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Nearly 6 in 10 African Americans say Michael Brown shooting was ‘unjustified’

Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, left, speaks to protesters as he walks through a peaceful demonstration after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

The vast majority of Americans are keeping an open mind when it comes to whether the shooting of Michael Brown was justified, according to a new poll from CBS News and the New York Times.

But when it comes to African Americans, the verdict is basically in: that the shooting was not justified. And it will be difficult to convince them otherwise.

The CBS/NYT poll showed that 64 percent of Americans overall said they didn't have enough information to determine whether police officer Darren Wilson was justified in shooting Brown two weeks ago in Ferguson, Mo. Among those who have decided, only about one in 10 said he was justified (9 percent), while 25 percent said he wasn't justified.

As with just about everything else relating to what happened in Ferguson, though, perceptions vary widely across races. Although 68 percent of whites said they don't have enough information, a clear majority of blacks -- 57 percent -- said they believe Wilson was not justified in shooting Brown.


Police have said that a physical altercation preceded the shooting, with conflicting reports about whether Wilson's eye socket was broken. Protesters in Ferguson, by contrast, have been raising their hands in reference to accounts that Brown was cooperating with police when he was shot.

A grand jury is examining evidence and trying to determine whether the officer's actions warrant prosecution. That process is expected to take more than a month.

Even if Wilson is cleared, many in the black community might not accept that. About six in 10 African Americans (59 percent) said they have no or not much faith that the investigation will be conducted fairly, while about the same percentage of whites (62 percent) said they have a lot of or some faith that it will.

Information about what happened in Ferguson is murky. The numbers above make pretty clear that, even when the official details do come to light, the anger about what occurred between Wilson and Brown could still be very real and persistent.

And right now, that's a recipe for a long and arduous controversy.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.



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