But physical evidence, like eyewitness testimony, is imperfect and often ambiguous. McCulloch knows this; that’s why he hedged in saying Brown’s wounds were “consistent with a close-range gunshot” and “consistent with his body being bent forward.” McCulloch acknowledged that you could “take out a witness here, a witness there, and come to a different conclusion.” And that’s exactly why we have public trials: to litigate conflicting accounts in a setting where the burden of proof is much higher than the probable-cause standard of the grand jury.
Instead, McCulloch short-circuited the process — reinforcing a sense among African Americans, and many others, that the justice system is rigged. He almost certainly could have secured an indictment on a lesser charge simply by requesting it, yet he acted as if he were a spectator, saying that jurors decided not to return a “true bill” on each possible charge — as if this were a typical outcome.
As has been repeated often in recent weeks, a grand jury will indict a proverbial ham sandwich if a prosecutor asks it to. Alternatively, McCulloch could have brought charges through a judicial hearing; he chose not to do that, either.