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Public, Media Locked out of Bob McCulloch Speech at MU Law School

St. Louis County

Updated: Video of talk and Q&A added below. 

St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch spoke Tuesday at the University of Missouri School of Law about the grand jury process and his experience handling the investigation into now-former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson’s responsibility in the shooting death of Michael Brown last year.

The MU student chapter of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys organized the event, which restricted to law school students and faculty who had to register prior. Media and the public were not allowed to attend the talk.

Motivated by the closed nature of the event, students and community organizers from organizations such as Occupy COMO and the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation gathered to protest by chanting and holding signs with messages about Ferguson.

MU graduate student Reuben Faloughi said he was concerned with the locked doors and lack of publicity for the event.  “The format that this talk was held—it’s unfair,” Faloughi said. “Nobody else gets to have a conversation with McCulloch.”

Coordinator of the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation Jeff Stack said he understands the need for security, but also that he wishes the event was more balanced and inclusive.

"Democracy is a little messy sometimes and unfortunately Mr. McCulloch is kind of used to kind of being an orchestrator and having control for how the courtroom operates and grand jury is a system of heightened control,” Stack said. “Maybe he’s uncomfortable with settings like that (an open forum), but that’s kind of what we really need to have a vibrant democracy.”

MU Law School Dean Gary Myers said the event was planned with the law school audience in mind.

“It was designed really to be a law school event so people can have that discussion and dialogue, and I can share with you that the discussion was vigorous and thorough,” Myers said.

Credit Kara Tabor / KBIA
Joan Wilcox stands outside of Hulston Hall in protest of Bob McCulloch's talk.

Even though protestors were left speculating on what was happening in the closed talk, Joan Wilcox, a volunteer for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said she thought the demonstration was a success.

“I don’t know how the response is inside, obviously they locked the doors on us,” Wilcox said. “Out here, I think the response was good. We had people come and express their opinions and that’s good.”

Afterwards, McCulloch expressed his feelings about the effect that his talk left on those in attendance.

"I hope they got a better understanding of how the grand jury system operates and specifically, what was done in this particular case,” McCulloch said. “A lot of what was tossed out in the media didn’t happen and that’s a good thing.”

Some of the individuals who were able to attend the event offered varying critiques of McCulloch’s talk.

Samantha Green, a second year MU law student, said she thought the event was overall a good experience. However, she added that McCulloch dodged many of the questions, but that “wasn’t something that I was necessarily surprised by.”

“I thought that there was an attempt at honest dialogue, but it just really didn’t quite get there for me,” Green said.  

Kayla Jackson-Williams, an MU law student and president of the school’s Black Law Students Association, said her question for McCulloch on how he plans to fix the disconnect between him and the black community went unanswered.

"He said what he wanted people to hear and he didn’t fully answer questions to the degree at which he could because he wanted it to go in a certain direction,” Jackson-Williams said.

Both law students proposed that any similar event in the future, while giving initial preference to law students and faculty, should be open to the public.

As for the closed nature of the event, Green said she thought the intentions of limiting attendance to members of the legal community were good, but that she wished the public had an opportunity to listen in.  


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