Pathologist challenges quotes in Ferguson leak

The killing of Michael Brown Jr. in August by a white Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, has produced a stream of controversial local and national news stories that portray the unarmed black teen as either the victim of police violence or a thug who got what he deserved in a “good shoot” by the officer.

A recent story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes a forensic pathologist, Dr. Judy Melinek of San Francisco, as viewing Brown’s autopsy report and saying that Brown was shot in the hand while struggling with the officer at his car and was “going for the gun.” She is also quoted as saying the several shots fired at Brown after he ran, did not show he had his hands up (as in surrendering) as several eyewitnesses have said.

Trouble is, Melinek says her words were taken out of context and they are inconsistent with the comments she emailed to the reporters Christine Byers and Blythe Bernhard. Melinek said their report was “misleading and inaccurate.”

The Post-Dispatch’s report was picked up by other media, including the AP and Washington Post. Melinek had to try to correct them. She appeared on MSNBC’s show with host Lawrence O’Donnell who criticized the Post-Dispatch  report saying it was aimed as corroborating the police officer’s account of why he shot Brown. O’Donnell noted that Post reporter Byers, who covers crime, had tweeted earlier that she was told by police they had a dozen witnesses defending Wilson. She did this while on family leave and her report was not used by the Post.

The Washington Post ran an editor’s note saying Melinek said she was quoted incorrectly.  The Post-Dispatch said she was quoted correctly. This week it attached an editor’s note stating that Melinek had said the autopsy “supports Officer Darren Wilson’s statement that Brown was reaching for the gun but that other scenarios are possible.”

The leaking of information by law enforcement sources has been mostly favorable to the scenario attributed to Officer Wilson. This has caused U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to say he was “exasperated” that the leaks were an apparent attempt to justify the shooting of Brown.

The growing opinion of protesters in Ferguson, and supporters of Wilson, is that he will not be charged by a St. Louis County Grand jury. Officials of six school districts, fearing violence if and when such an announcement is made, have asked the county prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, to announce it when school is not in session.