St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announces the grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the August 9 shooting death on Michael Brown at the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, Missouri, November 24, 2014.

attribution: REUTERS

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch

When you think of a grand jury, you think of a fair system in which the prosecutor makes his or her best case for bringing someone to trial for committing a crime, presenting the best evidence in a coherent narrative that the jury can then weigh to determine whether or not there is probable cause to try that suspect—to indict them. That’s not what happened in St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s grand jury investigation in Officer Darrell Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown.

And St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch did not want an indictment. He also didn’t want a non-indictment. Instead, as he explained it to the 12 members of the grand jury, this proceeding was about investigating the case and letting the jurors decide.

“Everything that’s been collected, every statement that has ever been made, it will all be here for you,” McCulloch said on the first day, August 20. “You need to keep that open mind.”

In other words, he didn’t want his fingerprints on the ultimate decision. But the choices he made in how the evidence was presented and in how his prosecutors behaved when questioning witnesses definitely reflect how he steered this decision. Consider the questioning of Witness #42, who testified, “I didn’t deem it to be a hostile situation to where the officer needed to have his gun raised. […] Mike was coming like, ‘stop shooting’ And he’s shooting him and kept shooting him. I’m like, he don’t pose no threat. […] He was ready to give himself up.” Here’s what Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kathi Alizadeh asked him about that testimony: “The first time you talked to the FBI, which was a week after this happened, you told them a story that had a bunch of lies, isn’t that right?”

Doesn’t that sound like what a defense attorney would ask a witness for the prosecution? Or how about this question to Witness #41? “Do you know what the name of your medication is that you take for your mental health?”

In another instance, prosecutors called to the stand a witness who did not see the shooting. The witness’s boyfriend had seen the shooting and told her about it, and she conveyed it to police as if she had seen it herself.

“When the police came that first time you told them that you saw, but you really didn’t, why did you do that?” prosecutor Sheila Whirley asked. And then later: “So it’s the absolute truth that you did not see it?”

Prosecutors asked the boyfriend, the actual witness, about this as well: “And is it your belief that she did not see part of the incident?”

Lining up witnesses who contradicted Wilson’s testimony, only to discredit them, was clearly the prosecutors’ modus operandi in this investigative grand jury. That’s the kind of procedure that should have been reserved for a courtroom in a criminal trial. But Bob McCulloch made sure that wasn’t going to happen.