Lisa Bloom answers your questions on the Michael Brown case

Lisa Bloom answers your top questions on the Michael Brown case

11 Comments

Avvo legal analyst Lisa Bloom answers the questions many are asking, as the grand jury trial on the shooting of Michael Brown enters its second day.

What is Officer Darren Wilson’s story and why hasn’t he been arrested?

We don’t know, exactly, what Officer Wilson’s story is. He has not given any public statements, nor has any attorney for him.

The local police chief and a woman named Josie who called in to a radio show provided some information. Piecing it together, it is: Officer Wilson stopped Mike Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, for walking in the street (jaywalking). Brown then engaged in a physical altercation with the officer, and the officer’s gun went off in the car. Brown pulled away, and then “bum rushed” Officer Wilson, and so Officer Wilson shot him in self-defense.

Who are the non-police witnesses to the shooting – are they credible?

By my count there are at least five credible civilian witnesses to the shooting who have spoken out publicly, as it happened in broad daylight in a suburban neighborhood. Four of these did not know anyone involved in the incident which helps their credibility.

Although everyone had a different vantage point, most of the witnesses say that there was a tussle at the police car, but then that Brown was shot when he was running away from the police car, and that the final shots were fired when Brown had his hands in the air to indicate that he was unarmed and was surrendering.

No police officer rendered first aid or CPR to Brown. His body was left in the street for more than five hours, according to media reports and videos shot by witnesses, which shocked the community. According to The New York Times, a nurse wanted to run out and render aid to Brown as he was lying in the street, but the police would not allow her to do so.

What are the most disputed facts in the case?

The biggest issue is whether Wilson shot at Brown when Brown presented no threat to Wilson – that is, with his hands in the air. Even if Brown had engaged in a physical altercation, Wilson could not legally shoot to kill under those circumstances. As the victim’s family has pointed out, hands in the air is the universal sign for surrender.

Another question is whether Brown was shot from behind, while fleeing. If Brown was running away from Wilson, he was certainly not a threat to Wilson. However, Wilson may still argue that Brown was a “fleeing felon” based on the altercation in the police car, and possibly from the “strong arm robbery” that preceded the altercation.

We don’t know yet whether Wilson knew about Brown’s alleged theft of cigarillos from a convenience store minutes before the incident, and whether, for example, Wilson heard a radio call describing it as a “strong arm robbery.”

Based on the family’s preliminary autopsy results, Brown sustained a bullet shot to the back (underside) of his forearm, which would be consistent with being shot from behind or with his arms up. A second bullet hit him in the palm, which would also be consistent with either of those scenarios. The final lethal shot struck through the apex of his head, consistent with his body bent at a 90 degree angle.

Which law enforcement agencies are involved? What are their roles?

Ferguson Police, St. Louis Police, the National Guard, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice are all involved in keeping the peace in Ferguson and investigating the matter.

It’s a confusing jumble. Currently the FBI is investigating along with local authorities and it is not clear to me who, if anyone, is in charge. As I write there is public fighting between Governor Nixon and the local prosecutor as to whether the prosecutor should be removed from the case, based on community outcry that he has too many family ties to local police and has made inappropriate public statements about the case.

When does the grand jury trial begin and what can the public expect at this stage?

The local prosecutor, Bob McCulloch, began the grand jury proceedings yesterday. This is a secret proceeding so we do not know who has testified, or what they said.

The prosecutor could have done his own investigation, had Wilson arrested and arraigned, and then opted for a preliminary hearing, which is generally less than one day and is open to the public. He did not do so.

The grand jury will convene once a month and is expected to review the matter through October.

Lisa Bloom, Avvo.com Legal Advisor and Analyst

About 

Lisa Bloom is the founder and managing partner of The Bloom Firm, a civil and criminal general practice law firm. Admitted to practice in all state and federal courts of California and New York, Lisa partners with local attorneys nationwide to bring justice to clients all over the U.S.

Lisa Bloom is a legal analyst for Avvo.com and NBC News, and the author of three books, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, Swagger: 10 Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness and Thug Culture, and SUSPICION NATION: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It.

11 Comments

  1. Michele Harper / September 1, 2014 at 4:40 am / Reply

    I desperately need help regaining custody from a relative. I have completed all required programs and have very little contact with my son. I have seen him only once in 3 mos. She lives 5 hours away in another state. She has not allowed me to come when I ask she states “we have plans”. What can I do to get my son returned home as soon as possible or placed with a relative closer to me. I have had very little help from my lawyer and do not understand my rights.

    • Danielle Post
      Danielle Post / September 2, 2014 at 11:34 am / Reply

      Hi Michele, I’m so sorry to hear about your difficult situation. It sounds like you have several legal questions that would be best answered by an attorney in our free Q&A forum — which is anonymous and secure. Attorneys do not provide advice through our blog, but they do in the forum, usually within the first day or two of posting. All questions are open to answers for seven days. You can post your questions here when you’re ready: http://www.avvo.com/ask-a-lawyer. You can also locate an attorney using Avvo’s Legal Directory. You can search by practice area as well as location to find one close to you. Avvo profiles contain an attorney’s experience as well as client and peer reviews. Many offer free consultations, so be sure to ask if you decide to contact them on your own or through Avvo. Here’s the link to get started on your search: http://www.avvo.com/find-a-lawyer I hope this is helpful. Kindly, Danielle

  2. ken / August 31, 2014 at 2:06 am / Reply

    Helen,you attack the columnist about grammar and spelling? First you need to turn on spell check and if you plan on trying to stand up for someone at least get his name correct. ” Mack Brown ” is not it. Your incoherent ramblings between facts dealt your argument a fatal blow. Slow down and take a deep breath,then take a course in debate because you suck at it.

  3. ELois P. Clayton / August 28, 2014 at 11:45 am / Reply

    ATTN: HELLO(Mz. Bloom)!
    I was in the audience(on Montel’s show), when you were there, discussing women who had been abused(if I’m not mistaken as to what the show was about).
    I tried to be there for the show concerning ‘Have You Been Assaulted By Someone You Attended High School With’?
    I was there, asking Montel for HELP about a corrupt cop, whom I learned later, was involved in the murder of my brother in May of ’1980′.
    TODAY, I’m seeking your HELP;recommendation, for a ‘SEXUAL HARASSMENT’ attorney(for my nephew, who left his job of 5 + years, because of sexual touching from his X ‘boss’.
    NOTE: He(my nephew), has given I a LIST of OTHER employees who has experienced similar or the SAME sexual touching from this ‘boss’.
    My nephew has instructed I to hand over this employee list to the attorney who decides to take his case.
    If you can be of assistance, please contact me.
    My nephew is a hard worker(6 days/week, in most cases), loved by many family members and friends and do NOT deserve to be jailed because he has the desire to live right!
    Please contact me, as soon as possible.
    Thank you(in advance), for taking the time to listen/hear my plea for justice for my nephew.

    • Danielle Post
      Danielle Post / August 28, 2014 at 4:59 pm / Reply

      Hi Elois, I’m so sorry to hear about your nephew’s difficult situation. I want to let you know that I’ve deleted your personal information from this comment, for your security. It sounds like you have several legal questions that would be best answered by an attorney in our free Q&A forum — which is anonymous and secure. Attorneys do not provide advice through our blog, but they do in the forum, usually within the first day or two of posting. All questions are open to answers for seven days. You can post your questions here when you’re ready: http://www.avvo.com/ask-a-lawyer. You can also locate an attorney using Avvo’s Legal Directory. You can search by practice area as well as location to find one close to you. Avvo profiles contain an attorney’s experience as well as client and peer reviews. Many offer free consultations, so be sure to ask if you decide to contact them on your own or through Avvo. Here’s the link to get started on your search: http://www.avvo.com/find-a-lawyer I hope this is helpful. Kindly, Danielle

  4. Helen / August 28, 2014 at 9:19 am / Reply

    BJones you are so funny and ignorant. How do you even contemplate killing an unarmed man regardless of what race. You’re trying to be insulting as hard as you can. You can’t spell, nor use correct grammar. Are you from the 1950′s ? If so, I will allow you stupidity. If you don’t know the law, my friend stop repeating what you’ve heard from another lier. If Mack Brown did indeed take the merchandise without paying. Watch the video again, and again, until your brain comprehends what’s going on. He way leaving out the door when the owner reached and touch him. So he turned around and pushed him away. That’s what your illiterate A** is referring to, strong arm of the law. No one has ever condoned that Mack Brown was right, if he stoled from the store. If he did, that was absolutely against the law. Stop trying to make it seem as the black community is in favor of stealing. That’s your excuse for murdering a teenager, okay. The evidence is there, and it’s no way around the truth, except with the untruth. Since Mack Brown stature was such a problem with this officer and everyone that’s agreeing with murder. This cop should have found himself another Career. Every man wasn’t born a MIGET or the cop size. Every black man that he came in contact with Mack Brown size. His intention was to kill. With the size being part of his reason. We all should feel that if Mack Brown wanted his gun, he could have taken it. So after he say the young man fail at the gun story. He punch him and ran away. Okay ! Why did he shoot to kill. After he then turn around with hands in air, and he shoots 5 more times. Remember he was shot in the back of his head. No I don’t feel all whites are hater’s of blacked. What I do feel is the cop got so angry and killed this young man. If a black officer had just slap a white teen. He would have been locked up and not given a bond. What do you feel would have happen if a black officer shot a white teen 6 times fate would be ?? Let’s be honest. The murder child laid there on the streets, dead, uncovered for hours for the entire world to see like a dead animal. BJones you can’t believe in GOD, JEHOVAH GOD I’M REFERRING TO. YOU KNOW WITHOUT A NAME, ANYTHING CAN BE CALLED a god. The GOD I serve will allow things to happen in your circle of love ones, or a friend. Simply because you feel puffed up and proud that this almost college student was killed. We all need to be mindfully about what we say. Old folks would tell you. That little “PINK” thing between between your teeth, will make you regret saying many things. That mother does not deserve the pain and heartache she is experiencing. God, Jehovah bless you. I pray your heart grows more compassionate for PEOPLE OF ALL RACE.

  5. Katie Thompson / August 28, 2014 at 7:57 am / Reply

    For someone to say, this young man was a thug, is not the same color, because what you are telling me, is because my SON, is BLACK, it is OK. My son go to WORK and SCHOOL, it’s OK. Talk to me, when YOUR son have been hurt or KILLED, just because of the of his SKIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. leroy payne / August 28, 2014 at 6:15 am / Reply

    I want to ask you did you read Mr.Wilson’s account of the incident? Reading it you can tell this is a put together story. First of all, the incident at the store is NOT IN ANY WAY STRONG ARMED ROBBERY. Secondly,he didn’t know about the store incident when he approached these young men.Now let’s get to the MURDER OF THIS YOUNG BLACK MAN; First of all, if a black man of this young man’s stature wrestled with Mr. Wilson, that gun would have been taken away from him, IT WAS TWO OF THEM REMEMBER? Then look at the scene & eberything, in no way this story match what REALLY happened. There shouldn’t be a question about this case because WE know he was shot in the back, which proves MIKE BROWN was NOT A THREAT because he was running away.Then where ARE all the shell casings from Mr.Wilson’s gun. How don’t we know YET how many times he shot this UNARMED BLACK KID, MAN WHATEVER YOU WANT TO CLARIFY HIM? Wouldn’t it be simple to just count the bullets left in Mr.Wilson’s magazine? Then look at the places MIKE BROWN was shot, man come on now, he’s shot in his OPEN HAND! That proves that they were up in the air. Then look at HOW MANY TIMES HE SHOT this young man in broad daylight if I might add. You gotta be blind, simple, or crazy to believe Mr.Wilson’s account of what happened that day. Then the (NON) incident report, REALLY? They haven’t blacked out a report like this since the assination of President Kennedy, MLK, Watergate, Iran Contra Affairs, or 911 Commission Report & you believe it!!!! Sometimes black people DO or ARE TELLING THE TRUTH & this is clearly one of the times. Then they ran toxicologuy test & all of that to MIKE BROWN, the victim, but never mentioned ANY test done to or on Mr.Wilson. Same thing with TRAYVON MARTIN & GEORGE
    ZIMMERMAN but that’s another case. (WOW) Everything the media’s putting out is to belittle MIKE BROWN or the ON THE SEEN WITNESSES, IS IT BECAUSE THEY’RE BLACK & THEY KNOW ALL ABOUT THE TENSIONS IN THE COMMUNITY & POLICE? This’ truly sad because now you SHERIFF & PROSECUTOR have split up & destroyed a nice little town in America with this race poisoning. Enough is enough & this’ a time for US AS A PEOPLE TO STAND TOGETHER & STAND UP AGAINST THESE TYPE OF ORGANIZATIONS & PEOPLE who only wants to protect their own in these cases, let’s stand up & protect our own, MIKE BROWN, because before he became known to
    the world he was an American in the streets. We can’t keep sitting back & allowing this type of recklessly handled situations in our communities or country. I don’t want to have a race argument with you, I just ASK that look at the true facts of this story & use come & sense then respond to my reply because it’s obvious that officer murdered this young man in cold blood in the broad daylight & didn’t care who saw him do it. If it was a white young man would you still have the same feelings about it? Just my thoughts, plz respond respectively as I did to you. L.P.

  7. BJones / August 27, 2014 at 9:29 am / Reply

    It’s apparent that Lisa is just another race baiter.
    Brown is nothing but another street thug that got what was coming to him for first committing strong arm robbery and assault. Then proceeded to attack an officer of the law that was performing his duties. He attempted to take the ifficers weapon and failed the first attempt. He started to run away and decided to charge back at the policeman that he had seriously injured probably thinking no fear of an injured victim. Well the officers training came to play and blew the thug to the ground.

    So morons, get the story straight and quit the Al sh?thouse Sharpton crap. We are fed up with you idiot looters, thugs, thieves and killers!!!!

  8. George Seese / August 23, 2014 at 8:44 am / Reply

    Why does the grand jury meet only once a month, instead of “until the job is done” in a trial?
    Does the prosecutor select grand jurors?
    In these days of independent investigations, why do prosecutors investigate one of their own?
    Would they not invite community confidence by including a neutral monitor (in the same way cameras are encouraged for police cars etc.)?

  9. Jody Smiling / August 22, 2014 at 4:27 pm / Reply

    Hi Lisa,

    Is the Grand Jury in the Michael Brown case sequestered, or will they see everything about this case, true and false, that is reported on?

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