/story/outside-westgate/

  9. Onlooker from Troy:

    If the cops hadn't driven right up next to the kid and thus escalating the situation and giving them no time to do anything but react instantly that situation could have turned out benignly. They scared the shit out of the kid and he reacted poorly. He shouldn't have to pay for that with his life.

  10. Ann_In_Illinois:

    I would support an investigation into why they drove up so close rather than stopping farther back. Is that policy? If so, why? Perhaps there's a reason that you and I aren't aware of. It appears to me to have been a mistake, but maybe they do that to stop the person from escaping. Remember the report was that he had been pulling out what appeared to be a gun and pointing it at passers-by, who were frightened by his actions.

    But, once someone pulls what appears to be a gun on the police, they have to protect themselves. The biggest factors that could have been changed here are: don't give your child a realistic looking gun replica to play with, and teach him how to respond correctly to the police. 'Hands up' should have been second nature to this 12 year old.

  11. Ann_In_Illinois:

    According to all three autopsies, Brown was not shot in the back. Wilson said he was chasing Brown to keep track of him until backup arrived, which is the standard policy in such situations, and he did not say that he shot at Brown while he was running away. Perhaps you need to review the details?

  12. kidmugsy:

    That's remarkably restrained of you, Ann, given that NL7 started off with such a falsehood.

  13. Brennan:

    Very true, and well said.

  14. Ray Van Dolson:

    "Reacted poorly" is a bit of an understatement. No matter how caught off guard you are, your response should NEVER to be to attempt to take a police officer's gun (while he's still inside his vehicle to boot). Pure idiocy.

    The consequences of that particular overreaction are going to be pretty consistent every time.

  15. Ann_In_Illinois:

    I think that Onlooker was talking about the 12 year old in Cleveland, whose reaction on being told to put his hands up was to pull out his fake gun. After the shooting, the other police officer kicked the replica gun out of his hand, which shows that the boy had time to pull it out of his waistband before he was shot.

  16. MJM:

    If Wilson had been wearing a video camera all that would change is that there would be a video of Brown attacking him, twice, and being rightfully shot for his stupid efforts. Brown would still be dead.

    Only when the "black community" decides to abandon its violent behavior, towards each other as well as to authority figures, will these things stop happening. Charles Barkley recently stated that these dangerous black neighborhoods would be so much worse if it were not for the police being around. Sir Charles is not wrong.

  17. MNHawk:

    "Wilson admitted that he shot Brown in the back as he was fleeing."

    Am I at Coyote Blog or MSNBC, with such a whopper presented?

  18. Billford:

    Wilson's story is very fishy. Wilson's account of Brown's actions don't survive the smell test to me. Sure, Brown was no Sunday school student, and he was brash and had just robbed a store, but he'd have to have been suicidal for Wilson's account to hold water. I think Brown was reacting stupidly to an assault by an officer. In this context, it is criminal assault, by the officer against Brown, to drive a car right in front of someone, almost hitting him, to open the door aggressively into or right in front of him, and then grab Brown's arm. Furthermore, Wilson's actions show undeniably poor tactics and impoliteness. When you are armed you owe it to your fellow citizens to keep things calm and mellow. You shouldn't start shouting, pushing, or grabbing because somebody says a swear word. It seems to me that NONE of that initial interaction was in the context of Wilson making a lawful arrest (which he COULD have done for jay-walking), but rather was Wilson reacting to being told to F--- off. Wilson seems to have started a fight, and then pulled out his gun and shot Brown for fighting.

    It goes without saying that it very dumb to tell a police officer to F off and to physically resist an officer's relatively mild assault and battery on your person. BUT, it is not illegal to do so. Later on in the incident, when both were out of the vehicle, I'd say that was probably self defense, by both parties. A police officer with a gun drawn cannot let somebody who he already shot get too close. Somebody who has been shot and does not want to be shot some more can make the best of the terrible options available to him and attempt to disarm the person shooting him.

  19. skhpcola:

    "Fishy"? Why do uninformed assclowns feel as if they are better suited to opine about something on which they have no clue? "Fishy"? You could clear up your confusion by sorting through all of the grand jury evidence that was released...but I suspect that you'd rather remain an ignorant fuckwit spewing bullshit on the intartoobs. Nothing you just typed bears any resemblance to reality, but keep on thinking that you are smart, you retard.

  20. skhpcola:

    Everything that you just said is a demonstrable lie, liar. Did you make even a flaccid effort to educate yourself about the facts of the evidence before dropping your turd of "analysis" above, or is your mendacity a coping mechanism to justify your ignorance?

  21. Ugasailor:

    Completely absent from your version of what happened is the fact that Brown had high levels of THC in his bloodstream. It also seems very likely his theft of 'rillos' was with the intent of making some 'blunts'. It is reasonable to project that Brown's judgement was certainly clouded by his intoxication. Maybe even 'suicidal' as you put it. This aspect of the encounter is so very inconvenient for Brown supporters.

  22. herdgadfly:

    Is the problem with the witnesses of with the PBS spin?

  23. marque2:

    It wasn't just innocent mistakes - several of the witnesses outright lied, and some recanted their testimony. One of the more interesting facts, is that the officer did have a cracked skull from blunt force. Whether it was Michael Brown, I can't say, but it does seem to give the cop more credibility.

    Just how many fractures of the skull should a police officer get before he is allowed to defend himself. This Michael Brown protest thing, is just a total fraud.

  24. marque2:

    The boy may have thought, that is what he is suppose to do. Take out the gun and hold it above your head, like they do in the movies. That was a sad incident, but I am not sure what the police were suppose to do.

  25. Titan28:

    Good Lord. What nonsense. Brown was not shot in the back, unless, of course, you are reading directly from media accounts the day after the incident occurred. Read the testimony, esp. that of Witness # 10, a black man.

  26. Incunabulum:

    I'm not sure why you consider having THC in his system or the the planning of using the cigars to make blunts is important.

    THC doesn't make you violent.

  27. Matthew Slyfield:

    Only two seconds elapsed between when the cruiser came to a stop and when the kid was shot. While the officers claim that they ordered the kid to put his hands up 3 times, the timeline makes it unlikely that this claim is true. I rather doubt that enough time elapsed for the order order to have been given once and leave the kid enough time to react.

    Also, why the hell did the veteran officer who was driving pull up so close to the kid? At that distance, the rookie had no time to react if the kid had been in possession of a real gun and it almost looked like they tried to run the kid over.

  28. Craig L:

    He did not have a cracked skull. That was a false internet story.

  29. Ann_In_Illinois:

    I don't know why they drove up so close. That's definitely something that should be investigated. Perhaps it's policy, to make sure that dangerous suspects don't get away (and someone pointing an apparent gun at passers-by in a park should be considered dangerous). Driving up so close looks wrong to me, but I'm not an expert. An investigation is clearly needed.

    But once this person reacted by pulling out what appeared to be a gun, I don't see what else the police could have done. It's tragic. But giving "the kid enough time to react" means giving him enough time to kill one or both officers, given that he responded to this situation by drawing what appeared to be a gun.

    This is why I have taught my teens what to do in, for example, a traffic stop, and why I would never send my 12 year old alone to the park with what appears to be a gun.

  30. Matthew Slyfield:

    "But giving "the kid enough time to react" means giving him enough time to kill one or both officers,"

    That is a risk the cops are paid to take.

    By the way, air soft guns are made entirely of plastic, real guns are made of metal. If these two cops couldn't tell the difference between the two at that range, even without the orange tip, they shouldn't be cops.

  31. bigmaq1980:

    "Only when the 'black community' decides to abandon its violent behavior..."

    Don't think that's the core issue, and it misdiagnoses the blame (way to narrow a focus).

    It is the political correctness that excuses this kind of behavior from ANY MSM/Lib favored group. It is the idea that there are special rules about who and what one can talk about or not.

    In the UK, this cost 1400 children - they were abused, but the police, the politicians, and (especially) the media, nobody wanted to talk about and admonish those who perpetrated this behavior. So. It is allowed to continue and thrive.

    It is the ugly attitude promoted by the left that some groups are such "victims" (as a group), that they cannot possibly help themselves for such poor behavior, therefore, they cannot (individually) be held responsible.

    It advances a narrative, used for power brokering. That narrative breaks down quickly if anyone ever spent a bit of time getting at the details of who, what, when and where.

    While there certainly is blame to be shared by the individuals themselves (rightly so), much of it lands at the feet of leaders from the left for encouraging it by excusing that behavior.

  32. bigmaq1980:

    Even with the PBS chart it is fairly clear that there is enough for "reasonable doubt" - the standard against criminal convictions are to be judged.

    Not sure if they considered something akin to negligence, but that might have had a better chance at going to trial.

    BTW, there does not seem to be backup to this chart to substantiate each individual adjustment. Maybe there is, but didn't find it with the simple search of the site.

  33. NL7:

    I'll clarify to say that Wilson implicitly admitted Brown was running away and suspend for now the assertion of some witnesses that he was shot in the back (autopsy results on the arm are inconclusive, but do not necessarily rule out one shot from behind Brown hitting his right arm and cannot rule out the possibility of a shot fired at Brown's back but missing).

    Wilson claimed to the grand jury he needed to shoot Brown, who was no longer a direct threat to him, because a fleeing Brown could hurt others:
    "One thing you guys haven't asked that has been asked of me in other interviews is, was he a threat, was Michael Brown a threat when he was running away. People asked why would you chase him if he was running away now.

    "I had already called for assistance. If someone arrives and sees him running, another officer and goes around the back half of the apartment complexes and tries to stop him, what would stop him from doing what he just did to me to him or worse, knowing he has already done it to one cop. And that was, he still posed a threat, not only to me, to anybody else that confronted him."

    Rather than deny that Michael Brown was running away, Wilson volunteered without prompting that Brown was a threat to people other than Wilson. If Wilson had not fired at a fleeing Brown, then Brown would likely be alive.