St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch juggled two roles on Wednesday: overseeing the presentation of evidence in the Michael Brown case to a grand jury and responding to the flurry of attacks and calls for his recusal from the case.
McCulloch went on the offensive after Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon tried to deflect calls for the prosecutor’s ouster by saying it was up to McCulloch to recuse himself.
McCulloch’s deep ties with local police and perceived favoritism of law enforcement in criminal cases have led to concerns about his ability to be impartial in the Brown case.
Should he recuse?
In a statement sent to the media on Tuesday night, Nixon said, “From the outset, I have been clear about the need to have a vigorous prosecution of this case, and that includes minimizing any potential legal uncertainty.”
“I am not asking St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch to recuse himself from this case. There is a well-established process by which a prosecutor can recuse themselves from a pending investigation, and a special prosecutor be appointed. Departing from this established process could unnecessarily inject legal uncertainty into this matter and potentially jeopardize the prosecution,” Nixon said.
McCulloch’s response: Nixon needs to “man up.”
“It’s the typical Nixon doublespeak,” McCulloch said during a radio interview with The McGraw Show on KTRS. “He says nothing and he’s ducking.”
McCulloch said the state of emergency Nixon declared on Saturday gave the governor authority to remove McCulloch from the case.
McCulloch said Nixon should “just make a decision.”
“He doesn’t need a reason,” McCulloch said to KTRS, “all he has to do is a simple yes he’s out, or no he’s not out, and let’s move on. The Brown family deserves that and the rest of the community deserves it.”
McCulloch firmly stated he is not removing himself from the case.
“I have absolutely no intention of walking away from the duties and responsibilities entrusted to me by the people of this community. I’ve done it for 24 years,” he said.
The clock is ticking for a decision, according to McCulloch. Now that the presentation has begun, recusing the main prosecutor could complicate matters even more.
“The most devastating thing that could happen, is if a week from now, a month from now he (Nixon) decides that he’s taking me off this case and everybody is starting over. Stand up, man up,” said McCulloch, “This family deserves nothing less than that.”
Grand jury presentation
Wednesday marked the first day of evidence presentation to the grand jury, a process that will likely continue into the fall.
“We will be presenting absolutely everything to this grand jury,” McCulloch said on KTRS. “Every statement that a witness made, every witness, every photograph, every piece of physical evidence. Absolutely nothing will be left out, so the grand jury is making their decision based upon absolutely everything and we’ll go from there.”
But not all the evidence is ready to be presented, according to McCulloch, which is why prosecutors will have to present in parts.
“As things are completed they’ll be presented to the grand jury,” said McCulloch during an interview with CNN affiliate KMOV. “But we want to get the process started, and not wait until absolutely everything is done before we even start it.”
Overwhelming Volume of Evidence
The evidence in the shooting death of Michael Brown involves investigations from multiple agencies, including the Ferguson Police Department, St. Louis Police Department, FBI, U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice.
Asked how many witnesses have been interviewed so far, McCulloch told KMOV, “I don’t know. Dozens and dozens, maybe hundreds.” He said the FBI has been successful at locating witnesses in the Canfield apartments, near where Brown was killed.
“The federal government is doing their independent investigation, and so they’re also talking to witnesses, and ultimately that will be made available to us,” McCulloch told KMOV. “They’re doing their own forensic testing. They’ve done their own or will do their own post-mortem examination, and those results will be provided, all to the grand jury.”
Grand jury time line
McCulloch estimated prosecutors will finish presenting the case by mid-October, a time line that brings its own set of challenges with the grand jury calendar, because the current session ends in early September.
“We will be presenting what we can, between now and the end of their term, which is early September,” McCulloch told KTRS, “after that, their term is extended just for this case and that’s all they will be doing. They can meet for as long as they want, as long as they want to meet.”
“We present the full case to the grand jury and should there be an indictment, the full case will be presented to the trial jury so that they make the decision,” McCulloch said. “I don’t decide if somebody is guilty or not guilty. I present the evidence to a jury and the jury makes that decision.”
By Mayra Cuevas