Last week I posted two links, one from Addicting Info and one from Daily Kos, that seriously discredited the testimony of Witness 40 in the Ferguson grand jury trial concerning Michael Brown’s murder by Darren Wilson. Witness 40 is the witness who claimed to have seen Michael Brown beating up on and charging Officer Wilson in the moments leading up to the shooting. You may remember that Prosecutor Robert McCulloch repeatedly called into question the testimony of witnesses whose version of events differed from Officer Wilson’s. However, he and his team couldn’t find any reason to keep this particular witness off the stand, despite the fact that everything about her story was suspicious.
This week, The Smoking Gun and Gawker have picked that story up along with Raw Story, Huffington Post, and several other news sources. I’ve included links to several of them below.
- “Witness 40”: Exposing A Fraud In Ferguson (The Smoking Gun)
Referred to only as “Witness 40” in grand jury material, the woman concocted a story that is now baked into the narrative of the Ferguson grand jury, a panel before which she had no business appearing. While the “hands-up” account of Dorian Johnson is often cited by those who demanded Wilson’s indictment, “Witness 40”’s testimony about seeing Brown batter Wilson and then rush the cop like a defensive end has repeatedly been pointed to by Wilson supporters as directly corroborative of the officer’s version of the August 9 confrontation. The “Witness 40” testimony, as Fox News sees it, is proof that the 18-year-old Brown’s killing was justified, and that the Ferguson grand jury got it right. However, unlike Johnson, “Witness 40”–a 45-year-old St. Louis resident named Sandra McElroy–was nowhere near Canfield Drive on the Saturday afternoon Brown was shot to death.
- Report: Darren Wilson’s Key Witness Lied About Everything (Gawker)
[Essentially notes on The Smoking Gun article. Reproducing this here for anyone that might want a short version of the article posted above.]
- Hannity favorite ‘Witness 40′ in Wilson grand jury is a liar and convicted felon: report (Raw Story)
“I know what I seen,” McElroy told skeptical investigators. “I know you don’t believe me.” The FBI special agent interviewing McElroy doubted she was actually at the scene of the shooting, and noted that McElroy had expressed a desire to help Wilson. “So you are posting racist things online and you are telling us, you know, and you are telling us, you know, your account and then there are videos that doesn’t show your car,” the special agent said. “And then there is a map that shows you couldn’t (have) left the way you left from… But, obviously, we find out what people’s motivations are when you say you posted things online that are racist and you come in here and tell us an account that supports Darren Wilson… You raised money for Darren Wilson.” State prosecutors asked McElroy to testify during the grand jury hearing one day after she met with federal investigators, and she told the panel that she had written down her account the day of the fatal shooting – although she hadn’t mentioned the journal the day before. She returned 11 days later, as prosecutors asked, with handwritten journal pages.
- One challenge for Ferguson grand jury: Some witnesses’ credibility (CNN)
Sunny Hostin, a former federal prosecutor, believes the state wanted to avoid presenting a clear-cut case that would have led to an indictment. “Prosecutors generally present very streamlined cases to the grand jury,” she says. “As a prosecutor you should not present witnesses in front of the grand jury that you wouldn’t present at trial. The prosecutors didn’t want to indict,” Hostin says. “That’s why they conducted it that way.” [CNN’s coverage of witness 40 is tucked away among other witnesses whose testimony was shown to be false, which I think is odd considering they were so widely discussed before, but CNN is also the only major network I could find with a quick search that was actually covering the story at all.]
- Ferguson Witness Exposed by Smoking Gun Was Also Discredited in Front of Grand Jury by Prosecutors (Slate.com blog, The Slatest)
As the Smoking Gun does mention, McElroy returned to the grand jury on Nov. 3 with a new story about why she was in Ferguson. In testimony in Grand Jury Volume 18, McElroy reads from a journal and attests that she was in fact traveling to the area to conduct personal research to help her understand black people (!). But the Smoking Gun doesn’t mention that, in those same grand jury records, a prosecutor says (in front of jurors) that McElroy had admitted she may have gotten details of her earlier testimony off the Internet, points out that her journal entry from the morning before Brown’s death is suspiciously detailed, and asks McElroy directly whether she may have made up or “dreamed” the events that she’s testifying about. Another prosecutor tells McElroy she believes McElroy is “confused” about her own account and grills her about her animosity towards blacks and her use of racial slurs. [As several commenters point out, Witness 40 is the only one that supports Darren Wilson’s claim that Michael Brown charged him, yet prosecutors knew she was, at the very least, a questionable witness. So why present her testimony to the jury at all? And did McCulloch mention her testimony as reliable in the press conference, but go to such pains to discredit other witnesses?]
- Key Witness In Michael Brown Case May Not Have Actually Seen Him Die, Report Says (Huffington Post)
Among the dozens of witnesses who offered conflicting versions of events, Witness 40’s story stood out for the way it “tracked” to Wilson’s account, The Smoking Gun noted. Even without McElroy’s testimony, the evidence that the grand jury considered has been criticized as flawed. Wilson, after shooting Brown, washed the evidence off his body at the police station, and the first officer to interview Wilson didn’t bother taking any notes. As ThinkProgress noted, these and other errors may have helped tip the case in Wilson’s favor.