Michael Brown, the St. Louis-area teen whose shooting by police sparked the wave of protests and unrest in Ferguson, Mo., had never been charged with or convicted of any major felonies, it has been revealed. The news strikes a blow against observers who have been hoping to paint Brown in a negative light, thereby justifying his killing at the hands of a Ferguson police officer.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Wednesday that a court official had revealed details on Brown’s record Wednesday morning court hearing. At question in the hearing was whether Brown’s juvenile records should be released to give a fuller picture of the young man killed by Officer Darren Wilson August 9.
On August 13, the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office revealed that Brown had no criminal background prior to the shooting. Critics contended that Brown could have had prior offenses that would have shown up on his juvenile record. Brown had turned 18 just four days previous, and his juvenile record would have been sealed upon Brown’s reaching the age of majority.
Opening Brown’s juvenile records, some contend, could give the public a different view of the dead teen. A surveillance video appears to show Brown engaged in a shoplifting incident – which some have called a “strongarm robbery” – just minutes before he was fatally shot, and critics contend that unsealing Brown’s juvenile record could reveal similar instances in his younger years.
If any such instances are in Brown’s record, they appear not to have been major occurrences. The court official said that Brown was neither charged with nor convicted of any Class A or B felonies.
The absence of Class A and B felony charges or convictions doesn’t mean that Brown’s record is entirely clear. Class A felonies carry a term of 10 to 30 years, while Class B felonies carry a term of 5 to 15 years. St. Louis also has classifications for Class C and Class D felonies, as well as Class A, B, and C misdemeanors. Today’s report makes no mention of any of these categories with regard to Brown.
Ferguson police have noted that Officer Wilson was not aware that Brown was a suspect in the shoplifting/robbery incident before he shot Brown. Shoplifting is a Class A misdemeanor in the St. Louis area, with a penalty for a conviction ranging from one day to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.
The debate over Brown’s juvenile record speaks to the urge to paint Brown in a certain light. If Brown had a previous record of aggressive behavior, the reasoning goes, it is more likely that he attacked Officer Wilson, justifying Wilson’s use of deadly force.
In the days following Brown’s shooting, as Ferguson alternated between chaos and calm, reports emerged that Brown had assaulted an officer. Some outlets reported that Brown had “badly beaten” Officer Wilson, with the officer sustaining significant eye socket damage before he fired six shots into Brown. Subsequent reports have cast doubt on that likelihood, as has video of the time immediately after the shooting, which does not appear to show Wilson showing any after effects of significant head trauma.
[Lead image via Young Cons.]