John Ross on Legal Issues
By David Henderson
If you’ve been following the Minneapolis police handling of George Floyd, you probably also know that police mistreatment of people–white people as well as black people–is not a new issue. One of the reasons is the lenient way courts and juries often treat policemen who badly hurt or even kill innocent, or relatively innocent, people.
My favorite commenter on these legal issues is John K. Ross. Ross is a researcher and editor of Short Circuit for the Institute for Justice, and a former Reason intern.
Every Friday, he writes Short Circuit, a roundup of interesting court cases around the country. He gets to the point very quickly, much more quickly than most legal commentators, but provides links so that if you want to follow up, you can.
His latest is here.
And here’s a sampling from the latest issue:
Allegation: After quadruple murder, Detroit police officers interrogate 14-year-old who lived nearby, feed him details of the crime. They falsely tell him his shoes tested positive for blood. The teen eventually confesses after the officers assure him he can go to school the next day. The real murderer confesses two weeks later, but no one follows up. The teen spends nine years in prison before being exonerated. Sixth Circuit: No qualified immunity for the detectives. (Click here for more from the National Registry of Exonerations.)
So the cops lied and after the real murderer confessed, they forgot to tell the court. Oops. What’s 9 years to a teenager?
Allegation: Man drunkenly argues, fights with his uncle. The man gets a gun from his car, heads back to the uncle’s porch. The uncle goes inside the house and locks the door, and the man turns away from the porch, the whole time pointing the gun (turns out it was a pellet gun) at either the ground or the sky. At that moment, and without announcing his presence, a Little Rock, Ark. officer shoots at the man five times, hitting him once in the head and killing him. Eighth Circuit: No qualified immunity.
Police get call about “a skinny black man” who might be casing Madison, Ala. neighborhood, approach 115-lb, 57-year-old Indian man who repeats “no English” several times. An officer frisks him, takes him to the ground, kneels on him while his head lolls and nose bleeds. The (unarmed) man, who was out for a morning stroll in his new neighborhood, is permanently paralyzed. Eleventh Circuit: Could be excessive force. No qualified immunity. (The cop was fired and charged with assault—and then acquitted and rehired.)
Disclosure: I give annually to the Institute for Justice, one of the worthiest charities I have found.