Justice Department Autopsy Of Michael Brown Leaves Some Big Questions Still Unanswered
The St. Louis County prosecutor's officer quietly released a new batch of grand jury documents on Monday, including the federal autopsy of 18-year-old Michael Brown ordered by the Department of Justice. The autopsy, along with witness testimonies and unheard audio recordings, was previously withheld from the public even though prosecutor Robert McCullough promised to release all of the evidence weighed by the grand jury in its decision not to indict former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting Brown.
Local news station KSDK first reported on the missing documents in November, placing pressure on McCullough to show transparency. A member of McCullough's office previously told KSDK that these documents were being kept under wraps at the request of the Justice Department and FBI.
Conducted by the Department of Defense's Armed Forces Medical Examiner, the federal autopsy concluded that Brown's death as a homicide, caused by at least gunshot wounds—one of which was a graze wound. Although most of the federal medical examiner's correspond with the two other autopsies — from the St. Louis County Medical Examiner's Office and a private, NY-based medical examiner, respectively — one finding stands out: There's only evidence that Brown was shot from a close range on his right hand.
Here's the Defense Department's final opinion:
This 18-year-old male died from multiple gunshot wounds. There are severe injuries of the skull, brain, and right chest. ... Gross and microscopic examinations of the tangential gunshot wound to the right hand reveal with strong likelihood the presence of soot (an indication of close range discharge of a firearm. There is no evidence of close range discharge of a firearm elsewhere. The postmortem toxicology screen is positive for cannabinoids. The manner of death is homicide.
The federal autopsy also found multiple abrasions on the right side of Brown's face, including above his eyebrow and below his eye. Brown also had "faint abrasions" on his right cheek and on both hands, the autopsy concluded. This may further indicate that there was a physical "struggle" at Wilson's police vehicle, as Wilson testified before the grand jury.
The new documents released by the St. Louis County prosecutor's office also include eyewitness testimony collected by FBI officials. But one crucial interview still remains missing: The two-hour interview with Dorian Johnson, Brown's friend who was with him when they encountered Wilson.
However, the Associated Press reports that the documents include seven video clips of Johnson's interviews with the media. In these interviews, Johnson described Wilson as the aggressor, even though Wilson, in his testimony before the grand jury, depicted Brown was threatening and demonic. "It looked like a demon," Wilson said of Brown.
Outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder ordered the federal autopsy as part of his probe into Brown's death. Last Wednesday, Holder also opened a federal investigation into the death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old father of six who died after being placed in a chokehold by New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo. Garner's death was also ruled as a homicide, caused partly by chest and neck compressions, but a Staten Island grand jury decided not to bring criminal charges against Pantaleo last Wednesday.
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