A comment about the arrest of Ramsey Orta, the guy who shot the video of Eric Garner’s killing, was notably unilluminating from the perspective of the case, but quite clear about the commenter’s bias:
is anyone really surpirsed by this turn of events ??
It’s always obvious to those for whom it’s always obvious. It makes for an easy, simplistic view of the world. This view is the same for those on the other side of the street, who similarly see no questions, no issues, no doubts. That role today is being played by retired Jersey City Police Captain Robert Cubby:
We have watched in disbelief as the worst nightmare a police officer can have comes true. An NYPD officer applied what was falsely called a choke hold. Moments later, the perpetrator gasped for air and died in the hospital.
Now the horrible news comes from the medical examiner that the choke hold caused the death of the perpetrator. The death is ruled a homicide. The career of those involved from the NYPD dangles by a slender thread. The officers face the worst possible nightmare; loss of their career and being thrown in jail for a good portion of the rest of their lives.
While these officers now become defendants and have to, somehow, gather enough emotional strength to get through this horrible accusation. While they gather all their financial resources to defend themselves, stay out of jail and retain their jobs, it is time for the LEO family to support our NYPD brothers and sisters.
Seeing the world through blinders is unhelpful no matter which side of the street you’re on. Cubby’s concerns about Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s suffering the trauma of prosecution is endearing, though it’s not at all likely he would feel the same but for the fact that this “horrible accusation” is against a cop. Indeed, it’s no doubt far easier for readers here to see the absurd disingenuousness of Cubby’s words than it would be for a cop.
The same is true when readers here change the names but express the same thoughts.
I know: but you’re right and they’re wrong. You’re reasonable and they’re batshit crazy. You’re on the side of truth and justice and they’re, well, flaming assholes. Guess what? They think the exact same about you. About me too.
The New York Times suggests that the next potential step in the Garner fiasco won’t be as simple as many believe it should be.
But now, with the medical examiner’s conclusion that the death was a homicide, by chokehold and chest compression, the investigation — and most significantly, the question of whether to prosecute any police officers — rests in the hands of the Staten Island district attorney’s office.
It is a decision fraught with legal and political complications, all the more so because Staten Island is home to many police officers and, more than any other borough, is seen as sympathetic to law enforcement.
The world is replete with “us against them” scenarios, and Staten Island isn’t immune. Even cops have to live somewhere.
Joel Berger, a civil rights lawyer who worked for the city’s Law Department, said that the criminal justice system was often ill suited to handle allegations of police misconduct. That can be particularly true in places like Staten Island, where support for the police is so strong. “There’s always the possibility, Staten Island being Staten Island, that they won’t indict,” Mr. Berger said.
It’s not merely inconceivable to many that there wouldn’t be a prosecution of the police officers who took Eric Garner’s life, but that anyone who wasn’t so utterly biased, so blindly wrong, could think this wasn’t wrong. But the view from the other side of the street is very different.
Legal experts, civil rights lawyers and former prosecutors said there was little chance that Officer Pantaleo or the other officers would be indicted on a charge of murder. But they said a lesser homicide charge, like second-degree manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, could be possible.
There is little question, from even a slightly objective perspective, that this wasn’t an intentional murder. An argument could be made that Pantaleo’s chokehold reflected a depraved indifference to human life, an alternative basis for a second degree murder charge, but that too is a stretch. Cops forcefully seize recalcitrant defendants all the time, and even chokeholds, prohibited by the Patrol Guide but not by law, are commonplace, even if they shouldn’t be.
Perhaps the worst pitfall for a criminal defense lawyer is to become such a “true believer” that he loses the detachment necessary to appreciate that the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily see things the same way he does. When he begins to believe his own bullshit, that no reasonable person could possibly see things any differently than him, he’s lost.
In contrast to the obvious view of Eric Garner’s killing that most readers here see, those whose bias will lead them to seize upon any excuse to blame Garner (or even Orta) and excuse the police can’t be ignored. Indeed, a comment to Cubby’s post makes clear how personal bias blinds one’s vision:
Thank God my daughter and husband retired from the NYPD. Now I worry about three grand-nephews on the job.
If that 350 lb. person didn’t break the law and listened to the police officers in the first place none of this would have happened. PERIOD . We always said yes sir and no sir. We did not sit on stoops ready to shoot a cop the minute he walked by or start a fight when we knew we were wrong.
You can disagree with this commenter, rip his comment to shreds, castigate his myopic self-interest all day long. But what you cannot do is get him, should he be sitting as a grand juor, to vote for an indictment.
What happens next will begin with the hard political decisions to be made by Staten Island District Attorney, Daniel M. Donovan Jr., as to what, if anything, to charge, and then the views of the nice folks who live on Staten Island, who will sit as jurors, grand and perhaps petit, to pass judgment on police officers.
They will likely take a different view than I do. But denying this can, and likely will, cause one to delude oneself as to the reality of perspective. We may believe that we’re right, but they believe exactly the same thing. Pretending otherwise is unilluminating.
* Todt Hill Road, Staten Island, sits at the highest elevation of New York’s five boroughs, and perhaps of the entire eastern seaboard.