Civil Liberties

Pro-Police Witness in Ferguson Grand Jury May Have Been Lying [UPDATED]

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UPDATE: When I first posted this story, I was unaware that the fact that this witness was very likely lying was not news to the grand jury itself, although that fact (without her name) had been reported a few weeks ago, including at Huffington Post.

I have eliminated the word "key" from the headline, since her testimony, despite its matching Wilson's, was clearly not, unless they were insane, a big part of the grand jury's decision. As posted at the bottom, though, Sean Hannity seemed to love it, and it remained a part of the public's belief in Wilson's innocence.

I regret the negligently quick posting about the Smoking Gun's report, though it was accurate in its particulars. That said, do enjoy this weird tale of the sort of testimony that for whatever reason the Ferguson grand jury was confused with.

Original Post:

Smoking Gun had dug up some fascinatingly damning facts about a witness before the Ferguson grand jury whose alleged eyewitness report matched Officer Darren Wilson's pretty thoroughly.

Turns out "Witness 40" may not have even been on the site of the murder of Michael Brown, and has a record of insinuating herself into cases she has nothing to do with, and has some decidedly curious attitudes about race.

Some details:

"Witness 40"'s testimony about seeing Brown batter Wilson and then rush the cop like a defensive end has repeatedly been pointed to by Wilson supporters as directly corroborative of the officer's version of the August 9 confrontation. The "Witness 40" testimony, as Fox News sees it, is proof that the 18-year-old Brown's killing was justified, and that the Ferguson grand jury got it right.

Smoking Gun insists it has identified this witness as "a 45-year-old St. Louis resident named Sandra McElroy"—and that McElroy herself confirmed this after their initial report appeared. They also insist that available evidence indicates she "was nowhere near Canfield Drive on the Saturday afternoon Brown was shot to death."

The details are all weird and should have raised red flags even to the police—for example, that she didn't contact police until four weeks after the event, after Wilson's version of it was already available for her to corroborate if she wished. She had been making pro-police comments on her Facebook page before then, and not saying she was an eyewitness to the event.

Best Facebook detail:

On September 13, McElroy went on a pro-Wilson Facebook page and posted a graphic that included a photo of Brown lying dead in the street. A type overlay read, "Michael Brown already received justice. So please, stop asking for it." 

And how did Ms. McElroy, who lived 30 miles away from the street where Michael Brown was shot and killed, happen to be there?

When asked what she was doing in Ferguson--which is about 30 miles north of her home--McElroy explained that she was planning to "pop in" on a former high school classmate she had not seen in 26 years. Saddled with an incorrect address and no cell phone, McElroy claimed that she pulled over to smoke a cigarette and seek directions from a black man standing under a tree. In short order, the violent confrontation between Brown and Wilson purportedly played out in front of McElroy…..

McElroy's grand jury testimony came to an abrupt end at 2:30 that afternoon due to obligations of some grand jurors. But before the panel broke for the day, McElroy revealed that, "On August 9th after this happened when I got home, I wrote everything  down on a piece of paper, would that be easier if I brought that in?"

"Sure," answered prosecutor Kathi Alizadeh……

Her reason for allegedly being on the scene changed by her next appearance before the grand jury, though:

Before testifying about the content of her notebook scribblings, McElroy admitted that she had not driven to Ferguson in search of an African-American pal she had last seen in 1988. Instead, McElroy offered a substitute explanation that was, remarkably, an even bigger lie.

McElroy, again under oath, explained to grand jurors that she was something of an amateur urban anthropologist. Every couple of weeks, McElroy testified, she likes to "go into all the African-American neighborhoods." During these weekend sojourns--apparently conducted when her ex has the kids--McElroy said she will "go in and have coffee and I will strike up a conversation with an African-American and I will try to talk to them because I'm trying to understand more."

What follows seems like a bad joke:

The opening entry in McElroy's journal on the day Brown died declared, "Well Im gonna take my random drive to Florisant. Need to understand the Black race better so I stop calling Blacks N*****s [my edit] and Start calling them People." A commendable goal, indeed.

The story also details an earlier police case in which Ms. McElroy tried to insert herself, which resulted in police announcing that  "We have found that [her] story is a complete fabrication."

It almost makes one wonder if Ms. McElroy saw the shooting of Brown by Wilson at all. But the grand jury knew things that rest of us didn't, I suppose.

UPDATE: CNN reported about some of "Witness40"'s clear nuttiness two days ago, without identifying her, and presents other interesting details about some other clearly prevaricating witnesses on both sides who the prosecutor chose for whatever reason to expose his Grand Jury to.

And DailyKos last week pointed out how often Sean Hannity relied on her testimony in his public discussions of why he's sure the grand jury got things right.