The Significance of the Michael Brown Autopsy

The results of the first of three planned autopsies on the body of Michael Brown were released today by Dr. Michael Baden. Dr. Baden found that Brown was shot six times, with all six bullets coming from the front. This appears to rule out the claim that Brown was shot while running away from police officer Darren Wilson.

The New York Times tries to make the best of it, repeating that Brown was “unarmed” three times. But that is not very significant. If he was charging officer Wilson, Wilson would reasonably have perceived a risk of grave bodily harm and would have been entitled to use deadly force to defend himself, regardless of whether Brown was armed or not.

Likewise, the suggestion that six shots are somehow excessive is misguided. It usually takes several bullets to stop an attacker, and in this case, it appears that only the last shot, which hit Brown in the top of the head, would immediately have incapacitated him. The location of that bullet is consistent with the theory that Brown had his head down and was charging toward Wilson, but it could be consistent with other scenarios as well.

Other than the fact that the bullets all came from the front, the only significant autopsy finding is that Brown had marijuana in his system. From news accounts, I can’t tell whether he was high at the time of the encounter with officer Wilson, or whether it was a residue from pot he had consumed the evening before. In any event, I wouldn’t think marijuana would cause a person to do something as crazy as to try to assault an armed police officer.

To me, the most puzzling aspect of the Brown affair is that we still haven’t heard Darren Wilson’s account of what happened. Given that rioting and looting are going on, multiple investigations have been launched, and many observers are making assumptions (probably false) about what transpired, I don’t understand why Wilson’s side of the story hasn’t been made public. At this point, those who are disposed not to believe whatever he says will think that the Ferguson police deliberately put off releasing Wilson’s account to see what other information–videos, eyewitness accounts, autopsy findings–would come out that potentially might contradict it. That is unfortunate.

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