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Grand Jury Testimony Unlikely To Be Released in Michael Brown Shooting

Cross posted from Frederick Leatherman Law Blog

Monday, November 24, 2014

Good morning:

Prosecuting Attorney Bob Culloch has publicly stated that a transcript of the proceedings before the grand jury investigating the Michael Brown shooting will be released, if the grand jury decides not to indict Officer Darren Wilson.

Jason Sickles at Yahoo reports,

For three months, prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch has said he would seek a rare court order from Judge Carolyn Whittington immediately releasing nearly all evidence should Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson not be charged. Grand jury proceedings usually remain secret.

“We’ve asked the judge to do that, and the judge has agreed that she will do that, if there is no indictment,” McCulloch said during a radio interview with KTRS in September. “There’s no probably about it, it will be released.”

On Sunday, however, the court said, “Judge Whittington has entered no such order and has made no such agreement,” according to director of judicial admnistration Paul Fox.

I do not believe Judge Whittington will order the evidence released.

Grand jury proceedings are secret in order to protect witnesses from potential public criticism, condemnation and retaliation. Not even their identities can be disclosed, much less their testimony, especially in an extremely controversial case like this one where threats to kill have been uttered and public officials are preparing for a war to break out. The situation is so tense that Governor Nixon has preemptively declared a state of emergency and called out the National Guard.

Under these circumstances, where public disclosure of witness identities and testimony could be a death sentence, I cannot imagine that a judge would lift the veil of secrecy. I certainly would not risk people’s lives to provide political cover for McCulloch’s decision to try Wilson in secret.

There is only one way to handle this case properly and that is to charge Wilson with murder and accord him a public trial with due process of law.

To be clear, I have never believed McCulloch was operating in good faith.

Since August 9th when Darren Wilson killed an unarmed Michael Brown at noon on a quiet residential street in Ferguson before witnesses who described an execution, he has been working diligently to protect Wilson by shepherding him through a secret grand jury investigation.

I believe he knew the transcripts would not be released to the public, but chose to assure everyone that they would be released in order to place public attention on the judge who would refuse to release them and thereby conceal his misconduct.

Voters need to get rid of this racist schemer next time around.

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Frederick Leatherman

Frederick Leatherman

I am a former law professor and felony criminal defense lawyer who practiced in state and federal courts for 30 years specializing in death penalty cases, forensics, and drug cases.

I taught criminal law, criminal procedure, law and forensics, and trial advocacy for three years after retiring from my law practice.

I also co-founded Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW) at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle and recruited 40 lawyers who agreed to work pro bono, assisted by law students, representing 17 innocent men and women wrongfully convicted of sexually abusing their children in the notorious Wenatchee Sex Ring witch-hunt prosecutions during the mid 90s. All 17 were freed from imprisonment.

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