Ferguson Grand Jury Transcripts Ordered Released, Conflicting Reports On Who Gets Access

Ferguson just will not die.  At issue now almost two years after an 18-year old, 300 pound man with marijuana in his system was fatally shot by a police officer defending himself from the man-child, is the grand jury testimony and transcripts from the proceedings that exonerated the police officer.  On Monday, a federal judge in Eastern Missouri, U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber, appointed by Bill Clinton, issued a protective order allowing the attorneys for Michael Brown’s family (the deceased) to actually be able to review the UNREDACTED grand jury transcripts in relation to discovery in their lawsuit against the officer, Ferguson, St. Louis County, and anyone else they seem to think is responsible.

That means that after over 200 years of grand jury testimony – and who gave it – if this order is not tossed on its ear on appeal, and the tradition of being able to protect witnesses by ensuring their anonymity via secret proceedings, is fair game.

What is interesting in the reporting of the story is how the reality of the order, and who gets to see the actual transcripts, was presented.  According to the Associated Press release that has been spread far and wide:

Peter Dunne, an attorney for the defendants, declined to discuss Monday’s order, saying he did “not want to get sideways with the court” by speaking publicly about it.

“It was done with a tremendous amount of concern expressed by the judge and others about making sure that proper balance was struck between the need for the information and concerns expressed by people who frankly didn’t want information about them disclosed,” Dunne said.

Gray called the uncensoring of grand jury testimony a long time coming, saying his clients “stood down” from pursuing the matter as the county and U.S. Department of Justice investigated Brown’s death.

The St. Louis Post-Disgrace, uh, Post-Dispatch, a shell of its former self under the helm of founder Joseph Pulitzer and his decendants that every now and then rises to the occasion, put it this way:

Both sides in the case have spent weeks negotiating terms of a protective order that places strong restrictions on the transmission and sharing of the information, and lays out procedures for depositions of witnesses and investigators.

Only two lawyers and limited staff on each side of the case are allowed access to the information, which has to be locked up and cannot be sent by email, the order says.

Lawyers for the officials and Brown’s family sought the information, saying that the case could not proceed without it. But lawyers for the federal government and St. Louis County police and prosecutors balked, saying that no protective order could be crafted that could keep the information secret. Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch had released a version of the evidence, with names and some other information redacted, the night the grand jury delivered its decision.

There are those who partially blame Big, Bad Bob McCullough – one of the most honest and brave men in government anywhere, truth be told* – in this because he actually released heavily redacted grand jury testimony, something that just doesn’t happen.  There are others who think the judge is being political, and who blame the Obama Department of Justice.  (That one’s a stretch given the paragraph above.) However, the truth might well be found in the comments of a Conservative Treehouse post.  The commenter is VegasGuy, and that person posted that a Harvard law professor known as Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr., was accepted as a lawyer for the plaintiff in the Brown family’s case in January.  This quote is attributed to Sullivan via the LA Times regarding McCullough who has been in the crosshairs in St. Louis for decades regarding alleged racism without anything sticking to him because, according to the people and lawyers who know him, there is nothing there:

{SNIP}… “This was a strategic and problematic use of a grand jury to get the result he wanted,” said Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., director of the Harvard Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard University. “As a strategic move, it was smart; he got what he wanted without being seen as directly responsible for the result.”

“Sullivan called the case “the most unusual marshaling of a grand jury’s resources I’ve seen in my 25 years as a lawyer and scholar.”

For those of us who live in the St. Louis region, and who were getting information not filtered through the national media, the truth is that McCullough had every last piece of evidence the County Police had presented to the grand jury that was extended after the time they were supposed to have concluded.  They had to work around schedules, and it just took a long time.  This was done in order to maintain that there was no bias coming from the police or the prosecutor’s office

There were also allegations made against the St. Louis County Medical Examiner, Dr. Mary Case, a nationally renowned pathologist, until word came out that she didn’t do the autopsy.  Dr. Gershom Norfleet did.  This writer was acquainted with the Norfleet family a few decades back.  Good people who are highly educated.  They aren’t caucasian.

The reality is that if this ruling is allowed to stand, information limited to four people or not and no electronic communications or not, the idea of secret grand jury testimony will no longer be supportable.  It also means that witnesses with legitimate fear for their safety will increasingly refuse to testify in high profile cases.  In the Ferguson/Michael Brown case, witnesses were being threatened by gang members with connections to Dorian Johnson who made up the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” narrative that was debunked to the grand jury.  This ruling means the names of those brave people will be exposed to Michael Brown’s family.  It also means that 200 years of jurisprudence is gone.

Whether that was the goal in the end, the ruination of the American courts, or the destruction of a good, honest public servant who does not toe the Democratic Party line was, Ferguson is being used to further the goals of unAmerican power brokers.  The way this decision is being reported fits that pattern.

*In St. Louis, the degrees of separation between individuals is about two.  Within this writer’s circle are a number of lawyers.  ALL of them claim that there is no one who prepares and tries a case better than Bob McCullough, and that he is honest as the day is long.  He is also a lifelong Democrat.  Put those two tidbits against each other, and the conflict of interest should be obvious. Also, immediately prior to the August 9, 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, the Democratic primary for St. Louis County took place, and the man McCullough endorsed beat out the imcumbant, a black man, by a two to one margin.  In the American racism millieu, this is one of those things that makes you go, hmm.

About the Author

Cultural Limits
A resident of Flyover Country, Cultural Limits is a rare creature in American Conservatism - committed to not just small government, Christianity and traditional social roles, but non-profits and high arts and culture. Watching politics, observing human behavior and writing are all long-time interests. In her other life, CL writes romance novels under her nom de plume, Patricia Holden (@PatriciaHoldenAuthor on Facebook), and crochets like a mad woman (designs can be found on Facebook @BohemianFlairCrochet and on Pinterest on the Bohemian Flair Crochet board). In religion, CL is Catholic; in work, the jill of all trades when it comes to fundraising software manipulation and event planning; in play, a classically trained soprano and proud citizen of Cardinal Nation, although, during hockey season, Bleeds Blue. She lives in the Mid-Mississippi River Valley with family and two cute and charming tyrants...make that toy dogs.