Justice Department Not at All Pleased With Michael Brown Leaks

Photo: Robert Cohen-Pool/Getty Images

Yesterday’s anonymous accounts of the evidence backing up Ferguson officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown will not be investigated, the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office says. “There’s really nothing to investigate,” a spokesperson told the L.A. Times. “We don’t have control over anybody leaking anything. All we can control is people in our office and the grand jury, and it’s not coming from us or the grand jury.”

Nonetheless, the Justice Department “considers the selective release of information in this investigation to be irresponsible and highly troubling,” it said in a statement. “Since the release of the convenience-store footage, there seems to be an inappropriate effort to influence public opinion about this case.”

While the grand jury mulls charges against Wilson — a decision is expected by mid-November — multiple newspapers reported previously unknown details yesterday, all of which bolster the officer’s version of events. Among the new info from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the New York Times, and the Washington Post: Brown’s hand was shot at close range; his blood was found on Wilson’s gun; and he may not have been surrendering when he was shot as witnesses have claimed. (The Post cited “ several people familiar with the investigation,” the Times “ government officials briefed on the federal civil rights investigation into the matter,” and the Post-Dispatch “sources” and “several people familiar with the investigation.”)

Wilson’s legal defense team denied being behind the reports in a statement Thursday morning, via MSNBC:

We were not responsible for any leaks to any media including those published in the NY Times and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch … Further, we are not in possession of any of the disclosed reports or the investigative report. Finally, as long as the Grand Jury continues to meet and the Department of Justice continues to investigate, any commentary on this matter should only be done in the appropriate judicial venue and not through the media.”

Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic expert who was quoted by the Post-Dispatch saying, “If [Brown] has his hand near the gun when it goes off, he’s going for the officer’s gun,” also told MSNBC she was not as certain as she sounded in the article. “You cannot interpret autopsy reports in a vacuum. You need to do it in the context of the scene, the investigation and the witness statements,” she told reporter Trymaine Lee. “Sometimes when you take things out of context they can be more inflammatory.”

I’m not saying that Brown going for the gun is the only explanation. I’m saying the officer said he was going for the gun and the right thumb wound supports that,” she said. “I have limited information. It could also be consistent with other scenarios. That’s the important thing. That’s why the witnesses need to speak to the grand jury and the grand jury needs to hear all the unbiased testimony and compare those statements to the physical evidence.”

Whoever was behind the selective leaks, they reportedly upset Eric Holder, whose department is leading their own investigation:

As were citizens in Ferguson, who expressed their suspicions with a system that has already shown itself to be untrustworthy along the way, as with the release of the Brown shoplifting video at a very inopportune moment. “What the police say is not to be taken as gospel,” said Benjamin Crump, the attorney for the Brown family. “He can say what he wants to say in front of a jury. They can listen to all the evidence and the people can have it transparent so they know that the system works for everybody.”

St. Louis alderman Antonio French, a leadership figure of the Ferguson protests, had strong words as well:

This post has been updated throughout.

Justice Dept. Not Happy With Michael Brown Leaks