News & Politics

Ferguson Prosecutor Admits He Knew Grand Jury 'Witness' Was a Liar

Prosecutor's damning admission about "Witness 40" could be grounds to restart the case.

"Witness 40," indentified as Sandra McElroy by The Smoking Gun, provided grand jury testimony that was full of inconsistences and flat-out lies, according to the publication. And McElroy's actions may well have been inspired by her avowedly racist attitudes toward blacks, according to her social media activity.

Even more damning is the admisssion, by St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch that he knew she was not present at the scene of the shooting, yet he decided to present witnesses who were “clearly not telling the truth” to the grand jury. This prosecutorial misconduct, some legal experts say, could result in a new hearing for Darren Wilson, the former police officer who shot Michael Brown. According to Think Progress:

In intentionally presenting false testimony to the grand jury, McCulloch may have committed a serious ethical breach. Under the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct, lawyers are prohibited from offering “evidence that the lawyer knows to be false.” 

McCulloch justified his actions by asserting that the grand jury gave no credence at all to McElroy’s testimony. But this is speculation. Under Missouri law, the grand jury deliberations are secret and McCulloch is not allowed to be present

A Missouri lawmaker, Karla May, called Friday for a legislative investigation of McCulloch’s conduct. May said that there is evidence to suggest that McCulloch “manipulated the grand jury process from the beginning to ensure that Officer Wilson would not be indicted.”

Among the testimony that McCulloch asserts had no effect on the jury was McElroy's claim that she saw Michael Brown charge Officer Darren Wilson “like a football player, head down.”

However, McElroy was nowhere near the scene in Ferguson, Mo. where the 18-year-old Brown was shot and killed by Wilson. She also waited four weeks after the shooting to contact the cops. By that time, Wilson's account of the shooting was reported widely in the media; McElroy's account was convieniently similar to Wilson's story of what happened the day he shot Brown.

Before McElroy contacted police, her Facebook activity suggests she did not even witness the shooting. Per The Smoking Gun:

On August 17, a Facebook commenter wrote that Johnson and others should be arrested for inciting riots and giving false statements to police in connection with their claims that Brown had his hands up when shot by Wilson. “The report and autopsy are in so YES they were false,” McElroy wrote of the “hands-up” claims. This appears to be an odd comment from someone who claims to have been present during the shooting. In response to the posting of a news report about a rally in support of Wilson, McElroy wrote on August 17, “Prayers, support God Bless Officer Wilson.”   

There are other details in McElroy's story that suggest she lied. Her home is 30 miles north of Ferguson. When asked what she was doing in town on August 9, the day of the shooting, McElroy said she planned on surprising a former high school classmate she had not seen in 26 years. She had an incorrect home address and no cell phone number when she pulled over to ask an African American man for directions to the friend's location. Her story didn't make much sense, but state prosecutors still put McElroy in front of the grand jury.  

McElroy also has a troubling YouTube history that suggests racial animus toward African Americans, according to The Smoking Gun:

An examination of McElroy’s YouTube page, which she apparently shares with one of her daughters, reveals other evidence of racial animus. Next to a clip about the disappearance of a white woman who had a baby with a black man is the comment, “see what happens when you bed down with a monkey have ape babies and party with them.” A clip about the sentencing of two black women for murder is captioned, “put them monkeys in a cage.”

McElroy, under the ID of "Witness 40," told the Ferguson grand jury she pleaded guilty to felony “check fraud” charges in 2007. The Smoking Gun report cites other fabrications McElroy made over the years. As awful as McElroy apparently is, the deeper outrage is that McCulloch used her as a witness. What other lies and misconduct in this case have yet to surface?

Terrell Jermaine Starr is a senior editor at AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @Russian_Starr.

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