Tags: America's Forum | Exclusive Interviews | Ferguson in Crisis | Bruce Reinhart | Missouri | prosecutor | shooting

Expert: Grand Jury Will Distance Prosecutor in Ferguson Case

Wednesday, 20 Aug 2014 01:45 PM

By Wanda Carruthers

Because of his ties to law enforcement, St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch may have called a grand jury in the case of the death of Michael Brown in order to distance himself from its decision regarding a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer, said former federal prosecutor Bruce Reinhart.

A grand jury was not legally required to consider whether charges would be filed against Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Brown on Aug. 9, Reinhart told Newsmax TV's "America's Forum." The death sparked over a week of violence as people protested the shooting of a black youth by a white police officer.

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"It gives him some distance from that decision. And it will help, in theory, calm the community, whichever way it goes, because it won’t be Bob McCulloch, friend of police, making this decision. It will be members of the community making this decision," Reinhart said Wednesday.

McCullough's father was a police officer who was killed on the job by an African-American in 1964. In addition, his mother, uncle, and a cousin have ties to law enforcement, according to CNN.

Reinhart said it "didn't help" in maintaining a presumption of innocence for the officer when Missouri's Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon weighed in on the case. On Tuesday, Nixon called for a "vigorous prosecution" of Brown's death, and said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder should work "to achieve justice . . . thoroughly, promptly, and correctly," Fox News reported.

"It’s a problem that the governor said what he said. But I’d like to think we have some confidence that the members of the grand jury will do what they’re sworn to do, which is listen to the evidence and decide the evidence," Reinhart said.

The elements that will benefit the police officer, if he is charged with a crime, would be the testimony of other officers on the scene, as well as accounts by eyewitnesses, Reinhart said.

The police union would likely provide him with a "very good lawyer."

The members of the grand jury will also want to give the officer "the benefit of the doubt," he said. "They will understand that the police are doing a very difficult job under very difficult circumstances, and making snap decisions on the spot. And, to be second-guessed after the fact is not fair."

If the officer believed he was in danger, Reinhart said the law allowed him to "do whatever he needs to do to protect himself," but added the fact six bullets were fired could be problematic.

A prosecutor is not legally required to present all evidence to a grand jury, Reinhart said, which could include withholding information about wounds the officer allegedly received.

However, because of ethics rules, he said McCulloch likely would.

"Legally, the prosecutor is not required to present exculpatory evidence to the grand jury, but, ethically, he is. And, in my experience, they generally will, because one thing the grand jury affords a prosecutor is sort of a dry run of the evidence in the case," he said.


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