NAACP Legal Defense Fund Files Complaint Against Prosecutors For Misconduct In Darren Wilson Case

Following the ACLU taking the case of a member of the Ferguson grand jury who is suing to be able to speak publically about how prosecutor Robert McCulloch misrepresented the proceedings, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund  has written a letter to Missouri Judge Maura McShane asking her to investigate Ferguson prosecutor Bob McCulloch and two assistant prosecutors for misconduct. St. Louis Public Radio reports:

St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch and two of his assistants are facing a misconduct complaint for the way they handled the grand jury that investigated former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

The complaint was filed Monday with the Missouri Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel which handles attorney discipline in the state. It accuses McCulloch and assistants Kathi Alizadeh and Sheila Whirley of “gross failure to vigorously represent their client – the citizens of St. Louis, Missouri, in their capacity as prosecutors.” Alizadeh and Whirley were in charge of presenting the Wilson case to the grand jury.

“We would like to send the message that prosecuting attorneys can no longer abuse their power and expect it to be swept under the rug,” said Christi Griffin, a former attorney who is the founder and president of the Ethics Project, and one of seven citizens to sign the complaint.

Specifically, McCulloch, Alizadeh and Whirley are accused of violating the following rules of conduct:

  • Rule 4-3.3: Candor toward the tribunal. The complaint says, among other things, that  Alizadeh and Whirley cited an outdated, unconstitutional use-of-force statute, and failed to properly correct their mistake. The two are also accused of knowingly allowing witnesses to lie to the grand jury.
  • Rule 4-1.1: Competence. Historically, the plaintiff — or the person bringing the case — is supposed to receive the benefit of the doubt. In the Wilson case, the state is the plaintiff. The complaint alleges that Alizadeh and Whirley, presumably with McCulloch’s knowledge, did not do all they could to present the strongest case for the state.
  • Rule 4-1.6: Confidentiality of information. The complaint says McCulloch needed permission to release the transcripts of grand jury testimony and witness statements and that he dumped all the evidence in an effort to taint a second grand jury.
  • Rule 4-1.8: Conflict of interest: prohibited transactions. The complaint alleges that Alizadeh and Whirley acted more like Darren Wilson’s defense attorneys. They cite the continual references to the marijuana in Michael Brown’s system, and the fact that he was suspected of robbing a convenience store moments before the shooting.
  • Rule 4-3.8: Special responsibilities of a prosecutor. The complaint alleges that McCulloch made several public statements that went beyond what’s permitted to “inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor’s actions.”
  • Rule 4-3.4: Fairness to opposing party and counsel. McCulloch made several public statements that seemed to bolster Wilson’s statements, while commenting negatively about Michael Brown.
  • Rule 4-3.5: Impartiality and decorum of the tribunal. Alizadeh is accused of making comments about protesters, the NAACP and Ferguson unrest that could prejudice the grand jurors.
  • Rule 4.4-1: Truthfulness in statements to others. This complaint also deals with the outdated use-of-force statute originally presented to the grand jury. It specifically references the day Alizadeh handed the copy of the unconstitutional statute to the grand jury, and also comments she made about messing up the exhibit numbers.
  • Rule 4-5.2: Responsibilities of a subordinate lawyer. Alizadeh and Whirley were required to abide by the rules of professional conduct regardless of what McCulloch told them to do.

Griffin said the availability of the transcripts and evidence, even though it was released in violation of the codes of conduct, brought to light problems with the entire judicial system.

“It’s made possible by the prosecutors, because as long as the police can expect not to be prosecuted for their misconduct, they will continue to over-police, they will continue to abuse citizens, they will continue to use excessive force,” she said.

There is speculation that this could result in the reopening of the case with a special prosecutor forming a new grand jury to reconsider indicting Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown when considerable evidence shows he was attempting to surrender.

I am not very optimistic that there will be action on this letter. St. Louis Public Radio also reports that an attorney serving as a legal consultant “said he was unaware of any Missouri prosecutors who were ever publicly disciplined, even for what he said were pretty egregious violations.” On the other hand, the unprecedented level of publicity surrounding this case, and the considerable evidence of misconduct on Wilson’s part, including using witnesses who he knew were lying and giving incorrect instructions to the grand jury, could make it more difficult for Missouri officials to continue to sweep this killing by a police officer under the rug.

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  1. 1
    David Duff says:

    Completely off topic – sorry, sorry – but I couldn’t resist sending you this from The American Spectator:
    “The faculty of Harvard University, who contributed greatly to the ideas theoretically embodied in the Affordable Care Act, have a Harvard-sponsored healthcare plan, so they were spared the effects of having to choose from the Obamacare marketplace. But that Harvard-sponosred healthcare plan could only be shielded from the nationwide trend of rising healthcare costs for so long. And now, the end is near. And they face the final curtain. And despite an ineffective faculty vote aimed at resisting the dastardly corporate influences now clearly infiltrating their beloved institution, Harvard professors will have to pay more for their plans.”

    Truly, ‘you would need a heart of stone not to burst out laughing’!

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    I did laugh for three reasons when I first heard the story:

    1) It is an example of human nature wanting something for nothing. The out of pocket costs they now have are very small compared to most employer plans and they still have a great deal. On the other hand, I could understand them being somewhat upset considering that it is still a benefit cut for them and it will cost them some money.

    2) I’m laughing more at the conservatives who miss the real point of all this in their coverage. Conservatives have argued for a long time that people should have to pay more out of pocket for health care in order to keep costs down. Then they act like it is something shocking when what they advocated for comes to pass. Same applies to their objections to the out of pocket costs in exchange plans.

    3) I personally found this amusing because my daughter started grad school at a college near Cambridge which has affiliations with Harvard. One of the components of the ACA was to allow keeping kids on their parent’s plans until age 26. I kept her on my plan–which has always been a high deductible plan as that is all that has been available on the individual market going back well before the ACA. (Otherwise coverage has improved tremendously due to ACA requirements.) As the students are required to have insurance, her school is part of a Harvard plan which might not be the same as the faculty plan but sounds about the same in terms of low copay and deductible. When I saw the details of the plan being offered I signed her up for that and took her off my plan. The discounted premiums at student rates were about the same as the added cost of including children on my plan. However I thought that the copay and deductible amounts, which the Harvard faculty objects to, were a fantastic deal.

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