The non-verdict of the police officer who killed Walter Scott is a national embarrassment – Dec 5, 2016, 3:45pm EST

We have video of Scott posing no threat when a cop killed him — yet a jury didn’t convict.

The video in the North Charleston, South Carolina, police shooting of Walter Scott couldn’t be any clearer: Scott posed no threat to police officer Michael Slager when Slager shot at least eight times at Scott’s back. Scott was fleeing, but the 50-year-old was barely running — he was moving so slowly that Slager could have caught up to him with a brisk walk. And the encounter began after Scott ran from a traffic stop over a broken brake light — hardly a matter of grave public concern.

And yet.

On Monday, a jury concluded that it will not be able to reach a verdict in Slager’s murder trial, leading a judge to declare a mistrial. The police officer who shot and killed Scott now looks a little more likely to go free if the local prosecutor decides not to retry the case and if the federal civil rights charges also don’t stick.

There have been ambiguous police killing cases in the past. We didn’t have video for the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The video of the police shooting of Tamir Rice in Cleveland was a bit blurry, but it showed that Rice really did have a toy gun that officers could have mistaken for a real firearm. Other police killing cases had similar ambiguities.


One year after Michael Brown’s killing, his mother vows to ‘never forgive’ – by Tony Harris — August 5, 2015 9:45AM ET Updated 5:26PM ET & Philip J. Victor

Al Jazeera’s exclusive interview with Michael Brown’s mother 8:12

Al Jazeera’s exclusive interview with Michael Brown’s mother 8:12

The mother of Michael Brown says she will “never forgive” the “cold and malicious” police officer who shot and killed her son nearly one year ago in Ferguson, Missouri.

“He wouldn’t even admit what he did was wrong. He wouldn’t admit he had no reason to do what he did,” Lezley McSpadden said of former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. “I’ll never forgive him.”

McSpadden said of Wilson: “He’s evil, his acts were devilish.”

Wilson killed Brown on Aug. 9, 2014, after stopping him because he was walking in the street, not on the sidewalk. The killing of Brown, an unarmed black teen who, according to some accounts, had his hands in the air at the time of his death, by a white police officer sparked widespread protest and renewed debate over police targeting of black men.

McSpadden’s comments to Al Jazeera followed an interview with Wilson published by The New Yorker, in which he admitted that, aside from ongoing litigation brought by the Brown family, he seldom thought of the 18-year-old Brown.

“Do I think about who he was as a person? Not really, because it doesn’t matter at this point,” Wilson said, before adding that he believed Brown didn’t have a proper “upbringing.”

McSpadden responded to Wilson’s comments by saying the officer was the one who “didn’t have the right upbringing.”

“Because those are words that you just don’t use, especially after you took somebody’s life and you know you had no reason to,” she said. “But he can’t hurt me with his words. What he did last year hurt me really bad, so his words mean nothing to me.”

Wilson, who scuffled with Brown before the shooting, told authorities that he feared for his life during the confrontation and fired his gun in self-defense. Witnesses, however, contend that Brown was in a nonthreatening position when Wilson fired the fatal shots.

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The Ferguson Effect – By Mark Joseph Stern APRIL 21 2015 5:16 PM

Chief Justice Roberts rules against police abuse at the Supreme Court. Maybe he finally gets it.

A man is handcuffed in south Los Angeles on April 25, 2012. (This photograph is not intended to depict police abuse.) Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

A man is handcuffed in south Los Angeles on April 25, 2012. (This photograph is not intended to depict police abuse.)
Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Dennys Rodriguez knew his rights—and he planned to use them. Just after midnight in March of 2012, a police officer pulled Rodriguez over for briefly veering onto the shoulder of the highway, and wrote Rodriguez a warning. The stop should have ended there. Instead, the officer asked Rodriguez for permission to walk his dog around Rodriguez’s Mercury Mountaineer. Rodriguez declined. The officer called for backup and, eight minutes later, did it anyway. On its second pass, the dog alerted the officer to the presence of drugs. He searched the car and found a bag of methamphetamine.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruledthat the drugs are inadmissible in court, because the officer had violated Rodriguez’s Fourth Amendment rights by prolonging the traffic stop without reasonable suspicion. (In Fourth Amendment terms, the eight-minute period during which the officer detained Rodriguez—after writing his warning—was an “unreasonable seizure.”) From a purely constitutional perspective, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s majority opinion is so obviously correct that it’s a little disturbing to see only six justices endorse it. But it’s still encouraging to watch this court grapple with the realities of police overreach and, occasionally, put the kibosh on law enforcement’s worst excesses.

Rodriguez v. United States is this term’s second big criminal-law decision, after the deeply misguided Heien v. North Carolina. In Heien, the court considered a traffic stop conducted by a cop who misunderstood state law. Although the driver he stopped actually did nothing wrong, eight justices decided the stop was still “reasonable” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. In other words, ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law—unless you’re a police officer. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a perceptive, finger-wagging dissent, wondering how law-abiding citizens could now avoid “these invasive, frightening, and humiliating encounters.” (Unspoken by any justice was the fact that officers can easily feign misunderstanding of the law as a pretext for a stop.)

Trigger happy – The Economist Apr 11th 2015 | ATLANTA

A new study finds that 9% of Americans are armed and impulsive

ON A grassy strip in South Carolina, a black man turns and runs from a police officer. The cop fires eight bullets at him, leaving him dead. Michael Slager said he shot Walter Scott in self-defence after Mr Scott took his taser. But after a video of the killing went viral—which showed that Mr Scott was perhaps 20 feet away when Mr Slager started shooting at him—the policeman was charged with murder on April 7th. Peaceful demonstrations erupted in the streets.

Mr Scott had been stopped for driving a car with a broken tail light. Relatives speculated that he might have run away from the policeman because he owed child support and did not wish to be jailed for failing to pay it. Many were astounded that he should have died over something so trivial. However, the fact that bystanders nearly always have cameras in their smartphones means that police are finding it harder than ever to commit abuses without consequence.

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Grand Juries Are Medieval – By Joel Cohen FEB. 19 2015 4:34 PM

The system needs to be reformed. This is a first step.

As it stands now, judges are never present during grand jury proceedings, and a grand jury transcript is virtually never available to the public. Photo by Thinkstock/VladimirCetinski

As it stands now, judges are never present during grand jury proceedings, and a grand jury transcript is virtually never available to the public.
Photo by Thinkstock/VladimirCetinski

This week, Jonathan Lippman, chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, took bold action. During his State of the Judiciary speech, he addressed “the crisis emanating from deadly police-civilian encounters” and proposed legislation that would dramatically change the grand jury system in New York state.

Lippman’s proposed legislation addresses cases in which a police officer kills a civilian. During a grand jury investigation of such a killing, not only would a judge be present throughout the proceedings, but if the officer is exonerated, the judge would be empowered to release the entire grand jury transcript to the public. This would bring about two major changes to our present system: As it stands now, judges are never present during grand jury proceedings, and a grand jury transcript is virtually never available to the public. (The grand jury investigation into the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, is an aberrant exception).

Our current process insures that prosecutors are in a “no-win” situation in these incendiary circumstances, as Lippman puts it. Prosecutors ask a grand jury to consider bringing charges against a police officer, but let’s face it, they have a close working relationship with the police. The result? If the officer under investigation is not indicted, the public is suspicious that the prosecutor subliminally (or not so subliminally) told the grand jury how to decide, or simply didn’t present the evidence as diligently as she might have in another circumstance. These suspicions are heightened when the police officer is white and the killed civilian is black.

Given the medieval nature of how the grand jury still operates (grand juries do, in fact, trace back to Henry II), Lippman’s proposal is not only fair, but it brings an antiquated system into the 21st century. Sadly, the public, press, and prosecutors have to figure out how to deal with a situation that has repeated itself all too often: A police officer kills a civilian; a decision is made to present evidence to a grand jury as to whether the police officer committed a crime; the grand jury votes a “no true bill,” meaning a “no indictment”; and—in the eyes of many—the police officer “gets away with murder.”

How Low Income New Yorkers Are Benefiting From The NYPD’s Work Stoppage BY KIRA LERNER & IGOR VOLSKY POSTED ON JANUARY 2, 2015 AT 12:07 PM UPDATED: JANUARY 2, 2015 AT 2:34 PM

In response to growing tensions between the New York Police Department and the city, police unions encouraged officers last week to not make arrests “unless absolutely necessary,” resulting in a 66 percent drop from the same period last year. While the protests have drawn scrutiny for “squandering the department’s credibility” and leaving the city’s streets virtually unattended, they have also had the unintended effect of benefitting New York’s low income residents who are usually the target of the city’s tough-on-crime practices.

From right, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton smile in conversation during a New York Police Academy graduation ceremony, Monday Dec. 29, 2014.

From right, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton smile in conversation during a New York Police Academy graduation ceremony, Monday Dec. 29, 2014. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JOHN MINCHILLO

The work stoppage is a result of outrage by police officers — led by union chief Patrick Lynch — over how Mayor Bill de Blasio responded to a grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer who killed Eric Garner, an unarmed African American man. The brutal murders of two New York city officers by a troubled man from Maryland in an apparent retaliation for the Garner killing has only inflamed tensions, leading Lynch to blame de Blasio for the killing and scores of police officers to engage in protest actions against the mayor.

The signs of tension first became apparent when some police officers turned their backs to de Blasio when he spoke in the hospital following the assassinations and then engaged in a mass back-turning when the mayor spoke at the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos. Last week, the police went a step further and stopped arresting New Yorkers for small crimes or ticketing people for minor offenses like parking violations, carrying open containers of alcohol or public urination.

As a result of what the New York Post is calling a “virtual work stoppage,” tickets and summonses for minor offenses have plummeted by 94 percent and overall arrests have fallen 66 percent. Theoretically, the practice will strain police budgets, which rely on fines from tickets to make-up for funding shortfalls. ​

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Photos: Thousands march in DC and New York to protest police violence – Updated by Amanda Taub on December 13, 2014, 7:00 p.m. ET

Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Thousands of demonstrators gathered in New York and Washington, DC, today for “Justice For All” marches to protest police violence.

The marches were organized in response to the recent grand jury decisions not to indict the police officers responsible for the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York. Their deaths prompted protests around the country in recent months, as have other police killings, such as the recent shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Riceby a police officer in Cleveland, Ohio.

However, the focus of the protests was much broader than those individual cases, with marchers calling for an end to racism, discrimination, and violent policing.