TRUTH AND TOWN: What happened when Andrew Brown was killed?

THURSDAY, APRIL 29, 2021

Our Town's exposure to truth: What actually happened when Andrew Brown was shot and killed last week?

At present, we can't answer your question. 

There's bodycam video of what occurred. So far, though, none of that bodycam video has been released to the public.

(Full disclosure: Bodycam video won't always show what happened in some given case.) 

A relatively short chunk of videotape was shown to family members on Monday, and to one of the family's lawyers. But what can be seen on that short chunk of tape?

Very frankly, we don't know.

We can't answer your sensible question for perfectly sensible reasons. For starters, "if history has taught us anything," it has taught us this:

You can't necessarily assume the accuracy of statements made by a family's lawyers in situations like this. We know that because of an episode we revisited a few weeks back. 

In an extremely high-profile case, family lawyers were allowed to hear some audiotape in the case of a fatal shooting. One of their lawyers then described what she said she had plainly heard. 

Her description turned out to be flatly false—but not before the New York Times had bruited her claim all around. A few days later,  the local paper of record (the Orlando Sentinel) said that false report by the Times had created a national sense of outrage.

Lawyers' claims can be wrong! But before we remember that disappeared case, let's zero in on this:

Yesterday, a North Carolina judge ruled that the bodycam videotape in the Brown case won't be released to the public at this time. In the course of that hearing, a new set of claims were voiced about what is seen on that tape.

Yesterday afternoon, Jake Tapper interviewed the North Carolina attorney general about the judge's ruling. At one point, Tapper noted the fact that an apparent contradiction had now arisen concerning what happened when Brown was shot.

Tapper described the contradiction. He also made an extremely wise disclaimer:

TAPPER (4/28/21): So I don't know what happened, right? I haven't seen it. I didn't see the video.

But the family described Brown's final moments as an "execution." One of the family lawyers said Brown was not moving in a menacing way. There's an independent autopsy that says he was shot in the back of the head.

But the North Carolina D.A. today said that the family and the family lawyer's versions are false, and that Brown was backing up his car into police officers. I mean, the video would clear up what actually happened one would think.

Tapper reported the contradiction which had surfaced during the hearing. In truth, the D.A.'s rejection of what the family lawyer had said was a bit more aggressive than that.

On Monday, the family's lawyer, and several family members, described what happened as an "execution." They based this claim on what had been seen on the tape.

Yesterday, the D.A. who is investigating the case rather aggressively contradicted what the family lawyer had said. To his credit, Tapper made a very important statement:

"I don't know what happened," Tapper wisely said.

That's a very important journalistic statement. However much a journalist may love the novel or Storyline of the moment, journalists should always be clear on what they don't actually know.

Tapper made an extremely wise statement. Moments earlier, Attorney General Josh Stein had said the same darn thing:

TAPPER: So the judge ruled that family members will be allowed to see the remaining videos, but that the officers' faces and names will be protected. Do you agree with that decision?

STEIN: Well, I haven't seen the video so I can't speak to exactly what happened or what they represent, so I can't speak to the wisdom. I do think it's imperative that the family be able to see it as quickly as possible so that they can process this tragedy, so I do—I do support that.

Stein doesn't know what happened either! As with Tapper, so too here. Stein was showing very good judgment when he made this fact clear.

That said, an apparent contradiction has now appeared. The D.A. who is investigating the case has flatly contradicted some of the things the family's lawyer has said.

None of this tells us whether the deputies should have fired on Brown that day. None of this tells us what actually happened. (For ourselves, we would prefer that police officers never fire their weapons at all, except when it's absolutely necessary.) 

At any rate, a contradiction has surfaced. Unless you're one of the lucky duckies reading today's New York Times online!

Earlier in the week, the family had made extremely dramatic claims about what happened that day. What happened was "an execution," the family and its lawyers had said. 

On at least one basic point, the family lawyers had sometimes seemed to contradict each other as to what he video showed. But the lawyers had made a dramatic claim, and this claim had been given very wide exposure, especially on CNN. 

On CNN, prime time hosts had often performed like clowns as they discussed and reported this claim. In fairness:

On CNN, IQ levels seem to drop as a long day's afternoon turns into early evening. On Monday and Tuesday evenings, primetime hosts had seemed to treat the lawyers' various claims as if they were sacred writ.

Internal contradictions passed without notice. Inflammatory claims went unquestioned, unchallenged. 

Most importantly, primetime hosts failed to tell viewers that you can't assume the accuracy of claims made by family lawyers. For an example of what we mean, recall the way the New York Times introduced the shooting death of Trayvon Martin to the American public.

Back in early 2012, Benjamin Crump was the Martin family's lawyer. He had assembled a legal team to handle the case.

(For our previous reporting of this matter, you can just start here.)

Early in the case, the family and the legal team were allowed to hear audiotape of what had happened that night. At least one of the lawyers then went out and made a blatantly false factual claim about what the audiotape had revealed.

The claim was flatly false. But the New York Times seemed to assume that it had to be true, and so the Times made the bogus claim too. 

Over the next few days, the Times backed away from its own false claim on this highly inflammatory factual point—but the famous newspaper did so without ever making an explicit correction.

To this day, no correction of this error has been appended to the Times' erroneous report.  A few days after the Times report appeared, the Orlando Sentinel credited that false report with stirring national outrage about what was (inaccurately) said to have occurred.

Early this week, another legal team under Crump made another inflammatory claim. On CNN, IQ-deprived primetime hosts behaved like they were dealing with holy writ handed to them by Moses.

Amazingly, this is the way Our Town's big orgs conduct their "imitations of life." It's hard to believe that they function this way, but this is the way they roll.

Can this really be the way Our Town gets its ideas of the truth? Consider what doesn't appear in today's New York Times, depending on where you read it:

This past Monday, the family's lawyer made her claim. "An execution" had occurred.

In Tuesday morning's print editions, a stand-alone news report reported this claim. In Wednesday morning's print editions, a second stand-alone report repeated the lawyer's claim.

Yesterday morning, the D.A. who is probing the case contradicted the lawyer's claim. But in this morning's New York Times, there's no report of that fact, depending on where you look!

In our own hard-copy Times, there is a report of that fact. You can read that news report here

That report does appear in our hard-copy Times. But to make an extremely long story short, let's just say this:

If you read the Times online, as we initially did today, that news report doesn't exist! You can't even find that news report by using the Times' search engine! 

Let's assume that this was just some sort of mistake. That said, it's a mistake which will keep Times readers uninformed. Even worse, it burned a good chunk of our morning! 

(Except for all the time we lost, we would have given you more detailed adventures from CNN. Or something—we aren't sure. We regret the lost opportunity.)

What happened when Andrew Brown was shot and killed? We can't tell you that.

But day after day, again and again, Our Town's elite news orgs function rather poorly. At CNN, IQ scores drop as day turns to night—and the Times just keep stumbling along.

This portrait of life in Our Town can be quite hard to believe. It flies in the face of everything we Townies are told about the brilliance which obtains in Our Town.

Tomorrow, we'll show you the way the Times reported the fatal shooting of Ma'Khia Bryant. We'll also flesh out what you can see on the videotape offered as part of this Washington Post news report.

(For fourteen minutes of videotape, you can just click here. We find that tape, but also its absence from cable news, to be sadly but also extremely instructive.)

Long ago and far away, Hannah Arendt described "the banality of evil." 

As of today, creeping banality seems to have spread rather widely. According to experts, that banality has possibly taken full hold as Our Town slides toward the sea.

Tomorrow: The banality of banality 


23 comments:

  1. "What actually happened when Andrew Brown was shot and killed last week?"

    It seems pretty obvious what happened, dear Bob: that particular Darwin Award winner was trying to run over a cop, with entirely predictable consequences. What else could it be?

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  2. "What happened was "an execution," the family and its lawyers had said."

    What happened was clearly an execution, regardless of the circumstances, because Brown is dead at the hands of the police.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Crumb said it was an “extrajudicial” execution.

      Delete
    2. He also said "if you will" after the word execution.

      Delete
  3. "Most importantly, primetime hosts failed to tell viewers that you can't assume the accuracy of claims made by family lawyers."

    This is an idiocy on Somerby's part. You cannot assume the accuracy of anything said by anyone. Many of the guests on these shows, especially the conservatives, are lying through their teeth. There is no practice of issuing disclaimers on anything, except covid health claims and whether Trump won the 2020 election. Beyond that, hosts do not issue disclaimers. So, Somerby demand that they do so is ridiculous.

    The courts will ultimately determine the truth of what happened. Until then, there are highly likely to be different perceptions of what happened. The family is entitled to state their views (through their lawyer if they wish), without having a cable host second-guess the truth of their statements. The public will think what it wants without mandated editorializing by hosts.

    Somerby seems to be utterly intolerant of any opinion different than his own on TV. That is his problem, not a flaw in our media, much less a failure on the part of cable news hosts. This tolerance of conflicting views and even conflicting facts is part of what most of us consider to be freedom of speech, a right guaranteed in our society.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "But the New York Times seemed to assume that it had to be true, and so the Times made the bogus claim too. "

    Did the New York Times make the claim or did they quote Crump? You cannot depend on Somerby to tell us this accurately. Yesterday he said that a reporter said that Wright had been arrested for having an air freshener and expired tags, when the reporter said nothing of the kind. The reporter said he had been STOPPED for those reasons, which was substantiated by the officers' report. So you cannot count on Somerby to be accurate about what newspapers have and have not said.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Here is what Brown's attorney said:

    "This was in fact -- an extrajudicial killing -- an execution if you will," he said. "Mr. Brown's car never moved toward those deputies."

    Does calling this an extrajudicial killing, which it obviously is, and then adding the words "an execution, if you will" constitute claiming this as an execution, as Somerby keeps repeating?

    Somerby disappears the "extrajudicial killing" part of the attorney's statement. Why?

    Somerby also disappears that Crump is one of Brown's family attorneys. He slyly tries to discredit Crump by raising questions about Trayvon Martin's death, without disclosing that Crump is involved in this case too. That is the kind of dishonest thing that we've come to expect from Somerby.

    Does the attorney's statement this time really warrant Somerby's huge brouhaha over whether truth is being told? It strikes me as an assertion that Brown should not have been killed, of the type you would expect from anyone in this family's situation.

    Somerby also doesn't mention that Brown had already been shot four times and was attempting to flee at the moment he was shot in the back of the head. He leaves out the detail that only 4 seconds elapsed between the arrival of the carload of deputies who shot him and that final shot to the head. Somerby omits these details because he wants us to think it is unreasonable for Brown's family to claim he was executed, an invention of their lawyers, not a reasonable interpretation of the facts at hand.

    Somerby is a huge asshole, desperately trying to exonerate these police in the face of incriminating circumstances, just as the judge is protecting them from public outrage by refusing to allow the facts to be made public. Given the lack of definitive information, Somerby thinks the press should bias public reaction even further by reminding us that lawyers lie (even though they can be disbarred for knowingly doing so). If there were no body cams, I wonder what story the police would be telling and whether Somerby would be urging us all to take them with a grain of salt, since police have been known to lie? Is there any doubt what Somerby would say?

    ReplyDelete
  6. "According to Cherry-Lassiter, Brown was seen in his driveway, blocked in by the sheriff's department, sitting with his hands on the steering wheel.
    "He wasn't reaching for anything, he wasn't touching anything, he wasn't throwing anything around," she said.
    Deputies ran up to his car, shooting as Brown put the vehicle in reverse and backed out of the driveway, Cherry-Lassiter said. Deputies continued to shoot at him as he drove off, she said.
    "What the 20 seconds shows is that Andrew Brown is not a threat to officers," she told CNN on Tuesday. "As he was being shot at, Andrew was trying to back away from the officers and save his life, save his own life."

    At this point, I have not seen any explanation for why they were shooting at Brown in the first place.

    This is another example of an attempt to serve a search warrant gone bad. John Oliver had an excellent show on that topic about a month ago (re: Brionna Taylor). In that context, this does amount to an execution. Somerby's failure to recognize that is problematic but typical of white reaction to these killings of black men.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In this case the search warrant was in Brown's name. You might want to ask his mother why he was a drug dealer? The media will never ask an obvious question like this.

      Delete
    2. We don’t yet know what happened. That’s the point.

      The lawyer for the family and the city prosecutor who claims this attorney lied about the video can both be described as having vested interests in the conduct of the cops. .

      The police could have started shooting because they thought Brown was trying to escape even if that meant backing over them and ramming the police van behind him.

      Quit chiding people for not being psychotic..I mean psychic, like you are.

      Delete
    3. We don’t yet know what happened. That’s the point.

      The lawyer for the family and the city prosecutor who claims this attorney lied about the video can both be described as having vested interests in the conduct of the cops. .

      The police could have started shooting because they thought Brown was trying to escape even if that meant backing over them and ramming the police van behind him.

      Quit chiding people for not being psychotic..I mean psychic, like you are.

      Delete
    4. Way too early.
      Where's the cops' drug test results?
      We haven't seen any history of the cops and the police department complaint files yet.

      Again. Way too early to speculate.

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