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Public Release Of Evidence Provides Some Clarity In Michael Brown Shooting

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch announces on Nov 24, 2014, that the grand jury declined to indict Darren Wilson on any of five counts that were presented to it.
File photo | Bill Greenblatt | UPI

After St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced Monday that a grand jury had decided not to charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson with a crime in the August death of Michael Brown, he carried out his promise to release thousands of pages of grand jury testimony and evidence.  

St. Louis Public Radio has made it all available for you to view. Reporters have been evaluating it as well. Here are some of the take-aways:

The Basic Outline Of Events Is Similar. The Details Are Not.

The eyewitness testimony that St. Louis Public Radio has reviewed so far is consistent in many ways. All spoke of Officer Darren Wilson having an initial encounter with Dorian Johnson and Michael Brown, and then coming back to talk to them a second time. All witnesses mentioned some kind of an altercation between Brown and Wilson. All said that Brown was facing the officer before he was fatally shot.

But many of the details in the statements differ. For example, one female witness who spoke to the grand jury in late October, implied that Brown may have been the aggressor in the struggle. A second female witness who testified later that same day said she saw Wilson pull Brown into the car. That same witness said there were two officers in the car.

A third witness that day, a 50-year-old female, said Wilson drove up from behind her, as if entering from West Florissant Avenue. That contradicts the second witness who said Wilson was approaching from the Northwinds apartment complex. 

Distrust Of Local Law Enforcement Is Deep.

The 50-year-old woman testified that she was on her cell phone when Wilson pulled his gun on Brown. She said she was calling friends and telling them that "Ferguson police messing with our young men again." The two other female witnesses also spoke of being afraid of the Ferguson police. The first witness said Brown's death "looked like murder. I've seen the Ferguson police do some pretty awful things."

St. Louis County police immediately took over the investigation of the shooting after it happened. The U.S. Department of Justice opened a parallel investigation into whether Wilson had violated Brown's civil rights.

Paul D'Agrosa, a criminal defense attorney who reviewed some of the testimony for St. Louis Public Radio, said the fact that many of the witnesses spoke first to FBI agents is telling. 

"In my view, they didn't trust the local investigation. They didn't trust the local police, they didn't trust that they would be given a fair interview," D'Agrosa said.

The Grand Jurors Were Engaged.

McCulloch said last night that to call the process incomplete was a disservice to the 12 men and women who spent 70 hours over 25 days evaluating all the evidence.

"They poured their heart and soul into the process," he said.

Transcripts of grand jury testimony bear him out. Grand jurors referenced taking notes as witnesses spoke. They referred back to transcripts of previous statements witnesses had given and asked about contradictions, as seen in this question for the first witness to testify  on October 28th. 

On August the 16th, you never mention that his body was inside the vehicle, but on September 25th, you mention that his body was inside. You said that it was his arm, it looked like they were fighting.  So I'm just confused, because that's like a big gap, that's almost like a month after your first interview. Did you like hear anything on television, or hear anyone in the neighborhood talking about, you know, what they acutally saw?"

In another instance, grand jurors sought clarity about blood on Darren Wilson's gun.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.