Prosecutor faces new criticism over Ferguson case

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Bob McCulloch
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Prosecutor faces new criticism over Ferguson case
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FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) - He criticized the media. He talked about witness testimony that didn't match physical evidence. And he did it at night, as a city already on edge waited to learn if a grand jury would indict a white Ferguson police officer in the shooting death of an unarmed black 18-year-old.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch - whose impartiality has been questioned since soon after Michael Brown was killed by Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9 - has come under renewed scrutiny since he appeared before television cameras to announce that the grand jury would not indict Wilson. A defensive McCulloch repeatedly cited what he said were inconsistencies and erroneous witness accounts. He never mentioned that Brown was unarmed.

Attorneys for Brown's family and activists said Tuesday that everything from how evidence was presented to the grand jury to the way McCulloch delivered the news of its decision bolstered their belief that the outcome was predetermined by McCulloch, who has deep family roots and relationships with police.

"This grand jury decision, we feel, is a reflection of the sentiment of those that presented the evidence," Anthony Gray, an attorney for Brown's family, said at a news conference.

Gray questioned, for example, why prosecutors presented testimony of witnesses who clearly did not see the shootings, rather than make a case for some type of charges. He also said it was unclear how the evidence was presented.

Activists and Brown family attorneys had asked McCulloch - whose father, a police officer, was killed while responding to a call involving a black suspect - to appoint a special prosecutor.

He instead asked a grand jury to decide if there was enough evidence to bring charges, and assigned prosecutors in his office to present the evidence because he was "fully aware of unfounded but growing concern that the investigation might not be fair," he said Monday.

McCulloch said the jury of nine whites and three blacks met on 25 separate days over three months, hearing more than 70 hours of testimony from about 60 witnesses, including three medical examiners and experts on blood, toxicology and firearms and other issues.

"The duty of the grand jury is to separate fact from fiction," McCulloch said, adding that the panelists were "the only people that have heard and examined every witness and every piece of evidence."

Convening a grand jury was a somewhat unusual move but not necessarily wrong, experts said.

"Ordinarily a prosecutor uses the grand jury as a rubber stamp, and people complain about that. This time, he went to the grand jury because he wanted them to take the political heat for a difficult decision, and he gave the grand jurors an overload of information," said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who teaches criminal law at Loyola University in Los Angeles. "So now people are criticizing that because the prosecutor's not taking responsibility for the decision."

David Sklansky, a criminal-law professor at Stanford University Law School, said the case in some ways underscores weaknesses in the grand jury system: "Grand juries don't do a terrific job as a check on overzealous prosecutors, but they're even worse as an independent check on a prosecutor who might be under-zealous," he said, adding he was not saying that necessarily was the case with McCulloch's office.

But some in Ferguson also were angry about how McCulloch handled the announcement of the grand jury decision - including his timing, his emphasis on witnesses whose memories did not match physical evidence and his claim that the media reports helped fan the flames of distrust back in August, when the shooting sparked widespread rioting and looting. The city erupted again Monday night after McCulloch spoke, with protesters smashing windows, looting and setting buildings and cars on fire.

"The way (McCulloch) just read off the whole speech was kind of like he was making a mockery of the whole situation," said 20-year-old Darnesha Tabor if Hazelwood, who handed out bottled water on Tuesday in Ferguson.

She also said announcing the decision just before 8:30 p.m. Monday, when many protesters already had gathered in Ferguson, was a mistake. McCulloch spokesman Ed Magee said that gave schools time to get children home and businesses time to let employees leave.

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Ferguson post-decision protests
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Prosecutor faces new criticism over Ferguson case
FERGUSON, MO - NOVEMBER 25: A Ferguson firefighter surveys rubble at a strip mall that was set on fire when rioting erupted following the grand jury announcement in the Michael Brown case on November 25, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was killed by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer, on August 9. At least 12 buildings were torched and more than 50 people were arrested during the night-long rioting. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
DELLWOOD, MO - NOVEMBER 25: A car burns behind a business during rioting on November 25, 2014 in Dellwood, Missouri. Ferguson has been struggling to return to normal after Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was killed by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer, on August 9. His death has sparked months of sometimes violent protests in Ferguson. A grand jury today declined to indict officer Wilson. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
FERGUSON, MO - NOVEMBER 25: A protestor spits after being hit by tear gas in her car after the riot erupted when the Grand Jury announced they will not indict white Officer Daren Wilson in the shooting death of black 18-year old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. on November 24, 2014. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DELLWOOD, MO - NOVEMBER 25: Cars which were set on fire when rioting erupted following the grand jury announcement in the Michael Brown case sit on a lot on November 25, 2014 in Dellword Missouri. Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was killed by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer, on August 9. At least 12 buildings were torched and more than 50 people were arrested during the night-long rioting. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
DELLWOOD, MO - NOVEMBER 25: Cars which were set on fire when rioting erupted following the grand jury announcement in the Michael Brown case sit on a lot on November 25, 2014 in Dellword Missouri. Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was killed by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer, on August 9. At least 12 buildings were torched and more than 50 people were arrested during the night-long rioting. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
DELLWOOD, MO - NOVEMBER 25: A sign sits amidst rubble at a building that was damaged during a demonstration on November 25, 2014 in Dellwood, Missouri. Demonstrators caused extensive damage in Ferguson and surrounding areas last night after a St. Louis County grand jury decided to not indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FERGUSON, MO - NOVEMBER 24: Riot police run past a burning St. Louis County police car as hundreds of protesters gather after an announcement that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will not be indicted in the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown day, November 24, 2014, in Ferguson, MO. The shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, has captivated the nation as a grand jury deliberated to decide whether to charge the officer with a crime. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
FERGUSON, MO - NOVEMBER 25: A car drives by a burning building during a demonstration on November 25, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Ferguson has been struggling to return to normal after Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was killed by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer, on August 9. His death has sparked months of sometimes violent protests in Ferguson. A grand jury today declined to indict officer Wilson. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FERGUSON, MO - NOVEMBER 25: Workers board up a window of a restaurant after it was smashed when rioting erupted following the grand jury announcement in the Michael Brown case on November 25, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was killed by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer, on August 9. At least 12 buildings were torched and more than 50 people were arrested during the night-long rioting. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
DELLWOOD, MO - NOVEMBER 25: A reporter looks through the window of a laundromat that was damaged during a demonstration on November 25, 2014 in Dellwood, Missouri. Demonstrators caused extensive damage in Ferguson and surrounding areas last night after a St. Louis County grand jury decided to not indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FERGUSON, MO - NOVEMBER 25: A Ferguson firefighter surveys damage to a strip mall that was set on fire when rioting erupted following the grand jury announcement in the Michael Brown case on November 25, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was killed by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer, on August 9. At least 12 buildings were torched and more than 50 people were arrested during the night-long rioting. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A demonstrator flashes the victory sign before a burning police car during clashes between police and protesters over the decision in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on November 24, 2014. US President Barack Obama urged calm as violent protests broke out on the streets of Ferguson after a grand jury decided a white policeman will not face charges for killing a black teen. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
A police car burns during clashes between police and protesters over the decision in the shooting death 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on November 24, 2014. US President Barack Obama urged calm as violent protests broke out on the streets of Ferguson after a grand jury decided a white policeman will not face charges for killing a black teen. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Lesley McSpadden (L), mother of Michael Brown, reacts to hearing a grand jury decision over the 18-year-old unarmed black teenager's death, shot by a white police officer, in Ferguson on November 24, 2014. Protesters set buildings ablaze and looted stores in the US town of Ferguson on November 24 after a grand jury chose not to press charges against a white officer who shot dead a black teen. AFP PHOTO/Michael B. Thomas (Photo credit should read Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)
FERGUSON, MO - NOVEMBER 24: Police confront protestors after rioting broke out following the grand jury announcement in the Michael Brown case on November 24, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Ferguson has been struggling to return to normal after Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was killed by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer, on August 9. His death has sparked months of sometimes violent protests in Ferguson. A grand jury today declined to indict officer Wison. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
FERGUSON, MO - NOVEMBER 24: Police confront protestors after rioting broke out following the grand jury announcement in the Michael Brown case on November 24, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Ferguson has been struggling to return to normal after Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was killed by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer, on August 9. His death has sparked months of sometimes violent protests in Ferguson. A grand jury today declined to indict officer Wison. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
FERGUSON, MO - NOVEMBER 24: A police officer stands with a shotgun during a demonstration on November 24, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. A St. Louis County grand jury has decided to not indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown that sparked riots in Ferguson, Missouri in August. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A police car burns after being set on fire during clashes between police and protesters over decision in the shooting death 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on November 24, 2014. US President Barack Obama urged calm as violent protests broke out on the streets of Ferguson after a grand jury decided a white policeman will not face charges for killing a black teen. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
FERGUSON, MO - NOVEMBER 24: A police officer points a shotgun at protestors during a demonstration on November 24, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. A St. Louis County grand jury has decided to not indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown that sparked riots in Ferguson, Missouri in August. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FERGUSON, MO - NOVEMBER 24: Protesters attempt to tip over a police car during a demonstration on November 24, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. A St. Louis County grand jury has decided to not indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown that sparked riots in Ferguson, Missouri in August. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FERGUSON, MO - NOVEMBER 24: A protestor stands in front of police vehicles with his hands up during a demonstration on November 24, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. A St. Louis County grand jury has decided to not indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown that sparked riots in Ferguson, Missouri in August. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Police detain a demonstrator amid tear gas during a demonstration to protest the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on November 24, 2014. US President Barack Obama urged calm on November 24 as violent protests broke out on the streets of Ferguson after a grand jury decided a white policeman will not face charges for killing a black teen. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Police points his rifle at demonstrators after a grand jury decided a white policeman will not face charges for killing a black teen on November 24, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. US President Barack Obama urged calm on November 24 as violent protests broke out on the streets of Ferguson after a grand jury decided a white policeman will not face charges for killing a black teen. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
FERGUSON, MO - NOVEMBER 24: Demonstrators block an intersection during a protest as they wait for the grand jury announcement on November 24, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Ferguson has been struggling to return to normal after Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was killed by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer, on August 9. His death has sparked months of sometimes violent protests in Ferguson. A grand jury is expected announce today if Wilson should be charged in the shooting. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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