Reopen Michael Brown’s Case & Permanently Disbar Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch

Reopen Michael Brown’s Case & Permanently Disbar Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch

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Sasha Ryu started this petition to Missouri Bar and

On Aug. 9, 2014, 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr. was shot six times in the head, neck, and chest by a white police officer named Darren Wilson. According to Officer Wilson, Brown matched the description of a man who had stolen a pack of cigarillos at a local convenience store earlier that day. After Wilson confronted the unarmed black teenager, the two reportedly engaged in a physical altercation, and Officer Wilson fired his gun. Michael’s corpse laid in the street for four hours before it was finally collected by the authorities.  

Robert “Bob” McCulloch served as the chief prosecutor overseeing the case involving Brown’s shooting. He was responsible for presenting evidence against Officer Wilson to a grand jury that would, in turn, determine which charges to bring against the officer. Notably, McCulloch had worked closely with local law enforcement for 23 years as a state-paid attorney, and maintained personal ties to policemen in the years leading up to Brown’s case.  Such affiliations raised questions about whether McCulloch would be able to serve as an impartial party in a case against Officer Wilson. 

When presented with Brown’s case, McCulloch turned down the opportunity to appoint a special prosecutor. He then declined to arrest Officer Wilson, instead bringing the case to a grand jury before the police investigation was even over. 

He also made the highly unusual decision to break protocol and leave it up to the jurors to decide which charges to press against Wilson, if any at all. 

In a stark abuse of his power as prosecutor, McCulloch presented the grand jury with a grossly manipulative narrative that painted officer Wilson in the most flattering light possible. Not only did McCulloch overwhelm the jurors with redundant and misleading information, he also allowed Officer Wilson to testify for hours with no cross-examination. McCulloch’s egregious handling of the case ultimately led to Officer Wilson’s undeserved exoneration. 

Shortly after the case concluded, McCulloch confessed to knowingly presenting the jury with witnesses who were not credible. Despite recognizing the holes and contradictions in these witnesses’ stories, McCulloch still allowed them to testify. He also neglected to offer his professional input to the jury regarding what information should and shouldn’t be taken as fact. 

“There were people who came in, and, yes, absolutely lied under oath,” McCulloch stated. “But, I thought it was much more important to present the entire picture, and say, ‘Listen, this is what this witness says he saw’ – even though there was a building where the witness says he was and where the event occurred, so they couldn’t have seen that… or the physical evidence didn’t support what the witness was saying… I thought it was much more important that the grand jury hear everything, what people have to say — and they’re in a perfect position to assess the credibility, which is what juries do.”

Despite publicly acknowledging that certain witnesses’ testimonies were unquestionably false, McCulloch refused to charge any of them with perjury. 

Michael Brown’s case marked the fifth time McCulloch oversaw a case concerning a shooting by police. All five times, he controlled the evidence presented to the grand jury, and all five times, the grand jury came back without an indictment. 

Other Examples of Robert McCulloch Using His Power to Protect Officers:

  • In 2000, two undercover officers shot and killed two unarmed black men in a Jack in the Box parking lot. After the officers were vindicated, McCulloch lied to the public, and told them that “every police witness” confirmed his ruling. Recordings of the trial would later reveal that only 3 of the 13 detectives delivered testimonies that supported McCulloch’s conclusion. Although the ruling would remain unchanged, a subsequent federal investigation also validated the accounts of the eight other officers who went against McCulloch’s final decision. As if his unprofessional and racially-charged bias wasn’t already apparent enough, McCulloch would later refer to the two deceased black men as “bums.”
  • In 2018, McCulloch’s office charged a woman speaking out against an officer who she alleged had sexually assaulted her. Missouri citizen Michelle Roesch claims she was raped at her apartment complex by a St. Louis police officer in 2008. Although the circuit court at the time declined to prosecute the officer, medical records confirm she was a victim of sexual assault, and police DNA tests show her blood on the accused officer's uniform. Ten years after the alleged assault, Roesch filed and attained a restraining order against the officer. Years later, inspired by the #MeToo movement, Roesch began to speak publicly about her experience. The officer who allegedly assaulted her then filed for a restraining order against her, meaning that she could no longer speak about him in a public forum. Although the officer’s restraining order was thrown out when he failed to appear in court, other people, including the officer’s family, filed restraining orders against Roesch. McCulloch pressed criminal charges against Roesch for violating one of the 12 orders she had against her, despite the baselessness of the claims.

In 2017, McCulloch was a keynote speaker at the Oregon District Attorney Association’s summer conference. According to audience members, McCulloch showed a photo of four or five young black people standing together and said: “This is what we're dealing with.” He also mocked the American Civil Liberties Union, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the country’s first African American Attorney General, Eric Holder. Many attendees found his speech so racially insensitive that they left the conference early. 

Although McCulloch lost the St. Louis County prosecutor election in 2018 and subsequently retired, he’s still in “good standing” as a member of the Missouri Bar – an honor a man of his nature is unfit to bear. Given his decades-long history of racial bias and manipulative court tactics, we demand that the Missouri Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel see that McCulloch be permanently disbarred. 

In addition, we call upon Missouri’s current governor, Mike Parson, to appoint a special prosecutor to re-open Brown’s case. It’s clear that, under McCulloch, justice was not served.

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