But For Video: One Bad Apple Edition

You will find this video  of John McKenna, the Maryland college student being beaten on almost every blawg around.  The sworn allegations  against him in the post-beating prosecution were that he attacked and caused “minor injuries” to the horses and cops, and that he was kicked by a horse.  So there you have it, the cops proven conclusively to be lying, baton wielding animals, beating the daylights out of some happy kid having a good time skipping down the street. 

But this isn’t another opportunity to post a video that can be found on pretty much every criminal law blawg around today, but about the message taken from it.  One bad apple.  Or in this case, a few bad apples, but all beating a kid at the same time. There was a segment about it, showing the video over and over, on Good Morning America, with McKenna’s lawyer, Chris Griffiths, doing a superb job in the interview.

The video, and the story surrounding the video, still suggests that it’s an isolated incident.  But for the video, this would be just another story about a beaten kid complaining about cops without any evidence to back him up.  This isn’t to say that the police are wrong in every instance, but that the police can no longer wrap themselves in the presumption of being the good guys.  The question remains, when a video like this goes viral amongst the general public and mainstream media, how to make clear that this isn’t an isolated incident?

Before the pervasive use of video, those of us who claimed that vicious criminal attacks by police were the subject of derision; of course we would claim that the police were lying.  That’s what defense lawyers do.  But take this beyond the atrocity of watching cops, dressed in their black riot gear, striking a kid with batons.  Go beyond the cops who rush up after the initial assault, hoping to get some whacks in as well.  Consider the lies on the accusatory instrument, about horses and cops and kicks.  Griffiths also explained during his interview that the cops told McKenna not to mention he was injured, or they would hold him in jail over the weekend.  People at the jail, however, couldn’t pretend not to see the blood from his beating, and so he was treated.

Without a video, none of this happened.  Without a video, the perjured complaint is truthful.  Without a video, the coercion to force McKenna to participate in the coverup, the lie, would be incredible. 

This isn’t the first time a video of this nature made the rounds.  Remember the video  of New York City cop Patrick Pogon nailing cyclist Christopher Long during the Critical Mass protest?  That one went viral as well.  Then it faded from memory, and we’re now shocked by what happened to John McKenna. 

It’s likely that most people inclined to read Simple Justice are already aware of all this.  But we’re a distinct minority, whether by profession or inclination.  Some might accuse us of paranoia, antagonism toward the police, bias.  Certainly, our experiences lead us in that direction, at least as far as regular folks are concerned. 

This isn’t about fostering public hatred of police, however.  This is about healthy skepticism, the end of blind faith. 

How many videos, and beaten kids, will it take before the message sinks in?  Will another ten, another thousand, make a dent in the public consciousness?  Or will It always be one bad apple?

When I started my “But For Video” series of posts, it struck me that people would start to get the message after seeing that it not only happened, but happened regularly, if they were confronted with undeniable images of police misconduct.  I fear I severely underestimated the ability of people to deny.

8 comments on “But For Video: One Bad Apple Edition

  1. Pam Lakatos

    The deliberate blindness of Judges and Appellate Courts when it comes to bad officers is something that has astounded me lately. It is not just the willingness of the average citizen to buy into the myth of the sacrificing public servant but also the reluctance of trial judges to act when they have evidence of an officer’s wrongdoing that should not be ignored.
    Many years ago when I worked for a now deceased District Attorney, he would send word to a police chief that a particular officer would no longer be sponsored as a witness by his office. This occurred when the officer had been documented lying in reports or in testimony. It has been years since I have seen any District Attorney’s office do anything like this. Now they just try to explain it away and keep using them as witnesses. Recently, I had a young prosecutor tell me that he saw nothing wrong with a particular officer’s “fudging” because they were the “good guys” and “it’s a war out there”!
    There are days when I seriously debate whether getting up and going to court is really worth it. Nothing really changes and injustice seems to be more pervasive than ever. Of course, I do have a tendency to be melodramatic when I am tired, which is often now that I am old.

  2. SHG

    I feel the same way.  When I talk to friends who are on the bench, they just sigh and look at me like I’m an idiot.  They know, but what are they supposed to do?  “How about the right thing,” I suggest.  They look at me like I’m either crazy or a moron, as if being a judge empowers them to do the right thing.  The message is that I don’t get it.  They see themselves as powerless to buck the system, and any attempt to do so will result in their being thrown off the bench in humiliation.

    I’ve come to believe that until the public believes it and supports the judiciary in acting upon it, nothing will change. 

  3. Windypundit

    And then, during voir dire, the judge will ask us something like, “All other things being equal, is there any reason you would give less credence to the testimony of a police officer?” And the right answer is…?

  4. Sojourner

    Of course, if they did this in voir dire, they’d be excluded. But we have way to many cases where the crime is something someone did to an ‘officer’ and the ‘officer’ is the ‘victim’, as seen above. This slips into a kind of fascism quite easily – judges stop doing the right thing, DAs stop doing the right thing. It becomes a power game – which is why we’ve allowed the insertion of the victim into trials – which gives the whole proceeding the air of vengeance, rather than justice. People are afraid of the consequences of this horrible game, and they go into denial. Until it ruins the their life, or the life of someone they love.

  5. Thomas R. Griffith

    Sir, CNN’s Mr. Rick Sanchez had former cop turned security expert on large events (Mr. Palumbo) weigh in. He seemed very disgusted with the police but did say it was an “isolated incident” & “an anomaly” then basically said Maryland police are good guys. He worked with them in the past?

    I referred him to Injustice Everywhere and suggested that he check out Packratt’s library of footage including Archives. In thirty minute or less one will clearly see that this krap is running rampant from coast to coast, involving all races, poor and rich.

    As for police getting special treatment or passes from Grand Juries and Judges we can thank Police Unions / Associations. With House Bill HR 413 ‘The Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2009’ & ‘Senate Bill S.1611’ it can only get worse. Packratt has a pretty good layout of how it’ll affect us all. Hopefully he’ll chime in. Thanks.

  6. Lurking Reader 4008

    So, if whether it will take another ten videos, or a hundred, or a thousand–don’t worry, they’ll keep coming. When this kind of video STOPS being news, you’ll know that the public finally gets it.

  7. SHG

    Dogs haven’t stopped biting man, and it still hurts when they do.  Yet it never makes the front page.

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