Prosecutor in probe of US shooting praised by peers
THE Missouri prosecutor who oversaw the grand jury probe of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson won praise from his peers for what they said was appropriate handling of a tough job under difficult circumstances.
St Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch, whose announcement and lengthy explanation of the grand jury's findings on Monday sparked violent protests in Ferguson, "handled it perfectly" in conducting the investigation and disclosing the results, said William Aronwald, a former assistant district attorney and federal prosecutor in New York.
"This was a very racially charged, racially sensitive, high-profile case," Mr Aronwald said. "He's playing open poker. He's showing his cards. He's saying this is what he did."
Mr McCulloch took the unusual step of having the 12 grand jurors hear all the evidence in deciding whether Mr Wilson, 28, who is white, should be charged for shooting and killing Michael Brown, a black and unarmed 18-year-old. Normally, Mr McCulloch had said, an investigator would have summarised what witnesses said for the panel.
Grand juries, whose proceedings are typically kept secret, are used to determine whether there is probable cause to charge someone and often make their decisions based on limited information provided by prosecutors.
Mr McCulloch released evidence presented to the grand jury, including photos, videos, reports and 24 volumes of transcripts of testimony by witnesses including Mr Wilson.
Handing the evidence to a grand jury and letting it decide whether to charge the officer "takes the pressure off the prosecutors", said Dmitry Gorin, a former Los Angeles prosecutor. "If I were in the position of the head district attorney, I would have done exactly the same thing."
Robert Fellmeth, a University of San Diego law professor and former prosecutor, said Mr McCulloch may have erred by giving "a spirited defence of the grand jury's decision".
In Monday's press conference, Mr McCulloch said grand jurors put "their hearts and souls into this process", which took months.
"When you become an advocate there, it colours the perception of the fairness of the process," said Prof Fellmeth.
However, Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Mr Brown's family, said Mr McCulloch's decisions showed why a special prosecutor should have been appointed. Mr Crump said he found signs of unfairness in the process when he reviewed portions of the evidence presented to the grand jury, including the questioning of Mr Wilson by prosecutors.
In his first public comments since the Aug 9 shooting, Mr Wilson told ABC News that he had a "clean conscience" about what happened because "I know that I did my job right".
He added that he would have acted no differently had Mr Brown been white.
His comments did little to appease the anger felt by the town's community, which is mostly African-American, as well as some sections across the country, which saw protests breaking out in major cities such as New York and Chicago as well.
In Ferguson, violence broke out for the second night, although only 44 arrests were made. By comparison, 61 arrests were made late on Monday and early Tuesday during a night of arson, looting, vandalism and sporadic gunfire.
President Barack Obama, even as he acknowledged that people felt anger and frustration that Mr Wilson was not indicted, condemned the rioting and looting that followed.
"To those who think that what happened in Ferguson is an excuse for violence, I do not have any sympathy for that," he said.
BLOOMBERG, NYT, REUTERS, AFP