The Two-Way
12:04 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

Many Seek Justice In Ferguson, Mo., But Will Have To Wait Awhile

Originally published on Wed August 20, 2014 3:30 pm

Both the county case and the federal investigation into the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown are expected to take time, as are basic answers about the circumstances that led to the black teenager's death Aug. 9.

About two dozen people showed up Wednesday in front of the St. Louis County Courthouse to demonstrate against County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, who is preparing to present evidence in the case to a grand jury.

"This means something to me, so I had to be here," says demonstrator Lamont Farr, a home health care worker. "We want Bob McCulloch off this case; that's what we're here for today."

When McCulloch was 12, his father, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty. McCulloch is white. The man who shot his father was black. That history worries many in the community about the prosecutor's objectivity.

"We're fighting for justices across the world — we don't even have justice at home," Farr says.

McCulloch says his father's death decades ago won't affect his judgment, and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said in a statement Tuesday that he isn't asking the prosecutor to step aside.

The U.S. Department of Justice is also investigating whether Brown's civil rights were violated. FBI agents have now reportedly conducted more than 200 interviews. But the answers, and potential charges so many are demanding, won't come quickly.

"You're talking about at least months, and it's not impossible in some civil rights investigations that they take years," says former U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins, who worked with Attorney General Eric Holder in the Clinton administration.

"If you're looking for answers, those answers may be a long time in coming, in part because of the rules, the guidelines for the Department of Justice," Coggins says. "They're allowed to tell the community, 'We're on the job, we're making progress,' general things like that, but they're not allowed to share the specific evidence until an indictment comes down."

But Coggins says federal involvement could help quell distrust of the county's handling of the case. He says he has seen it before.

"Sometimes it's very difficult for a DA or a county attorney to convince a community that he or she can be objective where the police are concerned," he says. "The Civil Rights Division prosecutes police officers all the time. That's what they do."

On Canfield Drive in Ferguson, the site where police officer Darren Wilson shot Brown, Cori Bush, a pastor, shows up daily.

"I'll be out here as long as this is going on," she says.

In the middle of the road, visitors add flowers, baseball caps and stuffed bears to an ever-expanding makeshift memorial for Brown. Bush comes out to pass out food during the day, and demonstrates at night.

"It's in shifts," Bush says. "So whatever the shift is ... I'll be there."

She knows the big crowds will eventually dwindle, but Bush is from here. She has no plans to stop participating.

"This can go on until the verdict comes down," she says. "We gotta get the indictment first, and then the verdict, so, it might be awhile."

As the legal process plays out, a neighborhood already so torn by unrest and uncertainty has no choice but to wait.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder visited Ferguson, Missouri today. He was there to meet with federal investigators. They're one of two teams trying to figure out what exactly happened when a police officer, Darren Wilson, shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old, Michael Brown. Both cases are expected to take weeks if not months. And we hear more from NPR's Elise Hu is at least a few. She says people in the area are frustrated with the wait. .

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What do we want?

CROWD: (Chanting) Justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: When we want it?

CROWD: (Chanting) Now.

ELISE HU, BYLINE: This morning about two dozen demonstrators showed up not in Ferguson, but in the St. Louis County town of Clayton. That's where the county prosecutor is prepared to present evidence to a grand jury considering Michael Brown's killing.

LAMONT FARR: This means something to me so I had to be here.

HU: If you ask Lamont Farr and others demonstrating across the street from courthouse, the County prosecutor Robert McCullough is a problem. They say he shouldn't even be in charge of this case.

FARR: We want Bob McCulloch off the case. That's what we're here for today.

HU: When McCullough was 12, his father, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty. McCullough is White - the man who shot his dad - Black. For that reason, many in the community don't think the prosecutor can be objective.

FARR: We're fighting for justice is across the world, we don't even have justice at home.

HU: McCullogh says his dad's death decades ago won't affect his judgment and he's not going anywhere. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said in a statement on Tuesday - he isn't asking the prosecutor to step aside. Besides, the county's investigation into Michael Brown's death isn't the only one underway. The Department of Justice is investigating whether Brown's civil rights were violated. Attorney General Eric Holder came to Ferguson today to meet with FBI investigators, law enforcement and other community leaders. Agents have now reportedly conducted more than 200 interviews, but the answers and potential charges so many are demanding won't come quickly.

PAUL COGGINS: You're talking about at least months, and it's not impossible in some civil rights investigations that they take years.

HU: Paul Coggins is a formal federal prosecutor who worked with Attorney General Eric Holder in the Clinton administration.

COGGINS: If you're looking for answer, those answers may be a long time incoming, in part because of the rules - the guidelines for the Department of Justice. They're allowed to tell the community - we're on the job, we're making progress - general things like that, but they're not allowed to share the specific evidence until - until an indictment comes down.

HU: But Coggins says federal involvement could help quell distrust of the community's handling of the case. He's seen it before.

COGGINS: Sometimes it's very difficult for a DA or a county attorney to convince a community that he or she can be objective where the police are concerned. The Civil Rights Division prosecutes police officers all the time - that's what they do.

HU: In Ferguson on Canfield drive, where police Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown, church pastor Cori Bush shows up daily.

CORI BUSH: I'll be out here as long as this is going on.

HU: In the middle of the road, visitors add flowers, baseball caps and stuffed bears to an ever-expanding makeshift memorial for Brown. Bush comes out to pass out food during the day and demonstrates at night.

BUSH: One thing about it is it shifts. So whatever the shift is - so if the shift is moving off to West Forest and then we go to Clayton and protest there - just whatever it is, I'll be there.

HU: She knows the big crowds will eventually dwindle but Bush is from here, so she has no plans to stop participating.

BUSH: This can go on until the verdict comes down. So we've got to get the indictment first and then the verdict. So it may be a while.

HU: As the legal process plays out, a neighborhood already torn by unrest and uncertainty, has no choice but to wait. Elise Hu, NPR News, Ferguson, Missouri. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.