Outgoing Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones is encouraging St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch to reconsider and step down as head of the investigation into the Ferguson police shooting that killed 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Jones, R-Eureka, is the first Republican to call for McCulloch’s removal.
“Why would you want to give anyone the opportunity, a shred of an excuse, to say that justice was not served in a fair and impartial way?” said Jones in a telephone interview Wednesday. He was talking while he was touring Ferguson for the first time since the unrest began following the Aug. 9 shooting.
“If I were the prosecutor, given the international attention on this issue, I would not want to do or say anything that would lend even an appearance of impropriety,’’ Jones added, noting that he is a lawyer.
If McCulloch, a Democrat, were to step down, Gov. Jay Nixon and Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster could become involved.
McCulloch and Nixon appear to agree that the governor’s emergency powers would allow Nixon to replace McCulloch, but the governor is declining to do so, citing legal questions. McCulloch, in turn, so far has said he has no plans to step down voluntarily.
Jones declined to say whether McCulloch, a Democrat, had been inappropriate in words or action. But Jones said that he believed that all the pertinent parties involved should consider a change.
“I think everyone involved would want a special prosecutor,’’ Jones said. “Having a special prosecutor gives the best chance of having justice carried out.”
In any event, Jones – who is planning to run for statewide office in 2016 – was critical of the actions of Nixon and Koster. Jones said that both have shown a lack of leadership.
“We’ve seen indecision. We’ve seen hesitation. We’ve seen faltering,’’ Jones said. He added that he was particularly critical of Nixon.
While in Ferguson, Jones said he was talking to residents and law enforcement. He said he had held off earlier visits because "I didn't want to be seen as someone charging in on the first or second day."