Category Archives: Criminal Law

List of Six Baltimore Officers and Charges

Baltimore did what Ferguson and St. Louis County did not; decide that probable cause existed of a crime. Unfortunelty, it took civil unrest and riots, but at least a decision to bring charges was made. The Baltimore prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, did not need a grand jury and secret witnesses to determine if charges should be made.

Prosecutors all across the country bring charges against ordinary citizens on far less evidence than what existed in either Ferguson or Baltimore. In theory, no one is above the law, however, in practice that has not always been the case. Until recently, it was a rare event for police officers to be held accountable for their actions. In most cases, charges of brutality or misconduct was not believed or in some cases covered up. That lack of accountability created an atmosphere ripe for abusive practices. History show us that revolutions ususally stem from abuse of power or injustices.

One of the key differences between Ferguson and Baltimore is the question of exactly who was responsible. Was Freddie Gray's death caused by injuries sustained before being put in the van or did they occur during transport. The arrest video of Freddie Gray seems to show Gray was already in pain. However, it was clear that Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, that fact was never in dispute. The only question was whether the killing involved misconduct on the part of Wilson.

The grand jury in the Wilson case was provided bad law, witnesses were allowed to provide false testimony and Wilson was allow to provide unchallenged testify after having months to construct a narrative, possibly based upon media reports and analysis. The Ferguson Police certainly must have questioned Darren Wilson extensively after the Brown's killings. Questions about why Wilson stopped Brown and why he re-engaged Brown after intially pulling away were certainly asked. The Ferguson Police Chief stated almost a week after Brown's killing that Darren Wilson was not aware of the alleged strong arm robbery at a convenience store. Months later, Darren Wilson testified before a grand jury that he was not only aware of the robbery, but realized that Brown fit the description of the strong arm robbery suspect.

Darren Wilson and his fellow Ferguson officers had total control of the crime scene for some time before St. Louis County was even called. The video of South Carolina officer Michael Slager shows how easy it is to tamper with or plant evidence.

Unless some of the Balimore police officers provide testimony against a fellow officer, I expect the officers to be found guilty of the misconduct and false imprisonment charges, but not guilty on the more serious charges of assault, manslaughter or murder. Clearly someone caused the injuries that resulted in Mr. Gray's death, but proving beyond a reasonable doubt who caused those injuries will be hard for the prosecutor to prove. Hopefully, I'm wrong and the evidence can clearly show who is responsible. However, had the three arresting officers not arrested Mr. Gray in the first place without probable cause, this entire incident would never have occured.

Here is a full list of charges, as released by the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City:


Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr.

Mugshot - Caesar R Goodson Jr

The only officer in the group facing a murder charge. He drove the van that transported Gray to jail.

1) Second degree depraved heart murder (30 yrs.)
 2) Manslaughter (involuntary) (10 yrs.)
 3) Assault/second degree (10 yrs.)
 4) Manslaughter by vehicle (gross negligence) (10 yrs.)
 5) Manslaughter by vehicle (criminal negligence) (3 yrs.)
 6) Misconduct in office (8th Amendment* )


Lt. Brian W. Rice 

Mugshot - Brian W RiceOne of the three arresting officers. Rice was the first officer to make eye contact with Gray while on bike patrol, State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said. Rice then chased Gray, calling for backup on his police radio. Mosby said Rice failed to establish probable cause for Gray’s arrest.

1) Manslaughter (involuntary) (10 yrs.)
 2) Assault/second degree (10 yrs.)
 3) Assault/second degree (10 yrs.)
 4) Misconduct in office (8th Amendment*)
 5) Misconduct in office (8th Amendment*)
 6) False imprisonment (8th Amendment*)


Officer Edward M. Nero

Mugshot - Edward M Nero

One of the three arresting officers. On bike patrol with Rice and another officer when they chased Gray. Nero handcuffed Gray and held him down until the police wagon arrived, Mosby said.

1) Assault/second degree (10 yrs.)
 2) Assault/second degree (10 yrs.)
 3) Misconduct in office (8th Amendment*)
 4) Misconduct in office (8th Amendment* )
 5) False imprisonment (8th Amendment*)


Officer Garrett E. Miller

Mugshot - Garrett E Miller

One of the three arresting officers. Miller was on bike patrol with Rice and Nero when they apprehended Gray, according to the prosecutor. Miller helped load Gray into a police wagon and failed to restrain him with a seat belt, Mosby said.

1) Assault/second degree (10 yrs.)
 2) Assault/second degree (10 yrs,)
 3) Misconduct in office (8th Amendment*)
 4) Misconduct in office (8th Amendment* )
 5) False imprisonment (8th Amendment* )


Sgt. Alicia D. White

Mugshot - Alicia D WhiteShe was dispatched to investigate two citizens’ complaints abut Gray’s arrest. At one point, according to Mosby, she “spoke to the back of his head,”even though Gray was unresponsive.

The prosecutor said White made no effort to assess Gray’s condition despite having been told he needed medical assistance.

1) Manslaughter (involuntary) (10 yrs.)
 2) Assault/second degree (10 yrs.)
 3) Misconduct in office (8th Amendment*)


Officer William G. Porter

Mugshot - William G PorterPorter, checked on Gray and asked him whether he needed medical assistance. When Gray said he could not breathe, Porter helped him off the van floor and onto a bench. The officer failed to restrain Gray with a seat belt, Mosby said. Porter did not call for medical help, despite Gray’s request.

1) Manslaughter (involuntary) (10 yrs.)
 2) Assault/second degree (10 yrs.)
 3) Misconduct in office (8th Amendment*)


*Any sentence that does not constitute cruel & unusual punishment

Police Officer Charged with Murder of Unarmed Man

My son's car is being repaired and I had to pick him up after classes today. He explained how today had been a particularly good day because two of his professors had very interesting guest speakers in class. One of those speakers was a police officer and childhood friend of the professor. The officer explained how most cops are good and how he the and professor had grown up in a ruff area and were frequently harassed by police. His motivation for becoming an officer was to make changes from the inside. 

Unfortunately, shortly after our ride home, the news of yet another shooting and killing of an unarmed person by police was on the news. As I have stated before, I believe that most cops are good cops, but good cops aren't the problem. There is a major problem with the way some officers target and interact with members of the black community.

A police officer with the North Charleston, SC Police Department, was arrested today, Tuesday April 7th, for a shooting that took place Saturday morning after a traffic stop concerning a brake light. The officer, Michael Slager, claimed he had feared for his life because the man had taken his stun gun during a scuffle after the traffic stop. His arrest took place after a video surfaced that shows him shooting an unarmed man eight times who was running away.

Walter L. Scott, a 50 year old Coast Guard veteran and father of four, who family members said was preparing to get married was identified as the victim. Five of the eight bullets hit Scott, his family’s attorney said; four of those struck his back, the other hit an ear.

 

"I can tell you that as the result of that video and the bad decision made by our officer, he will be charged with murder," North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey told reporters Tuesday. "When you're wrong, you're wrong. And if you make a bad decision — don't care if you're behind the shield or just a citizen on the street — you have to live by that decision." 

Unfortunately, it takes someone taking a video at the exact moment of a police shooting before its considered a bad decision or a possibility that a crime was committed. When police are not held accountable for their questionable behavior, it encourages other officers to commit even bolder acts. For years, rouge cops have been getting away with what have been blatant abuses of power and using deadly force unnecessarily. 

Michael Slager didn't even hesitate to shot, because most likely he felt his story of feeling threatened would be believed. Two people filed complaints against Slager during his time with the force, including one man who said the policeman shot him with a Taser for no reason in September 2013.

A woman who witnessed the 2013 incident and gave her account to the investigators at the time, and told a newspaper reporter that Slager pulled Mario Givens, who was clad in boxer shorts, from his home and shot him with a Taser. Internal investigators exonerated Slager of any wrongdoing, even though the suspect in that case was never arrested.

Attorney David Aylor, who released a statement on Slager’s behalf earlier this week, said Tuesday that he wasn’t representing the officer anymore.

I will be fifty years old in August, the same age as the victim. It's bad enough having watch out for criminals, but having to fear normal interactions with the police only adds insult to injury. I understand some people reading this will think, but what about all the other killings being committed?

Other than murders that occur during the heat of passion, most murders are committed by criminals participating in illegal or illicit behavior. They do not have the public trust and most people when being approached on the street by a stranger has a heightened sense of awareness and mentally sizes up the stranger to determine the appropriate level of precaution. When threatened by a stranger or criminal, a person may take defensive action to protect themselves. 

A person doesn't feel a sense of obligation to engage with a stranger and can therefore avoid some potentially dangerous situations. However, a police officer has public trust and more importantly government sanctioned authority over you and openly carries a weapon. A person feels compelled to follow the instructions and direction of a police office and therefore will automatically interact with the police officer, even during a chance encounter on the street.

When a person feels threatened by a police officer, they are less likely to take defensive actions; and even if they did, most likely the police version or assessment of the situation will be believed over the citizen's. If a person uses deadly force to protect them self from a rouge officer, that person will certainly be charged with murder. The only viable option available to an innocent person being threatened by a police officer is the flee, however, that very act of running away will be used to justify deadly force against them.

Below is a longer version of the video of Mr. Scott being killed. After you watch it, I want you to consider whether most people, including yourself, would have believed the officer's version that his life was in danger, if this video didn't exist.

Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina, urged state and federal officials to start a broad probe into North Charleston police policies, training and allegations of racial profiling. Past calls for such an investigation have been met with no response, she said.

Update: 4-9-2015

The dash cam video from Michael Slager's squad car was released today. The video shows Walter Scott, exiting and running. Based upon what's visible in the dash cam video, there doesn't appear to be any apparent reason for Mr. Scott to take of running the way he did. The dash cam indicates that Slager's approach and demeanor appear to be appropriate. Mr. Scott running the way he did certainly appears to have escalated the situation and it will certainly be argued that he would still be alive if he had not run. There appears to be a passenger in the car with Mr. Scott and hopefully he will be able to provide some reason or explanation for Mr. Scott's behavior. Based solely on the dash cam, Mr. Scott made a poor decision and was in the wrong. However, what has been shown in the shooting video, Mr. Slager made a worse decision and there was no justification for a trained police officer to use deadly force in that situation and in that manner. Mr. Slager certainly new the dash cam video would have supported his lie about believing himself to be in danger.

 

Darren Wilson Grand Jury Verdict Not Credible

There is no appearance of justice in the Darren Wilson Grand Jury Verdict. Let's be clear, since August, calls for a special prosecutor were made, because a significant portion of the public believed that St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch was biased. The assumption from the beginning was that the officer would not be indicted.

See The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell below which points out that the St. Louis County Prosecutor's office mislead the Micheal Brown Grand Jury by providing instructions on outdated law.

 

Bias and prejudice are innate characteristics—often deeply ingrained and concealed from our own self-examination. The United States Supreme Court recognized this when it said that “[b]ias or prejudice is such an elusive condition of the mind that it is most difficult, if not impossible, to always recognize its existence.” Further, the high court said, bias or prejudice can exist in someone “who was quite positive he had no bias and said that he was perfectly able to decide the question wholly uninfluenced by anything but the evidence.” Crawford v. United States, 212 U.S. 183, 196 (1909).

Even Supreme Court Justices remove themselves from case to preserve the appearance of justice when their bias may be called into question. McCulloch could have diffused the situation by simply recusing himself from the process. McCulloch as prosecutor could have simply brought charges as he does against countless others who don't happen to be police officers.

The secret and unknown witness testimony carries virtually no credibility. Were these witnesses criminals promised reduced charges or sentences for their testimony? Were they paid off? Were less credible witnesses purposefully chosen to testify to make Wilson's version seem more credible? The world will never be able to determine the witnesses' credibility, because no one knows who they are. Read The Smoking Gun article, "Witness 40": Exposing A Fraud In Ferguson, which claims witness 40 whose testimony supported Darren Wilson's version is bipolar, lied and didn't witness the shooting of Michael Brown.

 

 

See the St. Louis Post Distpatch article, "Some witnesses lied to Michael Brown grand jury, McCulloch says. So why have them testify? (This link was hacked and redirected, discovered and repaired on 4-10-2015) McCulloch specifically talks about testimony that appears to be that of witness #40. 

Any other average citizen could be arrested based upon a single person making accusations against them. In fact, Mike Brown, was supposedly an alleged suspect because of a phone call by an individual who was not even the owner of the store involved. I don't believe Darren Wilson would have been convicted if he had gone to trial. However, the process of a public trial could have at least eased tensions and provide much needed and called for transparency.

The Darren Wilson story has changed

The Post Dispatch has reported that Darren Wilson engaged Mike Brown because he fit the description of the strong arm robbery suspect. http://www.stltoday.com/news/multimedia/special/darren-wilson-s-radio-calls-show-fatal-encounter-was-brief/html_79c17aed-0dbe-514d-ba32-bad908056790.html

Six days after the shooting, Ferguson police release strong arm video and later that same day, Ferguson police chief states that Wilson was not aware of the robbery, http://www.wsj.com/articles/police-name-darren-wilson-as-officer-in-ferguson-missouri-michael-brown-shooting-1408108371

Three months later after details have been released in the media and notes have been compared, the encounter is now closely related to the robbery with supporting radio calls. If this is true, certainly the chief of police should have known. Police departments should not be allowed to investigate their own crimes. Police need to be policed by an outside agency. This contradictory information three months later is not credible.