The Strange Case of Ferguson Witness 40
Easily the strangest of all the documents that have emerged from the Darren Wilson grand jury is the one attributed to Witness 40. These are the pages pulled from her -- I assume her based on writing style -- diary entries from the day Michael Brown was shot, August 9, 2014. She does not appear to have been interviewed.
On the face of things, Witness 40 fully corroborates the testimony of Officer Wilson. I leave the grammar uncorrected. “The cop was wobbling,” she wrote from her anxious perch in a silver Pontiac stopped behind Wilson’s car, “the big kid turned and had his arms out with attitude. The cop just stood there dang if that kid didn't start running right at the cop like a football player, head down.”
Her take on the final scenario matches not only Wilson’s description, but also the autopsy findings. “I heard cop say something but not sure what or if he was just making noise,” she continued. “Cop took a couple steps forward then backwards then the gun went off 2 more times. The last one on the top of the kids head. Omg the blood.”
To dissect testimony like Witness 40’s, fourteenth-century philosopher William of Occam had a useful rule of thumb. We know it as Occam’s Razor, and it is often stated thusly: “The simplest explanation is usually the best.” The original Latin --“Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate” -- adds a wrinkle. This translates roughly, “Multiple variables are not to be posited without necessity.”
The simplest explanation is that the Witness 40 diary entry is authentic. It is hard to believe that prosecutors from the State of Missouri and the Department of Justice would allow a fraudulent document into the official record of a case so thoroughly scrutinized. Even if they wanted Wilson to walk, they did not need a document this suspect. They already had sworn testimony from at least half-a-dozen African American witnesses on the scene.
“The dude turned back around and started charging the police officer,” testified Witness 48. “The police officer told him to stop at least three times. And the boy wouldn’t stop, he fired three rounds, the dude kept running, fired four more rounds, and then he finished off the rounds I guess, and he fell dead on the ground.”
“And all of a sudden the young man he turned around and started coming back towards the officer yeah right,” said Witness 34.
“He started charging towards the police officer,” said Witness 10. This witness then described how Wilson began to fire, then ceased firing when Brown stopped running. “And then Mr. Brown continued, started again to charge towards him and after that the police officer returned fire.”
As uncomfortable as the truth must have been for the major media, the exposure of the lies on which their reporting has been based must have been even more distressing. Consider this exchange between a prosecutor and one grand jury witness.
P: “You told them a story that had a bunch of lies, isn’t that right?”
W: A bunch of lies?
P: “Well, you told them that you saw the officer stand over Michael Brown and empty his clip into his body and finish him off, didn’t you say that?”
W: “I did say that, but it was based on assumption.”
This would all seem to support Witness 40, but Occam says not so fast. There are other necessary variables to consider. For one, Witness 40 does not appear to be black. For another, as MSNBC tells the reader in its headline, “Michael Brown shooting witness wrote of negative views of blacks.”
“Well I'm gonna take my random drive to Florisant,” wrote the witness in her 8 a.m. entry from August 9. “Need to understand the black race better so I stop calling Blacks niggers and start calling them People. Like Dad always said you can't fear or hate an entire race cause of what one man did 40 years ago.”
Witness 40’s explanation for a cultural safari into the heart of the era’s most incendiary racial battleground understandably raises red flags. The left-wing Daily Kos headlined its article on her testimony, “Ferguson Grand Jury ‘Witness #40’ -- the most fraudulent document since the Hitler Diaries.” Although the writer’s certainty is unjustified, his suspicions are not.
Had the writer looked in the right places, like the blogging collective known as “The Conservative Treehouse,” he might have been more suspicious still. In the research for my book, If I Had A Son, I collaborated with the “Treepers” on the George Zimmerman case. The quality of their reporting made that of the major media look spiteful and amateurish.
The Treepers continued their indispensable work on the Ferguson case. As the case unfolded, more and more concerned parties on either side of the issue caught on that the Treehouse was the place to look for facts. Witness 40 may have been one of them.
“The little one,” wrote Witness 40 wrote referring to Brown’s partner Dorian Johnson, “punched the mirror something gold fell on the ground.” Not long after the shooting, sharp-eyed Treepers noticed that Johnson had been wearing a gold bracelet during the store robbery but not afterwards when interviewed. And yes, a gold bracelet was found next to the car. That Witness 40 saw the bracelet fall and thought it worth a diary entry seems highly unusual.
On three occasions in her diary entry, Witness 40 made reference to a specific individual wearing a “green shirt.” The man in the green shirt was “really sweet.” He gave her directions. He yelled “Stop” at either Wilson or Brown. Then finally, he grabbed her arm after the shooting and told her, “Get your ass out of here.”
What intrigues about this repeated and oddly precise description of a man in a green shirt is that in evaluating the many crime scene photos, the Treepers referred frequently to the “green shirt guy” before they were able to identify him as provocateur Anthony Shahid.
The writers at MSNBC and the Daily Kos missed all of this. Like most of the media, they satisfied themselves much too easily with the dubious claims spun by the opportunists and ideologues on the scene in Ferguson.
The dissection of this case remains a work in progress at the Treehouse. Given the scrutiny, I would bet that the diary entry is authentic. But given the stakes, I would not rule out fraud.
It would make no sense for the pro-Wilson forces to fabricate a racist eyewitness, but it would make great deal of sense for the anti-Wilson forces -- perhaps those within the DOJ -- to do just that. The Soviets and their spiritual heirs have been manufacturing incendiary racial documents for a century.
Consider the headlines already generated by MSNBC and the Daily Kos. Now imagine their glee if a seemingly pro-Wilson document proved to be a fraud.