In summation, the prosecutor argued that the defendant must have provoked the police officer to fear for his life or he would never have fired.
It’s insane to believe that a police officer, a man with no personal animosity toward the defendant, no reason in the world to single the defendant out for attack, would simply fire at the defendant completely unprovoked. Does that make any sense to you? It’s ridiculous. It would never happen, and that’s why you must convict.
This argument, or a variation thereof, is one of the most useful weapons in the prosecutor’s arsenal. It’s explains away almost every act of force and violence alleged against a police officer. It comports with every normal person’s expectations. It provides a rational view of what happens that makes complete sense. It tacitly shifts the burden off the police officer and onto the defendant to explain why a police officer would do what he alleges he did.
Because no police officer would just act irrationally and fire at a person for absolutely no reason.
Via Carlos Miller and Kevin Underhill at Lowering the Bar :
Kevin usually posts about the strange and humorous aspects of the law. He found nothing funny about what happened here.
This video, taken by the shootee, makes it pretty clear that everybody is just calmly standing around until (at about :33 in the video), one of the officers suddenly raises his weapon and shoots the guy with a rubber bullet (or possibly a bean-bag round), for no apparent reason.
In a rational world, this couldn’t happen and yet it did. Most people would ask why, but the “shootee” couldn’t possibly answer that question. How would he know why a police officer decided to shoot him despite the absence of any apparent reason? And so the argument that this couldn’t have happened this way prevails, because of our need to believe we live in a rational world.
Carlos Miller, unlike Kevin, doesn’t write about funny things.
Scott Campbell, the man who was shot, uploaded the video to Youtube on Saturday, but the incident took place early Thursday morning after the general strike Wednesday.
The cop who fired the rubber bullet was one of many dressed in indistinguishable riot gear.
Chances are, black tape was covering his name tag.
Unfortunately, this type of behavior is not isolated.
Carlos’ final reference is to the argument of last resort when wholly inexplicable and violent police conduct happens, that it’s an “isolated incidents.” This is a critical argument, that we need not fear such conduct because it never happened before and could never happen again. But this video shows otherwise.
The shooting for no reason whatsoever is bad enough, but the reaction of the group of police officers, suited up in the paramilitary black, laughing and cheering the shooting, is what should strike fear in the heart of every judge, prosecutor and citizen. Which one of the black-suited cops will be the next hero to emerge to the applause of his peers for shooting someone in the head for kicks?
You want a reason for this behavior? Look no further than cop culture. And yet no judge has ever sustained an objection to a prosecutor’s summation that argues a police officer would never behave in such a violent and irrational way. Yet the videos prove otherwise.
Update: Within minutes of posting, I read Jonathan Turley’s post about his op-ed in Los Angeles Times covering the right to photograph police. It should be read in its entirety for its discussion, like Kevin Underhill’s post, of the 1st Circuit’s holding in Glik that citizens have an fundamental right to photograph police in public, as well as his discussion of Judge Richard Posner’s reaction to the same argument.
But other federal judges might not be so sure. Take Richard Posner, the intellectual leader of conservative judges and scholars who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago. Posner shocked many last month when he cut off an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union , which had filed suit to challenge an Illinois law preventing audio recording of police without their consent.
The ACLU lawyer had uttered just 14 words when Posner barked: “I’m not interested, really, in what you want to do with these recordings of peoples’ encounters with the police.” Posner then added his concerns about meddling citizens: “Once all this stuff can be recorded, there’s going to be a lot more of this snooping around by reporters and bloggers…. I’m always suspicious when the civil liberties people start telling the police how to do their business.”
We certainly can’t have “civil liberties people” telling the police how to do their business. That could result in, well, civil liberties. What sort of society would that produce? One where this wouldn’t be the daily recitation of wrongs perpetrated by those who we entrust to protect and serve.