A number of prominent figures in Missouri are taking issue with Governor Jay Nixon’s recent announcement that “vigorous prosecution must now be pursued” against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Critics accuse Nixon of getting ahead of the investigation and prejudging the case.
On Tuesday night, Nixon released a video in which he said he would not remove St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch over concerns about McCulloch’s objectivity expressed by Brown supporters. McCulloch’s father, a police officer, was killed on the job by a black man in the 1960s. Nixon suggested that McCulloch recuse himself from the case.
Speaking with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly shortly after the governor’s comments were released, the president of the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police said he was “very disappointed” in Nixon.
“We’re open for a very thorough investigation, but we’re very concerned about the due-process rights of Darren,” Sergeant Kevin Ahlbrand said. “Justice needs to go both ways.”
Ahlbrand remained confident that McCulloch would fairly investigate and prosecute the case. “We just wish that everybody would stand down and not make an opinion until those facts are brought out,” he said.
Later, Ferguson mayor James Knowles III echoed the police sergeant’s sentiments.
“That’s unfortunate, because Governor Nixon was our attorney general for 16 years,” he said. “I would assume at this point he understands and knows what the process is, and where we’re at in that process.”
“I would hope that his mind and other people would keep their mind open, allow the facts to come out before they rush to judgment,” Knowles added.
Peter Kinder, the state’s Republican lieutenant governor, offered particularly harsh criticism of Nixon, a Democrat.
“It’s really heartbreaking to see a man elected to an office that high in our state government — the chief executive of the Missouri state government — come out with a statement like that does prejudge the case,” Kinder told Shepard Smith. Nixon, who spent 30 years as a lawyer and 16 years as the state’s attorney general, should know better than to tamper with and weigh in on the process, he added.
“Just as you and I and the governor were not there on Saturday afternoon, the 9th of August, when this awful, awful incident went down, we will not be sitting on that grand jury,” Kinder continued. “It would be wrong for a prosecutor to say what the governor has said here today, and it is wrong for the governor of Missouri to say it.”
A grand jury will begin hearing evidence in the Brown case Wednesday.
— Andrew Johnson is an editorial associate at National Review Online.