Thursday, June 2, 2016

Hypocrisy 101

Last fall 24 year-old Jamar Clark was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer. That much is not in dispute.

In March the Hennepin (MN) County Attorney, Mike Freeman, decided not to bring charges against Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, the two officers involved. In justifying his decision, Mr. Freeman ignored eyewitness accounts that Mr. Clark was handcuffed at the time he was shot and killed.

Yesterday the US Attorney in Minneapolis, Andrew Luger, announced that no federal civil rights charges would be filed against either of the officers. Mr. Luger defended his decision by stating that the accounts of what happened that evening were so "deeply conflicted" that he didn't think his office could proceed under the theory that Mr. Clark was handcuffed at the time he was murdered.
"Given the lack of bruising, the lack of Mr. Clark’s DNA on the handcuffs, and the deeply conflicted testimony about whether he was handcuffed, we determined that we could not pursue this case based on a prosecution theory that Mr. Clark was handcuffed at the time that he was shot. And, in fact, we reached the conclusion, based on all of the evidence that we reviewed, that the evidence suggested that Mr. Clark was not, in fact, handcuffed when he was shot.
Our second area of focus was what happened when Mr. Clark and the two officers were on the ground. We wanted to know whether the available evidence would support a finding beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers acted in a manner that was objectively unreasonable, even if Mr. Clark was not handcuffed."
-- US Attorney Andrew Luger
Of course that reasoning does not work in reverse. How many times have you picked up a case file and found contradictions between what the arresting officer says and what eyewitnesses say?  I would ask how that worked out, but, since you're reading a case file in court, we know what happened.

How many times has a prosecutor told you that it was up to the jury to decide whether the testimony and evidence was conflicting?

The only time it matters that evidence and witness statements are "deeply conflicted" is when the person being investigated wears a badge for a living. The only time a suspect's denials are given any credence by a prosecutor is when that suspect wears a badge for a living. The only time that a person is actually presumed innocent unless proven guilty is what that person wears a badge for a living.

I don't know what the answer is. Should a local district attorney be allowed to have the last word in whether a police officer should be prosecuted for taking the life of an unarmed person? We all know that the grand jury is used to shield district attorneys from criticism. When prosecutors don't want an indictment they will tell the grand jury to do what they think is right - and then when the grand jury declines to indict, the district attorney can tell the public the decision was taken out of his hands.

And the notion that the Feds should be called in to investigate ignores the reality that federal prosecutors are just as beholden to law enforcement as local prosecutors are - not to mention that murder is a state crime in the first place.

Of course we wouldn't be having this conversation if the mainstream media and public didn't swallow the prosecutor's justifications hook, line and sinker.

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