Ferguson prosecutor: Some witnesses lied, including woman who didn’t see shooting

St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch announces the grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. (AP File)
St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch announces the grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. (AP File)

A woman who swore she saw teenager Michael Brown pummel Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson and charge him “like a football player,” was lying about being at the scene of the controversial police shooting, St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said Friday.

“I’m sure she was nowhere near the place,” McCulloch said during a St. Louis radio interview. “She recounted the statement that was right out of the newspaper.”

While investigators doubted her story, McCulloch said the woman was allowed to testify because “early on, I decided that anyone who claimed to have witnessed anything would be presented to the grand jury.”

The prosecutor’s appearance on KTRS 550-AM was his first interview since Nov. 24, when he announced that the grand jury had decided not to indict Wilson for killing Brown. The officer, who resigned his position after the ruling, says he shot in self-defense.

Darren Wilson and Michael Brown (Facebook/AP Photo)
Darren Wilson and Michael Brown (Facebook/AP Photo)

McCulloch’s handling of the death of an unarmed black teen by a white police officer has been criticized from the outset. On Thursday, State Rep. Karla May, a Democrat, called for McCulloch to be investigated for prosecutorial misconduct, the AP reported.

“Many St. Louis-area residents believe — and there is at least some evidence to suggest — that Mr. McCulloch manipulated the grand jury process from the beginning to ensure that Officer Wilson would not be indicted,” May wrote in a letter to colleagues.

But McCulloch repeated on Friday that it was his pledge of transparency that led to the grand jury hearing from 60 witnesses over three months.

“My job is to not get an indictment, my job is to seek the truth and seek justice and do what is right,” he said. “I thought it was much more important to present anybody and everybody. Some were clearly not telling the truth, no question about it.”

The most egregious appears to have been Witness 40, who, like other witnesses, is not identified in court transcripts. The woman, who told the grand jury that she suffers from bipolar disorder and memory issues, contacted police five weeks after Brown’s death to say she watched the Aug. 9 shooting unfold.

According to testimony, the woman, who is white, first told investigators that she ended up in the predominantly black neighborhood after getting lost while trying to find the home of an old friend. When she returned to the grand jury on Nov. 3, she changed her account, saying she was in the area to visit, to learn more about African Americans. She brought her journal to the grand jury as proof.

“Well I’m gonna take my random drive to Florissant [a town near Ferguson],” she wrote at 8 a.m. on Aug. 9. “Need to understand the Black race better so I stop calling Blacks N------ and Start calling them People.”

Prosecutors overseeing the grand jury quizzed the woman about being a racist and about comments she made on Facebook and other sites following the shooting.

“When this first happened, I made comments for the first few weeks,” the woman testified. “Some were really obnoxious, some were pretty vulgar and then I realized that is not the Christian thing to do.”

The woman, who told investigators she believed Wilson was “just doing his job” by shooting Brown, also admitted to trying to raise funds for Wilson and other officers.

Earlier this week, the website The Smoking Gun published a story identifying Witness 40 and reported that she had previously tried to interject herself into another high-profile St. Louis criminal investigation.

On Friday, McCulloch did not offer a possible explanation for what motivated Witness 40. He said false statements were made on both sides of the investigation, but that the grand jury did its job by relying on physical evidence and expert testimony to vet the case.

“Just like any jury, they can believe all, part or nothing of any witness testimony,” he said.

McCulloch said perjury charges could be considered, but that he will not be prosecuting untruthful witnesses.

Witness 40 admitted to giving different accounts for being in Ferguson,” McCulloch said, but added that “she never did change her description of what she had seen."

Jason Sickles is a reporter for Yahoo. Follow him on Twitter (@jasonsickles).

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