McCaskill backs controversial prosecutor

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Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is expressing support for the prosecutor handling the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Mo., despite some calls for him to be removed.

Critics have accused St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch of bias because his father, a police officer, was killed by a black man. McCulloch also publicly criticized the decision to bring in Highway Patrol officers to relieve county police.

McCaskill, though, defended McCulloch and said she supported Gov. Jay Nixon’s (D) decision not to replace him with a special prosecutor.

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“I have a unique look at this prosecutor, because I have prosecuted alongside of him,” McCaskill said on MSNBC. “I have known him for 30 years. I know he's fair.”

The shooting of Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer has sparked days of protests in Ferguson.

Evidence could be presented to the grand jury, which currently meets once a week, as early as Wednesday. McCaskill defended the pace of the probe and said that empanelling a new jury would delay the case even more.

“It is not unusual for a grand jury to meet once a week,” she said. “It's good they're continuing this grand jury, because seating a new grand jury would be even more delayed.”

“I know this grand jury is diverse,” she added. “That's very important. I know that the two assistant prosecutors in charge of presenting this evidence are seasoned veteran prosecutors, and one of them is a highly respected African-American prosecutor.

"They will be making the evidence presentation, not Bob McCulloch, and all of the evidence will come in. So, it will take a long time,” said McCaskill.

She added that there was a danger to releasing physical evidence too soon, because witnesses could then conform their testimony to the evidence and investigators would not be able to assess their credibility independently.

McCaskill, who said she also supports the protestors and their right to protest, said increased political participation should be part of the long-term solution.

“The mayor ran unopposed in Ferguson. Most of the councilmen ran unopposed in Ferguson,” she said. “We had a 5 percent turnout from the African-American community to the municipal elections in April.

“We have got to get more involvement of young people in our political system, especially in Ferguson,” she added.

Three University of Massachusetts political scientists, writing in The Washington Post, estimated that turnout was 54 percent among black people in Ferguson in the 2012 presidential election, but was only 6 percent in the 2013 municipal election. It was higher, at 17 percent, among white people that year.