The family of slain Missouri teenager Michael Brown is renewing calls for Gov. Jay Nixon to appoint a special prosecutor to the case, citing potential bias on the part of St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch.
In a letter sent to Nixon on Monday, attorney Benjamin Crump said a recent move by the county prosecutor’s office to place on hold all cases involving Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Brown in August, “clearly raises an issue of concern.” The letter states that Wilson, “as the arresting officer and primary witness for many of the prosecution’s current cases, has developed a special working relationship with Mr. McCulloch and his office.”
“As a potential defendant who would be prosecuted by the same office if indicted, Wilson would impact the administration of justice. In light of recent developments, the appointment of a special prosecutor is now necessary more than ever, both to protect the appearance of a possible conflict of interest and to ensure that no bias exists,” Crump wrote in the letter. “For the sake of impartiality and the fair administration of justice, we ask that you appoint a special prosecutor to handle the prosecution into the death of Michael Brown, Jr.”
Last week, McCulloch’s office said it had put on hold as many as 10 cases in which Wilson was a witness. A grand jury is currently reviewing evidence in the Brown case and is expected to return a decision on whether or not to charge Wilson in Brown’s death sometime in mid-November. Ed Magee, a spokesman for the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office, told msnbc that the decision was made to hold the cases pending a grand jury decision because the jury’s decision "could affect [Wilson’s] credibility.”
Magee said the move is part of the “normal process when there’s an investigation ongoing.”
“This to us is a conflict because the prosecutor has some interest in him not being indicted because of all these other cases,” Crump told msnbc on Monday afternoon. “Because if he is indicted his credibility is at issue in all these other cases. It’s a conflict of interest and it is clear that whatever happens will have an effect on the other cases.”
Calls for McCulloch to step down or be replaced by a special prosecutor have rung loudly from the earliest days following Brown’s killing on Aug. 9. Within weeks, Gov. Nixon said that he would not ask McCulloch to step down and McCulloch indicated that he has no intention on recusing himself from the case. Critics say McCulloch is incapable of leading a fair prosecution against Wilson, citing McCulloch’s somewhat checkered history of prosecuting white officers in cases in which they’ve shot and killed unarmed black suspects.
The latest calls for McCulloch’s removal come as the grand jury is nearly finished hearing all of the evidence in the case. But also as the sanctity of the jury is being questioned.
Prosecutors are investigating a report of misconduct by a member of the grand jury following a post on social media from someone that claimed a member of the jury told an acquaintance that there was not enough evidence to indict Wilson in the shooting. The prosecutor’s office said the same person that tweeted about being an acquaintance with someone on the jury, has also tweeted pro-Wilson messages.
Patience among Brown’s family and supporters is running thin. McCulloch initially said that he expected the grand jury to return its decision by October, but then pushed back its term until January, though as previously stated, McCulloch expects a decision as early as next month. Protesters have lambasted McCulloch’s political allies and threatened his fellow Democratic politicians with votes for their Republican rivals. They’ve also held demonstrations outside of his office building and attempted to shut down a highway to bring attention to efforts to have McColloch removed.
On Sunday, Brown’s family called for Officer Wilson’s immediate arrest ahead of a decision by the grand jury. At a press conference held at a local church near Ferguson where Brown was killed, the dead teen’s father, Michael Brown Sr. wore a t-shirt baring Wilson’s face and the text, “Arrest Him Now.”
The ramped up calls for McCulloch's replacement and Wilson's arrest also come ahead of a so-called "Weekend of Resistance" planned in Ferguson from Friday Oct. 10 through Monday Oct. 13. Organizers say they expect thousands of protesters from across the country to converge on Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, as part of the fight for justice for Brown as well as a national call to action to eliminate racial profiling and police violence.
The first scheduled action on Friday is a protest rally outside of McCulloch's office in Clayton to demand that he recuse himself from the case. Another rally is scheduled for Saturday, this one in downtown St. Louis and billed as a "Justice for All" national march. On Sunday, hip hp artists, activists and faith leaders will join forces for a "Hip Hop and Hope" day of action, and the weekend's events are scheduled to conclude on Monday with widespread civil disobedience actions throughout Ferguson and the St. Louis region.
“Young people in Ferguson have stood together day after day to demand Justice for Mike Brown and assert their right to live,” said Tef Poe, a local rapper and organizer with Hands Up United, who has emerged as a prominent voice in Ferguson's burgeoning youth movement. “Local police departments have gassed us, beat us and shot us with rubber bullets, but they cannot stop our march for justice. We are inspired and energized by the outpouring of support from so many set to arrive in St. Louis this weekend.”