I'm very interested to read the witness statements to see what they actually said, because the only two specific examples of conflict that he cited were that some witnesses apparently claimed Wilson came up on Brown already on the ground and fired a bunch of rounds into him (?????, never heard this one before), and your favorite bit that some witnesses thought he'd been hit in the back and then "changed their stories" when the autopsy came out (which we've been over again and again, so not gonna rehash it once more). Do they conflict with each other or with the physical evidence on any substantive matters? I'm also interested to see to what extent, if any, any of the prominent witnesses changed their stories, including admitting that they didn't actually see the events unfold. I specify "prominent," meaning the big ones we already knew about, because McCulloch clearly cast a wide net if he has witnesses saying Wilson walked up on Brown's body and pumped bullets into him on the ground, and because the ones we already knew about all claim to have had pretty good views of the shooting. I started to look into this last night, but unfortunately the transcript is nearly 5,000 pages long so it takes time. I skimmed through the first 550 or so, which left me in the middle of Dorian Johnson's testimony (which, for what it's worth, seemed unchanged from what I recall him saying before, but much more detailed here).
I am not sure of the leanings of the Washington Post but here is "a" summary of witness testimony.
Inconsistency is the only constant in Ferguson case
The witnesses were seizing a midsummer Saturday. They were waking up from naps after leisurely breakfasts. They were fixing gutters and heading to their afternoon jobs. They were listening to gospel music in their cars. And then came the screech of tires that snapped their attention to the street.
One image is consistent in their recollections: a young black man in yellow socks in a confrontation with a white police officer driving a police SUV.
But no clear picture of what truly transpired emerges from thousands of pages of grand jury testimony released this week by St. Louis County prosecutors. The witness accounts provide new and often conflicting details about what happened leading up to the moment when police officer Darren Wilson shot dead 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
After a three-month investigation involving 60 witnesses and 70 hours of testimony, the grand jury found Monday that there was insufficient evidence to charge Wilson with a crime.
Overall, the witnesses provided a consistent account of many of the events surrounding the Aug. 9 encounter, which began through the window of the SUV and ended with Brown dead in the street.
But the testimony fails to definitively clarify some of the most crucial details of the interaction between Wilson and Brown that day. Witnesses differed on critical aspects of the physical struggle, as well as what Brown was doing with his hands — whether he had them up in surrender as his supporters have insisted — when the fatal bullets struck.
The inconsistencies in a few cases stemmed from efforts by witnesses to mislead. But in other instances, it was more likely natural confusion, the result of people going about their day when suddenly a startling narrative unfolded.
For the grand jurors, the conflicting statements may have provided a boost to Wilson’s credibility or made it difficult to conclude there was probable cause, which is required for sending a case to trial.
“Initially, um, I thought wow, um, did he have to use force on him?” one male witness told detectives in a recorded interview that was played to jurors. “And after thinking about it and reviewing everything and putting myself in the police officer’s shoes, I feel like he handled the situation correct force-wise.”
But others, in equally stark terms, offered entirely different versions. “The officer unloaded on him,” another witness told the grand jury. “I mean, he fired four or five shots in rapid succession. He gunned him down.”
Said another, “And the police just stand over him and shot him like he playing darts at a board.”
The grand jury transcripts show prosecutors, who led the inquiry, grilling eyewitnesses, testing their memories and asking for minute details. Often the specifics clearly recalled by one were entirely at odds with the clear memories of another.
For example, some described a physical struggle inside the SUV, while at least one witness said the whole conflict took place entirely outside. Some said Brown, after spinning around to face Wilson, staggered toward him, while others described it as a “charge.” While some recounted that Brown had his hands up in surrender when he was killed, others described his hands as clutching his torso or hovering at shoulder-level.
Some, however, told entirely contradictory or made-up stories and were called out by prosecutors, who went to great lengths to discredit some witnesses.
One woman told an elaborate story about driving around looking for a friend’s apartment when she pulled into a parking lot to ask for directions. She said she was there in time to see Brown “lunging” into the car to his waist, she said. Later, she said, Wilson had his gun drawn and pointed at Brown. That’s when “Brown started to charge . . . kind of like a football player, like this, with his hands out,” she said, clenching her fists.
But federal prosecutors later discredited the woman, demanding to know the spelling of the friend’s name and asking to look at her e-mail records to prove that she had written a message to the friend. The prosecutors then returned from a break to say they viewed her computer search history, finding suspicious searches, and that there was no report of a car matching hers near the scene of the crime.
One witness described Brown facing the officer on his knees and had previously said he heard Brown pleading for his life. “What you are saying you saw isn’t forensically possible based on the evidence,” a prosecutor said. The witness later asked to leave.
A woman who lives in the Canfield Green apartment complex gave two statements to police but later told the grand jury she didn’t see the shooting.
“The statement that I made, it was with what my boyfriend . . . saw,” she admitted. “I just felt like I want to be part of something.”
One witness who had spent the morning having breakfast with his family and taking a nap testified that he watched most of the events from his second-floor apartment. The prosecutors asked in painstaking detail how the police car was oriented and where Brown’s body fell. But after the witness laid out his story, they presented him with photos and diagrams that apparently conflicted with his recollection.
“I was there,” the witness said.
“I know you were there,” the prosecutor said. “But people remember things differently or they see things from a different perspective. Distances are hard to judge.”
Yep, they would have made great witnesses at a trial. Great for which side I am not sure.
One thing a prosecutor has to be aware of does a witness help or hurt a case during a trial. And I would imagine many of these witnesses would not have helped a prosecutor's case. And a prosecutor has to present some physical evidence at a trial so does it make sense to call a witness that contradicts your evidence?
I guess people would want a show trial but how many of these witnesses would actually be called to testify? And if they weren't called to testify I can just see all of the conspiracy theorists talking about all the evidence that wasn't presented or ignored by the prosecution.