Unless you’ve just regained consciousness after a prolonged coma, you’ve heard about the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri by police officer Darren Wilson.
I’m not trying to make lite of a major human tragedy, but in case you HAVE missed all of the hullabaloo, here’s a summary of the incident.
Aside from the facts released through autopsy reports and a confirmation that the police officer was treated and released after having sustained a swollen eye-socket during the initial scuffle prior to shots being fired, there has been no shortage of speculation.
As for EYE witnesses, ample trials have shown conclusively that two people witnessing an identical event and providing diametrically opposed versions of it, are far more common than not.
But it’s also a fact that every time some police officer uses lethal force in the line of duty, the usual do-gooders seem to come out of the woodwork claiming the default mode for cops EVERYWHERE is shoot first. But I beg to differ.
The majority of this nation’s police officers are well-trained and exercise, not only due diligence, but often Jobian restraint when faced with the prospect of using lethal force.
But the news media views this as GOOD news, and as always, good news isn’t news. They rarely discuss it, let alone cover it in any relevant detail.
And yes, there’s no denying the reality that every police force has its relative share of armed morons who’d rather hoard all the “fun” for themselves, even if it means a few “civvies” may die.
I have no problems whatsoever with the Feds being brought in to investigate this; nor would I have any problems with a judge ordering that a muzzle be placed on the rampant chatter concerning it until all of the evidence has been analyzed.
I’ll await the rest of the FACTUAL story before deciding whether I should join the usual frenzied pitchfork and torch crowd.
But for those preparing the gallows from which to hang this police officer—and this is not a veiled attempt to defend the man—here’s a legal fact of life concerning police officers using lethal force.
In 1989, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Graham v. Connor that “The ‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” So wrote Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
What does this mean relative to the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, who, to most people, would not seem to have posed all that deadly a threat?
It means that the aggregate perspective of “most” people doesn’t count for squat; it’s the perspective of the police officer on the scene that matters, and it’s this perspective from which the officer’s actions must be judged.
If this matter makes it to trial, the key question before a jury isn’t going to be the fact that Michael Brown wasn’t armed, but whether or not a reasonable officer under similar circumstances would have reacted the same way.
Michael Brown was not merely a teenager; he was a physically imposing teenager who stood 6-feet, 4-inches tall and weighed in at a whopping 292-pounds.
As reported, he was a teenager who, for whatever reasons, challenged a police officer’s directive to get out of the middle of the street; which, again for whatever reasons, resulted in a scuffle between the teenager and the officer, as well as an injury to the officer’s eye-socket BEFORE any shots were fired.
Again, I’m not defending the police officer (Darren Wilson) or condemning Michael Brown.
If this comes to a trial, ALL of the evidence involved will become public, and a judge isn’t going to be swayed by rampant pubic emotions for or against either party involved.
The court’s final instructions to a sitting jury prior to going into deliberation will be based on the 1989 Supreme Court case of Graham v. Connor: Would a reasonable police officer, faced with similar circumstances, have acted the same way?
I don’t know enough about the FACTS in this case to say which way a jury will go if it gets to one. But I can tell you, based on my own research in such matters, grand juries AND trial juries in virtually all of the cases have found in favor of the police.
Judges throughout the various U. S. States have unanimously charged juries to judge police conduct by the standards set forth in Graham v. Connor, no matter how things may have looked to people not directly involved.
Will this case be any different? We shall see. And if the law rules in favor of the police officer, will it be the end of additional violent demonstrations? I highly doubt it.
People whose minds have already predetermined the “facts” of an issue based on “intuitive” logic, rarely change their minds in light of even the most obvious counter-intuitive REALITY.