US Attorney General Eric Holder is unhappy with recent leaks from the investigations into Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who shot and killed unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9.
Recent reports from the New York Times, Washington Post, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch have featured leaked documents and quotes from unnamed sources that corroborate what is reportedly Wilson's side of the story — that Brown reached for his gun at some point before he was killed. The Times report also suggested the Justice Department won't have enough evidence to file civil rights charges against Wilson.
Holder told Justice Department lawyers that he is "exasperated" at the "selective flow of information coming out of Missouri" and called the leaks "inappropriate and troubling," according to a Justice Department official speaking on background.
These leaks can sometimes be misleading. The autopsy of Brown's body, for example, can't determine whether Brown's hands were up when the shots that missed him were fired, as a forensic expert explained to MSNBC. The Washington Post also reported that the amount of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, found in Brown's body at the time of his death could have triggered hallucinations, but, according to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, it's difficult to establish a relationship between the amount of THC in a person's blood and how much the THC is actually affecting him.
The Justice Department compared the leaks to the release of convenience store footage
"The department considers the selective release of information in this investigation to be irresponsible and highly troubling," Justice Department spokesperson Dena Iverson said in a statement. "Since the release of the convenience store footage there seems to be an inappropriate effort to influence public opinion about this case."
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson in August released video footage showing Brown, prior to the shooting, allegedly robbing a convenience store — during the same press conference in which he revealed Wilson's name and identity. But Jackson later acknowledged that Wilson stopped Brown for jaywalking, not the suspected burglary — calling into question how or why the convenience store footage was pertinent to the Brown shooting, as the initial press conference suggested. (The Justice Department reportedly advised against the release of this information at the time.)
Jackson in September apologized for the way the convenience store footage was released to the public. But many supporters of Brown took the release of the evidence as an attempt by Ferguson Police to purposely skew public opinion in favor of Wilson, and they largely saw Jackson's apology as too little, too late.
Wilson's lawyers deny responsibility for the leaks
"We were not responsible for any leaks to any media including those published in the NY Times and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch," Wilson's legal counsel said in an emailed statement. "Further, we are not in possession of any of the disclosed reports or the investigative report. Finally, as long as the grand jury continues to meet and the Department of Justice continues to investigate, any commentary on this matter should only be done in the appropriate judicial venue and not through the media."