Cape DA Weighs in on Ferguson Grand Jury

Cape & Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe

Cape & Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe

BARNSTABLE – The grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri is of special interest to one Cape Codder in particular.

Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said he knows the prosecutor in the case, Robert McCulloch, personally.

“He is a very experienced prosecutor and a very conscientious one at that and I think he handled himself and the grand jury investigation into the matter very professionally,” O’Keefe said.

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McCulloch was the one to make the announcement Tuesday night about the grand jury’s decision not to indict the white police officer, Darren Wilson, in the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown.

After the announcement and in the days following it, there has been rioting and looting in Ferguson and demonstrations in other cities around the country.

Some have criticized McCulloch’s use of the grand jury to present evidence meant to persuade the jury that Wilson should not be charged.

But O’Keefe said there are two functions for grand juries. One is to return indictments, “yes or no.” In those instances, police are sometimes the only witnesses who testify, O’Keefe said.

But, he said, another possible function of a grand jury is to actually conduct an investigation. In that situation, the grand jury can hear evidence on one day and then, as a result of hearing that evidence, the grand jury itself asks to hear from additional witnesses and the investigation proceeds in that fashion, O’Keefe said.

O’Keefe said the use of the Ferguson grand jury as an investigatory body that hears all the evidence in the case, not just the evidence that makes the case for prosecution, has been used on Cape Cod.

“The grand jury hears virtually the whole case and then makes a decision and we’ve had that happen several times here on the Cape and Islands over the years,” he said.

He said he believes the grand jury process in the Ferguson case was sound.

“Having been through lengthy grand jury hearings before myself, I know how hard grand juries work to get it right and I think a very professional job was done here under very difficult circumstances,” O’Keefe said.

Listen below to hear Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe talk about the social issues in the Ferguson case.