From [HERE] The new St. Louis County prosecutor, Wesley Bell, has fired the lawyer who presented the evidence in the case of Michael Brown, the black teenager whose shooting by police sparked violent protests in Ferguson, Mo.
Bell was sworn in on Tuesday, and in one of his first acts, sent a two-page letter to assistant prosecutor Kathi Alizadeh firing her, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports,
A veteran of more than 30 years in the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office, Alizadeh oversaw the 2014 Brown case.
Alizadeh, along with former county prosecutor Robert McCulloch, was responsible for building a case and providing evidence to a grand jury. The grand jury, though, declined to indict officer Darren Wilson.
Brown was shot a total of six times in the front of his body.
The incident, which was investigated by the FBI, and the failure to secure an indictment set off days of unrest and brought a national spotlight to police shootings of unarmed people of color.
The FBI concluded that Wilson shot Brown in self-defense following a struggle for the officer’s weapon.
Wilson resigned from the Ferguson police force with no severance, citing security concerns. The National Bar Association, an organization of African American lawyers and judges, made a complaint to the Missouri Department of Public Safety demanding Wilson's police officer license be revoked. Wilson's attempts to obtain employment as a police officer have been unsuccessful. [MORE]
McCulloch could have directly filed charges against Darren Wilson, the white cop who shot Michael Brown to death, but instead chose to take the case to a grand jury. It is believed by many that McCulloch did not want the grand jury to indict the white police officer. He selected a mostly white (9 out of 12) grand jury. McCulloch’s prosecutors handling the case took the highly unusual course of dumping all evidence on the jurors and leaving them to make sense of it. McCulloch’s office claimed that this is a way to give more authority to the grand jurors, but it was more like a way to avoid charging Wilson at all — and to use the grand jury as cover for the outrage that ensued. [MORE] and [MORE].
The New York Times described prosecutors' questioning of Wilson as "gentle" and said it contrasted with the sharp challenges to witnesses whose accounts seemed to contradict Wilson's, and reported this had led some to question whether the process was as objective as McCulloch had claimed. The Times reported prosecutors asked witness after witness if Brown appeared to be reaching for a weapon when confronting Wilson, though few of them said this. Furthermore, contradictions in testimony by Wilson and other law-enforcement officers were left unchallenged by prosecutors. CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin criticized the prosecutors for asking softball questions during the cross examination of Wilson's testimony, and referred particularly to the fact that no witness could corroborate Wilson's story that he had warned Brown twice to lay down on the ground, and when asked, witnesses said they did not hear him say that. [MORE]
In January 2015 the NAACP Legal Defense Fund* wrote an open letter to Missouri Judge Maura McShane [also white] asking her to investigate Ferguson prosecutor Bob McCulloch and his team for misconduct in the limp-wristed “gentle” effort grand jury he put together in the Brown case.
The group of experts assembled by the NAACP to review the grand jury transcripts “were struck by the deeply unfair manner in which the proceedings were conducted.” The NAACP cites three areas of particular concern.
1. McCulloch and his team “knowingly presented false witness testimony to the grand jury.” McCulloch admitted this on a radio interview on December 19. The NAACP notes this is likely a violation of the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct. Specifically, McCulloch allowed a woman to testify as an eyewitness who he knew was not at the scene of the incident and had a history of “racially-charged rants about the incident on the internet.”
2. McCulloch and his team “presented incorrect and misleading statements of law to the grand jury and sanctioned unlawful juror practices.” Specifically, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kathi Alizadeh distributed copies of a Missouri statute that was contravened by a Supreme Court decision 30 years earlier. When Alizadeh addressed the issue weeks later she said that the statute was “not entirely incorrect or inaccurate” but the grand jury should “disregard” it. At other times, Ms. Alizadeh seems genuinely confused about what legal standards were at issue and shared her confusion with the grand jury, including this remarkable exchange:
Overall the NAACP finds that there are “fundamental questions about the competency of the prosecutors in this case to conduct the proceedings and the fairness of the proceedings overall.”
3. McCulloch and his team “provided favorable treatment to the target of the grand jury proceedings.” McCulloch, at the outset of the case, told the grand jury that the case was “special.” As the case progressed “the questioning of witnesses often appeared to advocate for defendant Wilson’s version of the shooting.” When the prosecutors questioned Wilson they asked him: “[I]f we are sort of done with your questioning, is there anything that we have not asked you that you want us to know or you think it is important for the jurors to consider regarding this incident?”
The NAACP concluded that the entire process “leaves deeply troubling doubts about whether about whether justice was administered in a fair, impartial and competent manner.” The NAACP encouraged Judge McShane to consider “remedial action — through a new grand jury, appointment of a new special prosecutor, or other means.” [MORE] That apparently went nowhere. But even Nancy Grace thought the grand jury was bullshit.
Bell was a Ferguson city councilman who defeated McCulloch last year in the Democratic primary, campaigning on a platform that included reforming the state's cash bail system and making changes to the culture of the prosecutor’s office.
He reportedly made three different personnel decisions in the office in his first two days.
Alizadeh told the Post-Dispatch she would be speaking to her lawyer over her termination. A request for comment from The Hill was not immediately returned.
The St. Louis Police Officers Association, which represents most of the St. Louis County assistant prosecutors, called for the reinstatement of the county prosecutors, although Alizadeh is not covered by the union.
"The Association is dismayed by the abrupt dismissal of these three veteran prosecutors without warning or apparent justification," union president Ed Clark said in a statement. "Despite Mr. Bell’s rhetoric about building bridges with career prosecutors, he has apparently decided to suddenly discharge three dedicated public servants in his first hours in office. We call on Mr. Bell to reverse his decision and bring back the three prosecutors and their more than seventy years of combined experience."