Killer cop trials are America’s big charades
Earl O. Hutchinson | 9/21/2017, 6 a.m.
The ultimate ace card for police officers that use dubious deadly force is the 1985 Supreme Court decision that police departments can make their own rules about when a suspect poses a threat to an officer. It comes down to a judgment call by the officer. The time-tested standard that is virtually encoded in law is that “I feared for my life.” This will be stated massaged, and repeated in every conceivable way by defense attorneys during their presentation. They’ll bolster that by painting a vivid and fearful picture of the defendant as violent and aggressive. The message is that the use of deadly force was both necessary and justified.
There’s another major impediment to getting convictions. That’s the prosecutors themselves. The rare times they prosecute officers in deadly force cases, they often overcharge, present far less than a vigorous prosecution, and allow the time clock to run off when officers are brought to trial. This all works to the officer’s advantage. The judge rejected the murder charge and sloughed off the prosecution’s plea for at least a conviction on lesser charges.
The daunting barriers that prosecutors face in trying to convict cops who kill will remain rigidly in place. This assures that America’s cop trials will continue to be America’s big charades.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is an associate editor of New America Media.