After a grand jury decided not to indict former Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch suggested in a press conference that the grand jury's decision was a result of unreliable eyewitness testimony.
The examples McCulloch used in his November 24 announcement focused on those who testified in favor of Brown, with McCulloch saying that the physical evidence rejected some of their descriptions of how the shooting played out.
But it turns out at least one witness who corroborated Wilson's story — and whose testimony conservative media embraced in the aftermath of the grand jury decision — may not have seen the shooting at all, as the Smoking Gun's William Bastone, Andrew Goldberg, and Joseph Jesselli reported:
The grand jury witness who testified that she saw Michael Brown pummel a cop before charging at him "like a football player, head down," is a troubled, bipolar Missouri woman with a criminal past who has a history of making racist remarks and once insinuated herself into another high-profile St. Louis criminal case with claims that police eventually dismissed as a "complete fabrication," The Smoking Gun has learned.
In interviews with police, FBI agents, and federal and state prosecutors — as well as during two separate appearances before the grand jury that ultimately declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson — the purported eyewitness delivered a preposterous and perjurious account of the fatal encounter in Ferguson.
Witness 40 wasn't the only one who proved to be unreliable, showing McCulloch was correct when he noted that many of the witnesses were discredited.
CNN's Josh Levs reported that Witness 35 said Brown was "on his knees" when Wilson shot him in the head. When prosecutors said that "isn't forensically possible based on the evidence," the witness acknowledged that he made up most of his testimony.
The most consistent testimonies came from the two people closest to the scene: Wilson and Dorian Johnson.
But as Vox's Ezra Klein explained, their testimonies greatly differed from the moment the encounter began to the instance the final shots were fired. Wilson's testimony painted himself as a police officer just trying to do his job in the face of an unstoppable brute. Johnson suggested Wilson was acting in fits of rage and bloodlust.
Why did McCulloch present such hugely conflicting, sometimes dishonest eyewitnesses to the grand jury? Experts shared differing theories with CNN.
Defense attorney Mark O'Mara, told CNN that McCulloch's plan was "to avoid the argument that he customized the presentation for a particular result — even thought he had to presume, as it turned out, that he would still be criticized for that."
Meanwhile, former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin told the news network that the confusing testimony was a strategy employed by McCulloch's team. "The prosecutors didn't want to indict," she said. "That's why they conducted it that way."
Read more: Darren Wilson's grand jury: too much evidence, too little supervision.