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Poll: Rate Prosecutor McCulloch’s Handling of the Case of Darren Wilson Killing Michael Brown

October 26, 2014 Featured, Ferguson, St. Louis County, Sunday Poll 7 Comments
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

It has been nearly three months since Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown. Despite community calls for a special prosecutor, St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch has handled the case. It’s important to understand how the law works:

How Does a Grand Jury Differ from a Preliminary Hearing?

While all states have provisions in their laws that allow for grand juries, roughly half of the states don’t use them. Courts often use preliminary hearings prior to criminal trials, instead of grand juries, which are adversarial in nature. As with grand juries, preliminary hearings are meant to determine whether there is enough evidence, or probable cause, to indict a criminal suspect.

Unlike a grand jury, a preliminary hearing is usually open to the public and involves lawyers and a judge (not so with grand juries, other than the prosecutor). Sometimes, a preliminary hearing proceeds a grand jury. One of the biggest differences between the two is the requirement that a defendant request a preliminary hearing, although the court may decline a request.
Grand Jury Proceedings

Grand jury proceedings are much more relaxed than normal court room proceedings. There is no judge present and frequently there are no lawyers except for the prosecutor. The prosecutor will explain the law to the jury and work with them to gather evidence and hear testimony. Under normal courtroom rules of evidence, exhibits and other testimony must adhere to strict rules before admission. However, a grand jury has broad power to see and hear almost anything they would like.

However, unlike the vast majority of trials, grand jury proceedings are kept in strict confidence. This serves two purposes:

It encourages witnesses to speak freely and without fear of retaliation.
It protects the potential defendant’s reputation in case the jury does not decide to indict. (FindLaw)

And “probable cause”?

Probable cause refers to the amount and quality of information required to arrest someone, to search or seize private property in many cases, or to charge someone with a crime. (FindLaw)

From last month:

The prosecutor’s office is also presenting evidence to the grand jury as soon as it receives it, rather than waiting until the St. Louis County Police Department and the FBI have completed their investigations. Police probes are typically completed before a case is presented to a grand jury, county officials said.

As a result, jurors in the Wilson case are hearing from every eyewitness, seeing every telling photo, viewing every relevant video, and reviewing all DNA, ballistics and other test results from county and FBI labs, said Ed Magee, a spokesman for county prosecutor Robert McCulloch. They will hear testimony from Dorian Johnson, the friend who was with Brown when he died, but it is unclear yet whether they will hear testimony from Wilson.

“Normally they hear from a detective or a main witness or two. That’s it,” Magee said. “This gives us an opportunity to present all of the evidence to jurors who represent St. Louis County. They will make the decision.” (In atypical approach, grand jury in Ferguson shooting receives full measure of case)

I don’t want to sway readers one way or another before they get a chance to take the poll this week. rating McCulloch’s handling of the case. The poll is in the right sidebar.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "7 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    It’s still a work in progress, far from any conclusion – what is there to “rate”? Speed? Leaks? Certainly not any tangible results . . .

  2. RyleyinSTL says:

    Given that the whole thing is being done behind closed doors (as is required by the law) I’m unable to rate McCulloch’s performance. About the only thing that has come up have been calls for him to let a special prosecutor handle the case….which is ridiculousness, being as the voters of STL County have repeatedly affirmed that they like the way he conducts his business.

    • It is being suggested by some in the legal community that the process McCulloch’s using will guarantee the Grand Jury won’t indict Wilson. Every piece of evidence isn’t needed to determine probable cause.

    • David Frank says:

      It’s not like STL County voters haven’t really had a varied choice between prosecutors. Voter record is NOT a solid indicator of a candidate’s overall performance. Some have called into question Eric Holder’s ability to ethically investigate the shooting because Eric has been discriminated against for being, well, black. Is it so wrong to question a prosecutor, say, because his police officer father was killed by a black man in 1964?

      • RyleyinSTL says:

        “Is it so wrong to question a prosecutor, say, because his police officer father was killed by a black man in 1964?”

        Yes. Yes it is. Where does it stop? Are you saying McCulloch can’t fairly prosecute anyone Black? What if the man who killed his father had been Chinese, Iranian or Canadian…what then? Should we have prosecutors for every type of ethnic/nationality combination?

        As for Holder, who gives a flying frack what color his skin his, our checks and balances have determined he is the right guy for the job. I’ll assume he is capable of doing his job until he proves otherwise.

  3. Liberty1st says:

    The Prosecutor has done everything absolutely right. If I were him though I would have told Jay Nixon to shut up! Nixon was going on the air urging an Indictment. Nixon could be sued in federal court for civil rights violation under 42 United States Code Section 1985.


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