Just the Facts

Bill Neinast


The words facts and truth are the basis for several memorable quotes from TV and the movies. 

Jack Webb, as Sergeant Joe Friday on TV’s “Dragnet” made “Just the facts, Ma’am” famous.

Later, in  the movie A  Few Good Men.,Jack Nicholson as Col. Jessep was testifying at a court-martial.  The prosecutor kept badgering him for an answer. When Jessep asked, “You want an answer?” the prosecutor said, “I want the truth.”  Jessep then replied,  “You can't handle the truth!”

Those two quotes have been played over and over in different forms in Ferguson, MO, for the past months.  They were reflected in the repeated calls of rabble rousers for justice in the aftermath of the killing of a black teenager by a white police officer.

One thing never discussed in all the media frenzy over this incident is whether the same level of interest would have been evident if both the victim and officer were of the same race or if the victim had been white and the officer black.  There must be frequent incidents of this nature when the racial makeup is different.

Nonetheless, the legal procedure followed in Ferguson was one that has been the norm in this country since its beginning as an English colony centuries ago.  It’s foundation can be traced to the Magna Carta of June 15, 1215.

The matter was referred to the St. Louis County grand jury that was already in session and investigating other cases.  Because of the thoroughness of this investigation that took over three months, the presiding judge had to extend the grand jury’s term to the maximum time allowed by Missouri law.

The “facts” determined and reported by the grand jury have been repeated 

ad nauseum in the media.  So there is no need to go over them again here.

Facts and questions rarely mentioned, however, do need repeated emphasis.

Among the ignored facts is that Michael Brown, the victim, was not the angelic little boy pictured in most media coverage.  He was a 6’4”, 200 pound young man who committed four crimes--theft, assault of a store owner, jay-walking, and assault on a police officer--in just a few minutes.

When officer Darrel Wilson found Brown walking down the middle of the street, he told him to move to the sidewalk.  A law abiding citizen would have said, “Yes Sir, officer.  Thank you.” and moved to the sidewalk.  But not Brown.  Instead, he attacked Wilson in his patrol car and tried to grab his gun.

An eyewitness testified at the grand jury that in the 90 seconds that followed the attack in the patrol car, Wilson shot Brown who was running at him like a football player on a rush.  

The only witnesses who testified that Brown had his hands up and was trying to surrender claimed that he was shot in the back.  Those statements are contradicted by the findings in three independent autopsies that all of the wounds in Brown’s body were made from the front.

These truths should prompt questions like these.

Under the circumstances, what other action could Officer Wilson have taken? 

What actions should he have taken? 

If both the victim and the officer had been either black or white, would the riots have occurred?

If the races of the victim and officer had been reversed, would the riots have occurred?

How did the grand jury proceedings in this case differ from all other grand juries?

If the District Attorney’s police officer’s father had been killed by a white man, should the DA be precluded from participating in proceedings involving white men?

How does destroying property and businesses in the area of the shooting, many of which are owned by blacks, redress a supposed grievance?

Where are Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson?  Why are they not on every news show possible urging RESPECT FOR THE LAW?

So here’s the perspective.

The facts are easily and readily available.  They are just being ignored.

Maybe Col. Jessep was right.  The masses cannot handle the truth.

As to the riots, another quote from the entertainment media is appropriate.  As Artie Johnson observed repeatedly in Rowan and Martin’s “Laugh-In,” 

"Verrrry interesting...but stupid."


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