Missouri prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch botched it. Big time. His own words prove his mishandling of the Michael Brown shooting case.
Instead of allowing the grand jury hearing the case against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson to act the way a grand jury is supposed to act — i.e., to determine whether there is probable cause to proceed to a trial — McCulloch converted that grand jury into the trial jury, the jury to determine Wilson’s guilt or innocence.
McCulloch admitted last night in a televised news conference he presented all the evidence available in the case. Sorry, but that’s not the prosecutor’s job. He or she is not supposed to assume the role of both the prosecuting and the defense attorney. The job of the prosecutor, as the name implies, is to prosecute. He or she is supposed to tell a grand jury that there is sufficient reason to indict a person for a specific crime — in this case, voluntary manslaughter would seem appropriate and doable. Then the prosecutor is only required to present just enough evidence to win an indictment on that charge. He doesn’t even — nor should he — present all the evidence his prosecutorial team has assembled in hopes of winning a guilty verdict at trial. And he’s certainly not obligated to present the defense’s case as well. He shouldn’t even try. It’s not in his job description. But that’s what Robert McCulloch, by his own admission last night, did.
I am not arguing Wilson’s guilt or innocence here. What I am arguing is that his guilt or innocence should have been decided by 12 of his peers in a criminal jury trial not by a grand jury. That’s simply not a grand jury’s function.
I do wonder about several missing pieces of the puzzle, however, There is no testimony to reveal, nor did any of the reporters at McCulloch’s news conference last night even ask, how far Wilson was from Brown when the white police officer repeatedly shot and killed the unarmed black teenager. To me, that’s a legtimate question. Why didn’t Wilson shoot to incapacitate the subject? Why did he feel he needed to shoot to kill? These are unanswered questions that, from what I gathered, were never posed to the grand jury.
In 1964, when McCulloch was 12 years old, his father, a St. Louis police officer, was killed while responding to a call involving a black suspect. He used that killing as the centerpiece of his first campaign for elected prosecutor. He wanted that job, in effect, to get revenge. Last night, I guess, he got it by twisting the legal system into functions it had no right to perform.
Shame on him. Shame on the entire Missouri legal system.