Civil Liberties

How Grand Was That Ferguson Grand Jury? A Couple of Perspectives


A couple of perspectives on the behavior of the grand jury and particularly of Prosecutor Bob McCulloch.

Excerpts from a tweetstorm from lawyer and TV personality Lisa Bloom:

"It is just not a very well-liked community," Darren Wilson testified at p. 238 about Mike Brown's neighborhood. Meaning despised by police….

"That's not an area where you can take anything really lightly," Darren Wilson testified about Mike Brown's neighborhood….

After the shooting, Darren Wilson said he didn't need to go to the hospital. Speaks to his attorney, then agrees to go. p. 248…

Hospital finds no injuries to Darren Wilson other than slight redness on his face, though he says Mike Brown punched him full force twice….

"I know you are in a pretty stressful situation" the prosecutor says to Darren WIlson, doing the exact opposite of cross-examining him. p237…

Darren Wilson says Mike Brown had a handful of cigarillos and MB punched him with that (right) hand. Concedes no pieces of cigarillo in car….

Takes a grand juror (not prosecutor) to ask Wilson if he thought Brown had a gun. "I wasn't thinking about that at that time." No follow up….

Prosecutor's questioning of Wilson so friendly that at the end HE points out no one asked him how Brown was a threat if he was running away….

Sargeant says Wilson told him he did NOT know of stealing incident. Wilson says he DID know about it. No one points out this inconsistency….

Mr. McCulloch: why did you talk about inconsistencies in eyewitness testimony but not inconsistencies in Darren Wilson's testimony?…

The grand jury testimony documents.

A public defender (so they say) on Reddit thinks it might not have been a great idea to even have Wilson testifying if the prosecutor was doing his normal job, that is, trying to get an indictment:

[Wilson testifying] makes it personal for the grand jury, it makes it more about "do we believe him or not" instead of whether the legal standard is met or not, and it provides massive amounts of irrelevant evidence that is confusing and not relevant to the decisions that they need to make.

Probable cause clearly exists with nothing more than the (1) number of shots fired, (2) the fact that the suspect was unarmed, (3) the dispute between medical examiners, (4) even a single witness that says something that doesn't match exactly with the officer's testimony.

I cannot count the number of times a judge has told me "probable cause is an extremely low standard but your objection is noted for the record." In most cases, all it takes is a single witness that says something that MIGHT be a crime or a single discrepancy in testimony from someone claiming to be innocent. If just a single witness says "his back was turned"—THAT is probable cause for every defendant I have ever represented (which are, of course, the poor and people of color). If there is even a single thought of "did he really NEED to pull his gun? Are we 100% sure?" you have PC.

The prosecutor's decision to put all evidence before the grand jury seems extremely suspect to me. If he wanted to simply present enough to indict (which is his job in that situation) he would have only put on the evidence that raised questions about what happened (thereby showing that it is worth pursuing a full investigation for trial)—and let the actual TRIAL system work to resolve innocence or guilt. That is how the system is DESIGNED to work.

I very much doubt he takes that approach when charging drug suspects, because it creates the exact issues of clouding the legal standards and confusing the grand jury into thinking they are deciding innocence or guilt when they are not.

Bonus Fergusoniana: The Crime Lab Analysis Report regarding all the shots fired during the incident, in which Officer Wilson was the victim, the dead Michael Brown the suspect.