Colorado’s Amendment T and the Meaning of Involuntary Servitude

How did slavery and involuntary servitude become active issues in the 2016 Colorado election? What is the significance of Amendment T, the ballot measure that addresses slavery and involuntary servitude with respect to criminals? Would Amendment T affect current criminal justice practices regarding in-prison work, work release, community service, or mandatory employment for parolees? Continue reading “Colorado’s Amendment T and the Meaning of Involuntary Servitude”

When It’s Wrong for Lawyers to Help Guilty Clients Go Free

Philosopher Michael Huemer makes a claim that will surprise many attorneys and observers of the legal system: With some important exceptions, lawyers should not help a clearly guilty client go free or otherwise evade justice. This runs counter to the common notion that attorneys can or even should help their guilty clients go free (within the boundaries of the law). Huemer presented his case, based on his 2014 paper on the subject, at a September 12 meeting of Liberty on the Rocks in Westminster, Colorado. Continue reading “When It’s Wrong for Lawyers to Help Guilty Clients Go Free”

Seeking Justice after the Racist Murders in Dallas

Terrorism is violence perpetrated against peaceable people to foment social or political change. The murder of police officers in Dallas was an act of terrorism.

On the evening of Thursday, July 7, at the location of an otherwise peaceful protest of recent troubling police killings of black men, Micah Xavier Johnson murdered five Dallas police officers and shot seven more for explicitly racist reasons. Continue reading “Seeking Justice after the Racist Murders in Dallas”

Richard Glossip Case Shows Injustice of the Death Penalty

At least in the conditions under which we live, the death penalty is unjust and it must be abolished.

Lethal Injection for Death Penalty
California Department of Corrections

On September 30, Richard Glossip was moments away from being killed by Oklahoma government employees via lethal injection. “With minutes to spare,” Governor Mary Fallin stayed the execution—not because of any concern about the justice of the sentence, but because the Department of Corrections had on hand a nonapproved drug for the purpose, CNN reports. Now all executions in the state, including Glossip’s, are “suspended indefinitely” as the state’s attorney general investigates the situation with the drugs.

What was Glossip’s alleged crime, and on what grounds was he convicted of it? The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard one of Glossip’s appeals, offers a fairly thorough background—although the account offered is based partly on the testimony of a potentially unreliable witness.

In 1997, Glossip managed a hotel owned by Barry Van Treese, and he informally hired Justin Sneed to do maintenance work. Apparently Glossip was stealing from Van Treese and otherwise mismanaging the hotel, and Van Treese was conducting an audit. On January 7, Sneed beat Van Treese to death with a baseball bat in a hotel room. Sneed testified that Glossip asked him to murder Van Treese and offered him money and job security in exchange.

As NBC reports, Sneed—the man who actually beat Van Treese to death—”cut a deal” for life in prison in exchange for testifying against Glossip.

Unlike many of Glossip’s defenders, I don’t actually think Glossip is innocent; I think he probably conspired with Sneed to murder Van Treese. The case against Glossip is entirely circumstantial, but it’s fairly convincing. He had the means, motive, and opportunity to commit the crime, as they say. This is true despite the fact that an “inmate [where Sneed was imprisoned] allegedly said he heard Sneed brag in prison that he set Glossip up,” as KFOR reports. The details of the case fit together too well against Glossip for me to think the inmate’s hear-say claims establish Glossip’s innocence.

I also think sentencing Glossip to death in horrifically unjust, given the circumstances. Indeed, I think the case illustrates why, in the context of the modern American criminal justice system, the death penalty should be abolished.

Consider some of the major problems with imposing the death penalty in Glossip’s case:

  • In what universe is it fair for the man who actually committed the murder to get a radically less-severe sentence than did the man who only talked about it? It is cruel and unusual to sentence Glossip to death while Sneed—who actually beat Van Treese to death with a bat—gets life in prison.
  • The fact that Sneed obviously sold his testimony against Glossip in exchange for a less-severe penalty should automatically make that testimony inadmissible in court. That fact also renders the evidence against Glossip, on the whole, inadequate to establish Glossip’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, in my view. Sneed’s testimony is corrupt. In essence, the prosecution said to Sneed, “Look, we’re going to try to kill you unless you say that Glossip conspired with you.” How is that not testimony under compulsion? In general, I think the practice of eliciting testimony under threat of much more severe criminal penalties is inherently and extremely unjust.
  • Keeping someone on death row for nearly two decades is cruel and unusual, and indeed it constitutes prolonged psychological torture. Granted, much of that delay was caused by the appeals pursued by Glossip and his attorneys. However, it would also be cruel and unusual to effectively tell a man, “Sure, you can let us kill you right now, but you’ll never know if a protracted legal battle might spare your life.” If the death penalty can be applied in a relatively humane, Constitutionally sound way, it would have to be applied swiftly and with due confidence that the legal process was not corrupted. Practically, I think meeting those conditions is impossible—so the alternative is to abolish the death penalty.
  • Last-minute stays in execution are cruel and unusual, and they also constitute psychological torture. In effect, the governor said to Glossip, “Psych! We were going to kill you right away, but now we’re going to wait some indefinite period to kill you so we can make sure the way we kill you is in accordance with largely arbitrary rules.” If that practice is Constitutional, then so should be forcing a person to play Russian roulette with a loaded handgun.
  • The fact that Oklahoma officials brutally tortured a man to death just last year—the death was intentional, the torture was not—renders subsequent attempted similar executions by these officials (or their replacements) cruel and unusual. Imagine reading the story of Clayton Lockett’s death, then realizing that many of the same people responsible for his horrific death will also be responsible for your death. To say the least, you would not be confident of a humane end. Oklahoma’s handling of previous executions imposes psychological torture on others on death row there.

Maybe some people will glibly dismiss my concerns about psychological torture and it constituting cruel and unusual punishment. But I don’t think any person can honestly imagine themselves in Glossip’s position and not recognize the fact that he has been severely (albeit psychologically) tortured. That Van Treese suffered an even worse fate does not justify what government officials have done to Glossip—the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment does not carry the disclaimer “unless the bastard really deserves it.”

I don’t have a firm position on the death penalty in the context of a well-constructed legal system. I’m leaning in the direction of thinking that merely the act of forcing a criminal to anticipate and await death constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, even if the death itself can reliably be made peaceful and painless. But, in the present legal context, those theoretical discussions are largely beside the point.

The fact is that we live in a world in which police officers and prosecutors sometimes lie, in which government officials and juries sometimes are biased, in which prosecutors sometimes put their political ambitions as well as their own convenience before justice, in which defendants often have huge incentives to lie about others on the stand in exchange for lesser sentences, in which tax-funded defense attorneys frequently are severely overworked or just plain incompetent, in which executions sometimes result in torturous deaths. In the world we live in, “Since 1973, over 140 people have been released from death rows in 26 states because of innocence.” How many were killed despite their innocence?

Someday, if we’re able to effectively reform the criminal justice system, we can talk about whether the death penalty properly plays a role in that system. But, at least in the conditions under which we live, the death penalty is unjust and it must be abolished.


Reynolds on Militarized Police

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Glenn Harlan Reynolds writes for USA Today: “[B]lurring the lines between civilian policing and military action is dangerous, because soldiers and police have fundamentally different roles. . . . The people [police] are policing aren’t enemy combatants, but their fellow citizens—and, even more significantly, their employers. A combat-like mindset on the part of police turns fellow-citizens into enemies, with predictable results.” Reynolds also endorses three specific reforms: Abolish police unions, require that officers wear video cameras, and let people sue cops more easily for abuse.

I’ve endorsed requiring officers active with the public to wear and use video cameras. I’ve also advocated district attorneys prosecuting officers for crimes they commit. Reynolds’s other two ideas sound potentially good, too, but I think they’re secondary.

I’d like to publicly thank Reynolds as well as Radley Balko and Dave Kopel for drawing attention to the important issue of militarized police and the resulting abusive practices.

Do Colorado Police Really Need 1,160 M-16s and 8 Mine-Resistant Vehicles?

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Kudos to Chris Vanderveen and Denver’s 9News team for reporting this important story: “Colorado’s law enforcement agencies have acquired a vast arsenal of military-grade weapons, vehicles and equipment since 1999 under a Department of Defense program. . . .” Among other things, Colorado police have acquired “1,160 M-16’s and eight mine resistant vehicles.” Do we seriously expect the police to keep the peace when they’re outfitted for war?


“There Is a War on the Black Male”—By Black Males

Image: Angela George
Image: Angela George

Spike Lee believes “there is a war on the black male” in America, as the Spectator reports. He is absolutely correct, but he has not to my knowledge pointed his finger at the primary culprit: other black males who are part of the gang culture.

As I pointed out last year for the Objective Standard, about half of all homicides in the United States involve black victims. And it simply is not the case that usually the problem is whites killing blacks; as the Wall Street Journal reported a couple years ago, “Bureau of Justice Statistics data show that from 1976 to 2005, white victims were killed by white defendants 86% of the time and black victims were killed by blacks 94% of the time.”

So, yes, march against police brutality—and demand changes to prevent such abuse (such as by requiring officers to wear and use video cameras). Yes, demand changes in America’s drug laws that enrich violent gangs and imprison low-level drug offenders. Yes, demand the repeal of economic regulations that especially harm minorities. But let’s not lose sight of the very real problems of America’s gang-fueled subculture. Where are the marches to address that?

Violence-Minded Cops on Patrol in Missouri

Image: Loaves of Bread
Image: Loaves of Bread

According to the Daily Caller, a police officer in Missouri, Matthew Pappert, allegedly stated on Facebook that the protesters in Ferguson “should have been put down like a rabid dog the first night” and that he wished for a “Muslim with a backpack” to blow up the assembled “thugs and white trash” (referring to KKK members). Hat tip to the St. Louis Post Dispatch via the Week.

And, a couple years ago, reports the Dispatch, St. Louis County police officer Dan Page said, “I personally believe in Jesus Christ as my lord savior, but I’m also a killer. I’ve killed a lot. And if I need to, I’ll kill a whole bunch more. If you don’t want to get killed, don’t show up in front of me, it’s that simple. I have no problem with it. . . . I’m into diversity. I kill everybody, I don’t care.” I do get the sense that there’s some additional context to Page’s remarks, but I didn’t want to watch the full hour-long video of Page to run down the details. I watched the first few minutes, and that was enough to convince me that, at a minimum, Page holds some very bizarre views.

Here’s a thought: How about not employ police officers who sound like sociopaths?


Staten Islanders Protest Eric Garner’s Death by Police

Image: Tommy Miles
Image: Tommy Miles

Thousands of people marched in Staten Island yesterday to protest the police-caused death of Eric Garner on July 17, as the New York Daily News reports. What was Garner’s “crime” for which police killed him? It was allegedly “peddling single, untaxed cigarettes near a Staten Island park,” the News reports. The man who filmed his death claims that the police confronted Garner for breaking up a fight. That video does show Garner resisting arrest, but not aggressively so; he merely told the police he was tired of them harassing him for no good reason, then he said “don’t touch me” when they began to invade his personal space. Police officers placed Garner in an extended choke hold, causing him to complain he couldn’t breath, and pushed his body into the ground.

Pause to let the facts of this case sink in. Garner was killed by police for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. No, the officers in question didn’t mean to kill him; they “merely” executed an extremely dangerous assault on Garner that happened to result in his death. In other words, Garner’s killing was not premeditated murder, but I cannot see how, morally, it was anything short of manslaughter. Morally, you don’t get to kill people indiscriminately or violently assault them for petty reasons, just because you’re wearing a badge. The simple fact is that if anyone other than a police officer had done to Garner what the officers did to him, the assailant already would have been prosecuted for manslaughter—and rightly so. So why do police officers not have to follow the same laws against violating people’s rights the rest of us follow?

Of course, it would help immensely if legislators would stop authorizing police to use potentially deadly force against people who are violating no one’s rights.

“Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan announced this week that a grand jury will begin considering criminal charges next month,” the News reports.

Denver Deputy Punches Out Inmate, DA Declines to Prosecute

A Denver sheriff’s deputy was caught on video walking up to an apparently non-aggressive inmate and violently punching the man to the ground. The inmate had said something to the officer (I know not what), and stood up when the officer walked over to him. As far as I can tell, the officer punched out the guy because he was irritated with him. If you or I acted that way, we’d almost certainly see the inside of a jail, and we’d almost certainly be prosecuted for assault. But not the cops! “DA investigators determined that an unjustified use of force could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” Noelle Phillips reports for the Denver Post. But why not put the matter to a jury? Watch the video and decide for yourself.

Sowell on the Ferguson “Bullet Counters”

Image: Thomas Sowell
Image: Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell opens his recent article about the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, by pointing out that most of us “were not there, and do not know what happened when Michael Brown was shot.” Sowell then accuses governor Jay Nixon of “poisoning the jury pool” by calling for a “vigorous prosecution” prior to a discovery of the facts. I’ve made similar points in my articles about conflicting eye witness accounts and about the governor’s remarks.

Then Sowell addresses the claim that the mere fact that the officer in question shot Brown multiple times is proof that he did something wrong. It is not. Of course, if Brown was trying to surrender at the time the shots were fired, then the officer was wrong to fire even a single shot. But if Brown was charging the officer—accounts vary on this point—then the officer may well have been justified in firing multiple shots. Sowell writes, “Since the only justifiable reason for shooting in the first place is self-protection, when should you stop shooting? Obviously when there is no more danger. But there is no magic number of shots that will tell you when you are out of danger.”

People who get their firearms training from the movies or from television may mistakenly believe that a single bullet magically stops an attacker, perhaps even knocking him across the room. In the real world, attackers sometimes keep coming even after taking multiple rounds. Many factors are relevant, including the size of the attacker, his mental state, the placement of the shots, and the type of gun and ammunition involved.

I am not saying I know whether Brown was charging the officer. I do not. I am merely saying, as Sowell points out, that the mere fact that the officer shot Brown multiple times is not, by itself, reason to condemn the officer.


When May an Officer Use Potentially Deadly Force to Apprehend a Suspect in Missouri?

Image: Loaves of Bread
Image: Loaves of Bread

As I recently noted, some witnesses claim the officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, first fired at him as he was running away. Whether he did so has not, to my mind, been firmly established one way or the other.

As I observed, it is not the case that a police officer can never fire a gun at a fleeing suspect. I quoted Supreme Court Justice Byron White: “Where the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others, it is not constitutionally unreasonable to prevent escape by using deadly force.” I wondered whether Missouri law or precedents say more on the matter. Someone on Twitter pointed out that the case Mattis v. Schnarr indeed addresses the matter.

In that 1976 case, the US. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, ruled:

. . . Missouri statutes . . . permit law enforcement officers to use deadly force to effect the arrest of a person who has committed a felony if the person has been notified that he or she is under arrest and if the force used is restricted to that reasonably necessary to effect the arrest. We hold the statutes unconstitutional as applied to arrests in which an officer uses deadly force against a fleeing felon who has not used deadly force in the commission of the felony and whom the officer does not reasonably believe will use deadly force against the officer or others if not immediately apprehended.

The principle is that a police officer may use potentially deadly force against a fleeing suspect, only if the suspect is likely to endanger the lives of the officer or of others. (It would be helpful to look at current Missouri statutes on the matter.)

If the officer in Ferguson did shoot at Brown as he fled (again, I’m not sure he did), did the officer reasonably believe that Brown posed such a threat? That depends entirely on the nature of the confrontation between the officer and Brown that immediately preceded the shooting. And the facts regarding that confrontation are, as far as I can tell, entirely unclear. Still, it’s useful to at least look at the legal and moral parameters for justifiable uses of force, to see if they possibly apply.

On Evidence and Agendas in Ferguson

Image: Loaves of Bread
Image: Loaves of Bread

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the passion with which some people rush alternately to condemn or to vindicate the police officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Might I suggest that we try instead to go where the evidence leads?

Part of the problem is that many of the “facts” reported about the case (and this is typical in any high-profile incident) turn out to be totally false or at least suspect. To take just one recent example, Gateway Pundit claims the officer in question suffered an “orbital blowout fracture to the eye socket.” But Charles Johnson offers pretty good reasons to doubt that account; he embeds CNN video from an eye witness that (apparently) shows the officer immediately after the shooting, and he is not obviously injured. If he had an eye injury resulting from a scuffle with Brown, it wasn’t such a “blowout” that it was obvious at a distance on camera. So did Brown injure the officer? I don’t know.

A report from yesterday’s New York Times indicates many of the problems with trying to accurately piece together what happened. “[W]itnesses have given investigators sharply conflicting accounts of the killing,” the Times summarizes. Consider some of the problems:

“Some” people claim that Brown and the officer struggled, with the officer in his vehicle and Brown reaching through the window. Apparently at that point the officer’s gun went off. Was that because the officer was reaching for it and misfired? Was that because Brown reached for it and fired it? Was that because the officer was attempting to shoot Brown at that time and missed? I don’t know.

“Many” witnesses say, “Mr. Brown ran away, the officer got out of his car and began firing toward Mr. Brown, and then Mr. Brown stopped, turned around and faced the officer.” If those witnesses are correct, then the officer shot at Brown, but did not strike him or only grazed him, while Brown’s back was turned to the officer. If that account is correct, then the question becomes: Was the officer justified in shooting at Brown as he fled?

Most people would assume that an officer may not shoot a fleeing suspect. But, according to Wikipedia, Supreme Court Justice Byron White declared that sometimes the use of potentially deadly force against a fleeing suspect may be appropriate or at least legal: “Where the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others, it is not constitutionally unreasonable to prevent escape by using deadly force.” (Missouri may have statutes or precedents regarding this matter; it would be worth someone checking.)

If Brown attempted to murder the police officer by grabbing for the officer’s gun with the intent of then shooting the officer, then that officer might reasonably have concluded that Brown posed a “threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others.” On the other hand, if Brown didn’t actually assault the officer, then for the officer to shoot Brown as he fled would have been immoral and illegal. The key question, then, is, did Brown assault the officer, and, if so, in what manner? I do not know the answer to that question.

Another possibility is that the witnesses in question are wrong, and that the officer did not shoot at Brown as he fled, but only after Brown turned around. Perhaps forensics experts can definitively nail down that point at least—but perhaps not.

Next, reports the Times, “Some witnesses say that Mr. Brown, 18, moved toward Officer [Darren] Wilson, possibly in a threatening manner, when the officer shot him dead. But others say that Mr. Brown was not moving and may even have had his hands up when he was killed.” That’s a pretty radical difference in interpretation of events by eye witnesses. So was Brown trying to attack the officer, or was he trying to surrender? I don’t know.

Unless you were there and you saw what happened with your own eyes, if you claim that, based on existing evidence, you know definitely what happened on the day of Brown’s death, I have to question your motives.

Police Video Should Be Mandatory and Public

Image: Zuzu
Image: Zuzu

I have called for all law enforcement officers at all levels to wear video cameras any time they interact with the public. But such a requirement is not adequate, as Radley Balko points out in a Washington Post article (hat tip to Paul Hsieh). Balko notes that, in San Diego, police have withheld recordings from the media and the public at large—which mostly defeats the purpose of having the cameras in the first place. He offers other similarly disturbing examples.

Legislators should require that law enforcement agents wear video cameras whenever they interact with the public, provide stiff penalties for officers who turn off their cameras or “lose” footage, and require that the footage be made publicly available on request (probably with some exceptions to protect the privacy of people recorded). Although I haven’t seen a detailed plan spelling out all the specifics, no doubt such a plan is feasible.

If the police knew their interactions with the public were being recorded, officers would be far more likely to behave responsibly. And if an officer ended up in a violent confrontation with someone, a recording very often would provide clear evidence about what happened. The only losers under such a system are violent criminals and corrupt cops. The winners are innocent people and good cops. So why would we not do this?

What Happened to the Presumption of Innocence in Ferguson?

Image: Bernard Pollack
Image: Bernard Pollack
I have often called for the prosecution of police officers who violate people’s rights. But I also believe in the presumption of innocence. It seems that Missouri Governor Jay Nixon does not. In a recent statement (cited by Fox News), Nixon says, “A police officer shot and killed Michael Brown in broad daylight. . . . A vigorous prosecution must now be pursued. The democratically elected St. Louis prosecutor and the attorney general of the United States each have a job to do.” (Fox2 has the complete video.) But if it’s the prosecutor’s job to decide whether the evidence warrants prosecution, then why is Nixon telling the prosecutor how to do his job?

I have no idea whether the police shooting of Brown was justified. And I doubt anyone else does, either—except the officer in question. If the police officer in question had been wearing a video camera—I’ve also frequently endorsed putting cameras on all officers active with the public—we would almost certainly have good evidence one way or the other. But the limited evidence I’ve seen could support very different interpretations of what happened. Nixon’s observation that the officer shot Brown “in broad daylight” is ridiculous; daylight doesn’t make someone less aggressive—if Brown was indeed acting aggressively.

We already know that the officer in question shot Brown in the front, not the back—as was frequently claimed at the outset. We also know that Brown had almost certainly just finished robbing a local store and assaulting its employee—something that demonstrates that Brown was a violent man at least sometimes. Was he charging the officer at the time of the shooting or trying to surrender? I don’t know, and anyone who claims to know I regard with suspicion.

The presumption of innocence means the officer is presumed not to have acted criminally, unless the evidence convincingly shows otherwise. The fact that a bunch of people are angry (and that some of those people are smashing and looting stores and assaulting the police) is not a reason to upend a cornerstone of American justice.

Did you say prosecution, governor, or persecution?


Was Michael Brown High on Marijuana, and Did It Matter?

Image: Cannabis Training University
Image: Cannabis Training University

Citing an anonymous “person familiar with the [St. Louis] county’s investigation,” the Washington Post reports Michael Brown “had marijuana in his system when he was shot and killed by a police officer on Aug. 9 in Ferguson,” Missouri.

Leftist David Sirota persuasively argues for the International Business Times that there’s no good reason to think marijuana contributes to violent behavior overall.

More concerning to me is that Brown apparently robbed a market just ten minutes before he was shot. Maybe consuming marijuana doesn’t make a person aggressively agitated, but robbing a store and assaulting its employees (as Brown apparently did) almost certainly does. And flashing gang signs is also probably associated with aggressive violence. The Christian Science Monitor points to a report by Pat Dollard with images showing Brown apparently flashing gang signs. (That doesn’t mean he was active in a gang, of course.)

As far as I can tell, there simply is not sufficient evidence (and there may never be sufficient evidence) to determine whether the officer who shot Brown was justified in doing so. What is clear is that Brown was no angel. Of course, the police have a responsibility to protect the rights of everyone, not just angels.


Michael Brown Shot in the Front, Not the Back

Michael Brown was shot in the front, not the back, as a New York Times article reports (hat tip to Daily Caller). The report is based on an autopsy performed by “Dr. Michael M. Baden, the former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, who flew to Missouri on Sunday at the family’s request to conduct the separate autopsy,” the Times reports. Brown appears to have been shot six times, and possibly more, with two shots entering his head and four entering his arm, according to the report. This would seem to corroborate the eye witness account that Brown first ran from police, then came “back towards” the officer who shot him.

10:52 pm Update: Lawyers for Michael Brown’s family have a very different interpretation of the data than that Brown charged the officer. “Lawyers for the family of Michael Brown said a noted former medical examiner’s autopsy backs claims the 18-year-old was trying to surrender when he was killed,” Fox News reports. At any rate, the autopsy rules out the possibility that a police officer shot Brown in the back as he ran away. The autopsy indicates that Brown was facing the officer. Now the open question is whether Brown was seeking to surrender or acting aggressively toward police. As I’ve repeatedly noted, if the officer in question had been wearing a camera, its video almost certainly would have provided definitive evidence one way or the other. As it is, we may never move beyond “he said she said” claims.

Does Eye Witness Suggest Michael Brown Charged Police?

Image: Loaves of Bread
Image: Loaves of Bread

As Fox News reports, one self-purported eye witness to the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, seems to claim that Brown charged a police officer immediately before that officer shot him. The unnamed person in question can be heard in the background of a graphic video captured of Brown laying in the street soon after he was shot. The person holding the camera claims that the police chased after Brown and shot him again as he lay on the ground; however, the person holding the camera also explicitly says he was not an eye witness to the shooting, and that he’s repeating what he had heard others say. However, another person, who can be heard in the background, claims that he was an eye witness to the shooting, and that person claims that Brown and the officer were “over the truck,” “then he [Brown] ran, police got out and ran after him.” Then, “The next thing I know, he comes back towards them. The police had his guns drawn.” The relevant portion of the video can be seen starting at around the 6:30 minute mark (warning: graphic content). Of course, this is still not a confirmed account; there are many potential reasons why this interpretation of events may not be accurate or complete. However, to my mind this audio provides a good reason to think that Brown may well have charged police—in which case the police shooting of him, which took place soon after a local robbery in which Brown may have participated, may have been justified. (Obviously his death is tragic regardless of the details.)

As I’ve noted before, if the officer in question had been wearing a camera, we would now know definitively what happened that day. I believe that every federal, state, and local law enforcement officer should, while on duty in a public setting, wear and use an active video camera.

In related news, “Missouri governor orders National Guard to Ferguson after latest night of clashes,” Fox reports. Even if the shooting of Brown was not justified, that would hardly justify rioters smashing and looting stores and attempting to injure police, as some of have done.

Finally, Johnathan Gentry, a minister local to Ferguson, shared a YouTube video in which he condemns those perpetrating violence. Fox shows part of the video (with which I do not entirely agree) and interviews Gentry.

10:59 pm Update: See my updates elsewhere regarding claims that Brown was surrendering, not acting aggressively toward the police.


Adama on Militarized Police

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Adama from Scyfy’s Battlestar Galactica says, “There’s a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people.” As John Edwin Mason writes, “God bless the screenwriter who wrote these lines.” Hat tip to Paul Hsieh.

Accusations Fly about 2009 Ferguson Police Abuse

Michael Daly tells a horrifying story for the Daily Beast. According to Daley, police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, arrested Henry Davis on September 20, 2009, on an outstanding warrant. The first problem is that the police arrested the wrong man; they got the wrong “Henry Davis.” Then, for no justifiable reason, the police beat Davis, at one point kicking him in the head as he lay defenseless on the ground. He was so badly injured they took him to the hospital. And then the police charged Davis with “property damage” for—get this—getting his blood on their uniforms. Could this story possibly be true? If it is, why are the officers involved not now sitting in prison? Hopefully this case will become the subject of a more detailed investigation, if not by prosecutors then at least by journalists.