August 21, 2014

Sen. McCaskill defends St. Louis Co. prosecutor, says he will be fair on Michael Brown case

There have been calls for St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch to be removed from the Michael Brown shooting case amid allegations he won’t handle it fairly. Critics cite that McCulloch’s father was a police officer killed in 1964 by a black man.

Senator Claire McCaskill appeared on MSNBC's Last Word with host Lawrence O'Donnell (left).  (screencap courtesy MSNBC)

Senator Claire McCaskill appeared on MSNBC’s Last Word with host Lawrence O’Donnell (left). (screencap courtesy MSNBC)

One state senator says she has more than 50,000 signatures calling for his removal.

Governor Jay Nixon (D) has said he will not remove McCulloch, and another noted Missouri politician is standing up for him.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D) tells MSNBC she has known McCulloch for 30 years and has prosecuted alongside of him.

“(McCulloch) said today, ‘I will not walk away from my responsibilities. I was just re-elected,’” says McCaskill. “He has been the prosecutor in this county for almost 25 years, has one of the most professional and respected prosecutor’s office in the state, in fact in the country.”

McCaskill says she’s not sure that the perceptions of those calling for McCulloch’s removal are “grounded or fair.”

“I believe that Bob McCulloch will be fair,” says McCaskill.

McCaskill says were she governor, she would also not remove McCulloch from the case.

“You have to understand the only allegation against this prosecutor is he can’t be fair. Well what does that say to the people of this county?” McCaskill asks. “We have a process in this country where people are elected. You don’t come along and just remove someone from that job unless it is under the powers of an emergency.”

The host of MSNBC’s Last Word, Lawrence O’Donnell, asked McCaskill about the procedure under which two prosecutors in McCulloch’s office will begin to deliver information to the grand jury today. He told McCaskill, “It’s hard to believe that anyone is going to find this adequate,” and added the process could take weeks or months, asking, “How is that kind of delay on what looks like a very simple case with two participants in it – a shooter and the person he’s shooting – how does that kind of delay become acceptable in this case?”

McCaskill defended the process and O’Donnell, “You couldn’t be more wrong about it being simple.”

“You have a lot of forensic evidence that has to be processed, you have trajectory, you have casings, you have blood work, you have DNA work, and not only does that have to be done by the prosecutor’s office, it has to be replicated by the Justice Department,” says McCaskill.

“All of the evidence will come in, so it will take a long time,” she adds.

McCaskill says it will also be important that the County’s investigation and that of the FBI wrap up at about the same time.

“We don’t want there to be a lag in this community where one system has made their decision and the other system hasn’t. We want these decisions to be made at the same time so that there is not this in-between time which obviously could invite more violence.”

Nixon: not calling for McCulloch to step aside

Governor Nixon is calling for a “vigorous prosecution” of the Michael Brown shooting case. But he says he is not asking St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch to step aside. A petition circulated after the Brown shooting has called for McCulloch to recuse himself. But Nixon says there is a “well-established” procedure for a prosecutor to take himself off the case and have a special prosecutor be appointed. He says legal uncertainty would be injected into the situation and the prosecution could be jeopardized if that procedure is ignored.

The statement:
“From the outset, I have been clear about the need to have a vigorous prosecution of this case, and that includes minimizing any potential legal uncertainty. I am not asking St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch to recuse himself from this case. There is a well-established process by which a prosecutor can recuse themselves from a pending investigation, and a special prosecutor be appointed. Departing from this established process could unnecessarily inject legal uncertainty into this matter and potentially jeopardize the prosecution.”

Nixon: We will not be defeated by bricks, guns, Molotov cocktails (AUDIO)

Governor Nixon issued a statement shortly before nightfall and renewed demonstrations in Ferguson:

AUDIO: Nixon statement 

You can watch it at:

The text of the statement:
“Ten days ago, a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, in broad daylight. Since then, the world has watched a community become engulfed in grief, anger, fear and at times violence.

For a family mourning the loss of a son, it has been a profound personal tragedy. For Ferguson and our entire nation, it has ripped open old wounds that have festered for generations, and exposed difficult issues that communities across our country must still resolve.

But amid all the pain and distrust and anger, we’ve also seen tremendous acts of grace, courage, and kindness as the people of Ferguson try to maintain peace, while they call for justice for the family of Michael Brown. In Ferguson, people of all races and creeds are joining hands to pray for justice. Teenagers cooking meals for law enforcement officers. Community leaders demonstrating courage and heroism throughout the night in standing against armed and violent instigators. Volunteers coming out to pick up littered neighborhoods.

They are the faces of Ferguson. They are the faces of this region. They are the faces and soul of Missouri.

For them, for the family of Michael Brown, for all the parents who have had their sons taken from them much too soon, and for all the children dreaming of a brighter and better future, we now have a responsibility to come together and do everything we can to achieve justice for this family, peace for this community, and have the courage to address the problems that have divided us for too long. Real problems of poverty, education inequality, and race.

So how do we do that?

First, we must protect the people of Ferguson.

The officers of the Missouri Highway Patrol, St. Louis County, St. Louis City, and other jurisdictions are united in working valiantly to protect the public, while at the same time preserving citizens’ rights to express their anger peacefully.

As we’ve seen over the past week, it is not an easy balance to strike. And it becomes much more difficult in the dark of night, when organized and increasingly violent instigators take to the streets intent on creating chaos and lawlessness.

But we will not be defeated by bricks and guns and Molotov cocktails. With the help of peaceful demonstrators, pastors and community leaders, Captain Johnson and law enforcement will not give up trying to ensure that those with peace in their hearts are not drowned out by those with senseless violence in their hands.

Second, a vigorous prosecution must now be pursued.

The democratically elected St. Louis County prosecutor and the Attorney General of the United States, each have a job to do. Their obligation to achieve justice in the shooting death of Michael Brown must be carried out thoroughly, promptly, and correctly; and I call upon them to meet those expectations.

Finally, once we have achieved peace in Ferguson and justice for the family of Michael Brown, we must remain committed to rebuilding the trust that has been lost, mending what has been broken, and healing the wounds we have endured.

This is hard. Nothing about this is simple. We won’t always get it right, but we’re going to keep trying. Because Ferguson is a test, a test not just for the people of this community, but for all Americans. And it is a test we must not fail.

Last week I met with and prayed with the mother of Michael Brown. She has lost a son who she can never bring back. But what we can do is work together to ensure that Michael Brown’s death is not remembered as the tragedy that sparked a cycle of violence and distrust, but rather marks the beginning of a process of healing and reconciliation.

So I ask that we continue to stand together as we work to achieve justice for Michael Brown, restore hope and peace to the streets of Ferguson, and march together toward a future of greater opportunity and understanding for all of us.”

National Guard to Ferguson; Brown attorney says there might have been a struggle

Governor Nixon has ordered the National Guard to go to Ferguson.  He signed an executive order early this morning, citing what he called “Deliberate, coordinated and intensifying violent attacks on lives and property” in the city.  He says the Guard will help the Highway Patrol and local police restore order there.

He says he has taken the step after talking to Police chiefs in St. Louis and St. Louis County and the superintendent of the highway patrol.

Law enforcement authorities say three people were wounded in shootings overnight, none of them involving officers.  Seven or eight people have been arrested for failing to disperse.

The Ferguson-Florissant School District has postponed its first day of school.  Classes had been scheduled to begin last Thursday…then today.  But late last night, the district cancelled today’s opening because of “continuing unrest’ in some parts of Ferguson.”

The private autopsy done for Michael Brown’s family shows he was shot at least six times including twice in the head, with one of the bullets entering the top of his head, indicating  Brown was bent forward when he was hit.

The autopsy was done by former New York City chief medical examiner Michael Baden (bah-den), at the family’s request.   The  report says Brown was shot four times in the right arm and all of the wounds were from the front and not at close range.

But the lead attorney for the Brown family, Daryl Parks, told CNN this morning no rush to judgment should be made about the findings because further forensic investigations are underway.  However he says the is a “real possibility” that Brown and the policeman who shot him did struggle in the police car for control of the officer’s gun.  The president of the St. Louis County Police Association, Gabe Crocker, told CNN this morning that the autopsy results bring some eyewitness accounts of the shooting into question.

Two other autopsy reports will be issued later.

Policeman named; Brown linked to robbery (AUDIO)

Police in Ferguson have released information indicating the young man shot to death by a policeman last weekend was the suspect in a robbery at a convenience store shortly before the shooting. Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson has identified the officer who shot Michael Brown as a six-year veteran with the force, Darren Wilson.

Jackson also has released photographs from a security camera at the convenience store that appear to show Brown involved in a strong-armed robbery.  Documents released because of demands under the state’s open records law also list Dorian Johnson as a suspect.  Johnson has done numerous television interviews throughout the week saying the officer had accosted him and Brown as they walked down a Ferguson street.

Jackson did not identify Brown or Jackson as suspects in the robbery and did not during his remarks link Brown to that incident, saying that such information would have to come from St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch.,  McCulloch has refused to release information because the investigation into the events is ongoing.

Governor Nixon is returning to Ferguson for an 11 a.m. news conference  and Highway Patrol briefing.  Nixon put the Highway Patrol in charge of security in Ferguson yesterday.  Although there were more protests last night, violence and confrontations with police that had happened in previous nights did not occur.

Nixon has released the following statement:

“I’m pleased that the people of Ferguson and the region began to get some long-overdue information today, and I will continue to call for openness and transparency as the parallel investigations into this tragedy proceed to their necessary conclusions. For the sake of the family, the citizens of Ferguson, and the entire region, it is vital that the investigations into the shooting death of Michael Brown move forward in a thorough, open and transparent manner to ensure that trust is restored and justice is done.”

Chief Jackson’s news conference:

AUDIO: Jackson news conference 3:57