Four Years After Michael Brown, Missouri’s Primary Brings A New Referendum On The Case That Never Was

Virginia Kruta | Associate Editor

Four years after Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown — nearly to the day — St. Louis County voters sent a message that could bring the case back to the drawing board.

Missouri’s Democratic primary Tuesday pitted outspoken Ferguson city council member and attorney Wesley Bell against 7-term incumbent county prosecutor Bob McCulloch — and in a stunning upset, Bell won with 57 percent of the vote.

Many saw the primary itself as a referendum of McCulloch’s decision not to file charges against Officer Wilson — in spite of the fact that McCulloch and a grand jury came to that conclusion after considering all of the evidence and charges ranging from first degree murder to involuntary manslaughter.

A Department of Justice investigation into the matter — and into the Ferguson Police Department as a whole — found a number of civil rights violations within the department but found no evidence of specific wrongdoing on Officer Wilson’s part.

The Appeal, a nonprofit criminal justice reform publication, even appeared to blame McCulloch for “igniting the Ferguson protests,” first when he declined to recuse himself from the case and again, when he announced the grand jury’s findings.

The Appeal didn’t note that McCulloch was called upon to recuse himself only after the protests had already been ongoing for a week — and the National Guard had already been called to the scene to help maintain order. Additionally, Democratic Governor Jay Nixon declined requests to remove McCulloch from the case. Protesters had raised questions over his ability to be impartial because McCulloch, who is white, lost his own police officer father when he was killed on the job by an African American in 1964.

Bell, who ran on a platform of “criminal justice reform,” was among those who criticized McCulloch for his handling of the Michael Brown case — namely the fact that he never brought charges against Wilson.

And as the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death passed on Thursday, so began the calls for Bell to begin his term by correcting what many of his supporters see as a mistake on McCulloch’s part.

Bell has not outlined any specific plans to file charges in the Michael Brown case, but as he will be running unopposed in November, he will most likely have a free reign to make that choice come January.

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