A castle doctrine is a legal concept that a person's home or any legally occupied place; a vehicle or workplace, that person has certain protections and immunities permitting him or her, in certain circumstances, to use force up to and including deadly force to defend themselves against an intruder.
The castle doctrine removes the duty to retreat when the victim is assaulted in a place where the victim has a right to be, such as within one's own home. Deadly force may be considered justified, and a defense of justifiable homicide applicable, in cases "when the actor reasonably fears imminent peril of death or serious bodily harm to him or herself or another".
On Sunday, November 29th, a 13-year-old child was killed while trying to steal change from a car. Obviously, all the details are not known, but so far it doesn't seem as if the three kids, ages 11, 13 and 14 posed any type of danger to the person that shot and killed the 13-year-old.
Over the years, I have had cars stolen and broken into several times. My windows have been broken out at times simply for the change in an ashtray, I've had parts stolen from my vehicle including a radio and even my catalytic converter (part of the muffler system). As frustrating and upsetting as those events were, I did not then and still do not consider that theft worth someone's life.
As a society, we are placing too little value on life and seem to believe that making a bad decision or a very poor choice is an excuse to kill. The kids involved made very stupid choices and they should have known that they were placing themselves in danger by going into someone else's car, but should we authorize the death penalty for breaking into a car or even car theft.
That child's death is a tragedy and I would bet that the person if given a second chance, would choose not to pull the trigger. My heart goes out to both the family of the child who died and the 60-year-old man who shot the child. I'm certain he was devastated once he learned he had killed a 13-year-old child.
Hopefully, this situation will make thieves think twice before stealing and make people think before pulling the trigger over property. That vehicle could have been how the man made his living, making the car more valuable in his mind than for most. However, stealing from cars should not be punishable by death!
The primary purpose of the castle doctrine is to allow people to protect themselves from harm, not their property. Had the thieves not been kids, but armed criminals, the property owner may have been the one killed.
All kids have the potential to do stupid things and make bad choices. I made a bad decision in the past and I'm sure others reading this have as well.
In June 2015, the City of St. Louis announced that more homicide and gun possession cases would be turned over to federal prosecutors. This seemed to be an eerily familiar tactic of using demographics to covertly target a specific race for criminal prosecution and mass incarceration. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Federal criminal cases usually begin with Federal law enforcement, not state level police.
Missouri Constitution Changes
The Missouri Constitutional Amendment 5, which 60 percent of voters supported this summer, declares the right to keep and bear arms “unalienable” and subjects laws restricting gun rights to “strict scrutiny.”
See: Article I, Section 23, of the Missouri Constitution
The measure amended Article 1, Section 23 to read as:
Section 23. "That the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms, ammunition, and accessories typical to the normal function of such arms, in defense of his home, person, family and property, or when lawfully summoned in aid of the civil power, shall not be questioned; but this shall not justify the wearing of concealed weapons. The rights guaranteed by this section shall be unalienable. Any restriction on these rights shall be subject to strict scrutiny and the state of Missouri shall be obligated to uphold these rights and shall under no circumstances decline to protect against their infringement. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the general assembly from enacting general laws which limit the rights of convicted violent felons or those duly adjudged mentally infirm by a court of competent jurisdiction."
Residents now have the right to keep ammunition and accessories, as well as the right to defend their families with firearms — a right previously limited to defending home, property and person. The amendment also repeals wording that states that the right to bear arms does not justify carrying concealed weapons.
Lawmakers can still pass laws limiting the rights of convicted violent felons and people with mental illnesses.
Gun rights taken too far?
I legally own a gun, but I did not vote for the amendment, I believe the right to bear arms has been extended too far. When the right to bear arms was written into the constitution, the United States was still a frontier nation. Owning a gun for protection, hunting for food and fur were survival necessities. There was also a lack of organized law enforcement, so the citizens policed themselves. The newly formed nation was still in a state of war and an armed population was considered necessary for its defense.
Guns during the late 18th century usually only shot one round before having to be reloaded and it took considerable time and effort by today's standard. The revolver didn't exist until 50 years later and the Gatling gun, the first rapid fire gun came during the civil war. When the right to bear arms was included, Congress couldn't have conceived of the automatic and assault weapons easily available today. In the era of military drones, individuals being armed will do little against government tyranny.
Having the right to bear arms doesn't mean having the right to bear any type of weapon that exists. When someone starts manufacturing drone-mounted weapons, will Americans have a right to bear those as well? After all, drone weapons would make it easier for hunters to find and kill their prey.
I believe the right to bear arms as it currently exists is outdated and needlessly causes people to die. Gun rights including conceal and carry, make it more difficult for law enforcement to determine, who is carrying because of a legitimate sense of self-defense and who is carrying for criminal intent. If the only people allowed to carry weapons were law enforcement officers, by default, everyone else carrying weapons would be considered criminals.
It's harder to detect when someone has a gun for the wrong reason, people who should not have them can easily blend in with legitimate gun owners and that is where the danger lies. Legal gun ownership is the only reason there are so many illegal guns. People either steal legally obtain guns from others, or people purchase guns legally and sell them to others who intend to commit crimes with them.
Rights For All
However, since they do exist, those gun rights should apply to everyone equally. Selective Federal prosecution could result in a situation where certain groups of people are enjoying gun rights and others are denied that right. Just as the "War on Drugs" was unequally applied, it's easy to see how the practice of federally prosecuting gun crimes could be.
The race issue won't be just that the judge is going, "Oh, a black man, I'm gonna sentence you higher", the police will go into low-income minority neighborhoods and that's where they will make most of their gun possession arrests. If they arrest you, now you have a prior, so if you plead or get arrested again, you're gonna have a higher sentence. There's a kind of cumulative effect. The same thing happened during the "War on Drugs".
St. Louis prosecutors could seek prosecution in federal court in cases that otherwise would be tried in St. Louis Circuit Court, an area with substantial minority populations. Because the federal districts are much larger – they are made up of many counties – they are predominately white. Crimes that are usually prosecuted in state courts can be prosecuted in federal courts based on any “federal interest” such as a carjacking.
In the report, Racial Disparities in Federal Prosecution (PDF), the following was stated: "Unwarranted racial disparities in decision-making may result from outright conscious animus, including the use of race-neutral criteria (such as class or geography) as a pretext for impermissible consideration of race, or from unconscious racial stereotyping."
"One former U.S. Attorney explained the complicated relationship between federal prosecutors and local law enforcement, in which federal prosecutorial decisions may be influenced by the decisions of local agents: “Where [law enforcement] … wants to get a quick statistic is often where … the racial disparity occurs. It’s a lot easier to go out to the ’hood, so to speak, and pick somebody than to put your resources in an undercover [operation in a] community where there are potentially politically powerful people.”
War on Drugs
During the "War on Black People," disguished as a "War on Drugs", that began with Nixon, exploded under Reagan and continued under Bush and Clinton; a very expensive drug, originally considered the affluent drug of choice, cocaine, was used to create a new cheap substance called "crack" cocaine.
Demographically, crack users were mostly black, powdered cocaine users were mostly white. One might wonder how the legal penalties for crack ended up being 100 times worse than powdered coke.
Congress had been whipped into a frenzy by the drug-related death of basketball star Len Bias, which led to an overhaul of drug laws. It was widely reported that Bias died from a crack overdose. During hearings on the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, Congress heard bogus testimony from Johnny St. Valentine Brown, a narcotics cop who testified (with no actual evidence) that crack was 100 times worse and more addictive and damaging than regular cocaine.
Brown presented himself as an experienced narco-cop and a trained pharmacist, with several glowing letters of recommendation from important judges. Based on Brown's testimony, Congress included a 100:1 disparity in sentencing in crack vs coke, and it's widely seen as the first major push in the disastrous War on Drugs.
It was later discovered that Len Bias had actually died from regular cocaine, not crack. Years later in 2000, Brown plead guilty to perjury charges. Johnny St. Valentine Brown was convicted for lying about most of his credentials. He was never trained in pharmacology, and his recommendation letters were forgeries.
During his sentencing, Brown submitted several letters to the sentencing judge, in a bid for a more lenient sentence. After giving Brown a favorable sentence, the Judge contacted each of the letter-writers to thank them for interest in Brown's case. However, it was learned that Brown had counterfeited each of the letters and the supposed writers were "stunned" to learn of the forgeries. Brown was then charged with contempt of court and ordered to stand trial for the forgeries.
The fastest growing demographic of drug addicts are white communities. Suddenly instead of criminalizing drug use, now we want to treat it as a disease.
Instead of derogatory terms such as "crackhead", "abuser" and "junkie" to describe drug users when they were black; media now uses terms such as "chemically dependent", "psychological dependence on a drug" and "substance use disorder" to describe white drug addicts.
Drug addicts are now suddenly considered "patients" to be treated rather than "criminals" to be jailed. Below are some news articles announcing the demographics of heroin.
Unfortunately, black folks believed the lies that were told, were quick to jump on the "crack" bandwagon and agreed that tougher sentences for drug users were the right thing to do. Too bad a whole generation of black men were jailed, often without treatment before society determined drug addiction is more of a medical than a criminal condition.
Dual Sovereignty and Double Jeopardy
There's a fifth amendment protection against double jeopardy right? Yes, but there are exceptions. Under the right circumstances, you can be tried twice for the same crime!
Double jeopardy only applies to one jurisdiction at a time. A state government cannot bring a second prosecution against you for the same state crime once you've been acquitted. The same goes for the federal government regarding a federal offense. If the offense if both a state and federal crime, a person can be legally tried more than once for the same crime.
The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides: "[N]or shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb . . . ."The four essential protections included are prohibitions against, for the same offense:
retrial after an acquittal;
retrial after a conviction;
retrial after certain mistrials; and
Dual Sovereignty allows the double prosecution of a person by more than one state for the same crime, where both states have jurisdiction for the prosecution, and notwithstanding the double jeopardy rule.
"The dual sovereignty doctrine is founded on the common-law conception of crime as an offense against the sovereignty of the government. When a defendant in a single act violates the peace and dignity of two sovereigns by breaking the laws of each, he has committed two distinct offenses." Heath v. Alabama, 474 US 82 (1985).
The other issues become, if the Federal prosecution fails to secure a conviction, the City could then prosecute under Missouri's sovereignty rather than Federal. In United States v. Lanza, 260 US 377 (1922), in a case involving prosecution of liquor prohibition, the courts recognized the separate sovereignty of both state and Federal courts.
What to watch for
Watch to see who this tactic is used against. If it is only used against black defendants or mostly when the victim is white, that could indicate racial bias.
Prosecutors are afforded a great deal of power and are often consider the most powerful participant in the judicial process; so it's important to monitor the prosecutor's actions so you can make informed decisions during elections.
New Orleans Example
Federal prosecutors have repeatedly sought the death penalty in New Orleans, Richmond, St. Louis and Prince Georges County, Maryland, where African Americans make up the majority of the population in the county and the jury pools. The decision to prosecute federally in these jurisdictions alters the racial makeup of the jury pools from predominantly black to predominantly white. Those same federal prosecutors seldom seek the death penalty for crimes that occur in counties with largely white populations.
For example, the decision to federally prosecute three men for a murder that occurred during a bungled bank robbery in Orleans Parish in January of 2004, transformed the jury pool from one that was predominantly African American to a jury pool that was predominantly white. Indeed, ten of the jurors that sentenced John Wayne Johnson to death in that case were not from Orleans Parish, but from the white-flight parishes that gave rise to the election of white supremacist David Duke to the state legislature, the re-appearance of the Ku Klux Klan, and the appointment of a Justice of the Peace who refused to certify interracial marriages.
St. Louis is roughly 48% black and 47% white according to the most recent census data, but the prosecutors of both the circuit and municipal court levels are white. Missouri county prosecutors are 99% white. There is only one black elected county prosecutor in the entire state; Shane Farrow in Moniteau County Missouri. Unfortunately, Mr. Farrow is being prosecuted himself for an accident that occurred, ironically in Columbia, MO, which recently gain national attention for racial discrimination.
Recent incidents in Ferguson, New York, Baltimore and most recently Columbia demonstrate the racial bias and divide that exist within our society. White prosecutors have historically been quicker to bring charges against black suspects, especially when the evidence may not be compelling. The said reality is that many low-income defendants, even those that are innocent, may plead guilty to avoid the possibility of longer sentences.
Kilwa Jones will be prosecuted in federal court for the robbery and shooting of Chris Sanna. Sanna was paralyzed when he was shot after leaving Busch Stadium with his girlfriend near the end of a Cardinals baseball game. Since the crime was committed on federal property, the prosecution can occur in federal court.
Let's not make the same mistake made during the "crack" frenzy. During my fifty years on Earth, I've lost family members and friends, including Lorenzo Rodgers, a St. Louis City Police Officer, to gun violence. I mentioned a retired army friend on a page concerning Uplands Park, MO; that friend was Lorenzo's cousin, which is how Lorenzo and I met.
Former police chief Clarence Harmon, then a Major, tried to recruit me to the department after Lorenzo's funeral. Had it not been for the fact that I had just attended my friend's funeral, I may have explored that option. I attended college with Harmon's son Steve, a retired police officer, and lawyer that announced in April that he might run for prosecutor.
I understand how enticing it can be to jump on the first available solution, but not a solution that does more harm than good. Let us not exchange "crack" with "gun possession" as the new mass incarceration tool. We shouldn't allow prosecutors to selectively prosecute.
St. Louis has the highest murder rate in the country. Unfortunately, it seemed as long as murders were only being committed within certain neighborhoods, no one outside the community really cared. Once murders and shootings began occurring in the Central West End, Downtown and other areas a crisis was declared. The speed in which suspects were found when the victim was white, was amazing and reflects an urgency disparity.
Greater concern, effort, and resources are expended when the victim is white. The media uses a different vocabulary to describe white victims and seldom are drugs or illegal activity mentioned. When a black shooting victim states they don't know why they were targeted, their integrity is questioned along with the possibility of the incident being drug or gang related. White victims appear to be instantly believed, even when their stories seem bazaar.
I am fifty years old, and during my lifetime, there have been 9,415 murders in St. Louis; an average of 188 per year. Among those victims were my brother-in-law and nephew. I don't know any black family that hasn't been touched directly or indirectly by murder. There was no crisis declared, no end violence initiatives by news channels until multiple white people became victims.
Ironically, some people seem to think that before channel 4's #EndViolenceSTL, that no one was concerned or addressing violence in our community. There have been multiple attempts to raise awareness and end violence, the most notable recent attempt was a Call to Oneness.
The war on drugs was waged almost exclusively against black and brown people. After a new drug crisis was declared when methamphetamine and heroin began affecting white communities, no new drug war was declared. In fact, once large numbers of white kids became addicted to drugs, the country suddenly started to realize that the war on drugs was too harsh and unfair. Instead of calling for incarceration of these new white addicts, medical treatment was prescribed for their "illness".
American Drug War:The Last White Hope (a kevin booth film)
Visit Los Angeles, New York, Chicago or any other major city in the United States and you'll discover a statistical anomaly; each of these cities contains impoverished areas that are overwhelmingly black or brown. Unless you're prepared to say that black and brown people are less ambitious, less intelligent or inferior; you must come to the realization that those groups are artificially held back by institutionalized oppression and discrimination.
The sad reality is that many people have been conditioned to believe that something is wrong with black and brown people. Unfortunately, some black people even believe this myth. Some have even convinced themselves that because they achieved some measure of success, they are somehow the exception to the rule. They don't seem to understand that when they move into an all-white community or attend white schools, that standard is applied to them and they are considered by those around them as less than. If you indict a group of people and you are a member of that group, you cannot escape the indictment.
Until systemic oppression and inequality ends, including; abusive policing, government policy, inferior education, business practices, media bias, resource distribution, unfair court practices, mass incarceration, and employment discrimination, crime will continue to rise and will spill over into communities that had previously been considered immune or safe. Increasingly, criminals are beginning to realize it is more profitable to target people with more resources.
“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe” – Frederick Douglass
Crime and Poverty
Both the United Nations and the World Bank indicate poverty, oppression, inequality and lack of economic opportunities results in increased criminal activity. When inequalities are great, crime goes through the roof. When people see vast wealth differences, especially if the wealth disparity is based on injustice, crime becomes even worse.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the United States, there were 46.7 million people in poverty in 2014. The official poverty rate was 14.8 percent. Contrary to some common stereotypes about America’s poor, which included 25,659,922 Whites, 11,197,648 Hispanics, 9,472,583 Blacks, and 1,899,448 Asians; poverty affects all groups.
At least 4.2 million, one-third of the 13 million children living in poverty are white, 27% of Latino children (4 million), 33% of black children (3.6 million), 12% of Asian children (400,000) and 40% of American Indian (200,000). Source National Center for Children in Poverty.
Even Elvis' recognized this when he recorded, "The Ghetto" in 1969. This song is about poverty, describing a child who can't overcome his surroundings and turns to crime, which leads to his death. It was the first song Elvis recorded with a socially-conscious message. He was reluctant to do it for that reason.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory
Just about every college student will learn about a motivational theory developed by Abraham Maslow in the 1940's. His theory is taught in a variety of subjects including education, psychology, business management and marketing.
Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory proposed that motivation is the result of a person's attempt at fulfilling five basic needs: physiological, safety, social, esteem and self-actualization.
Physiological needs are those needs required for human survival such as air, food, water, shelter, clothing and sleep. A person will do just about anything to meet these needs.
Safety needs include those needs that provide a person with a sense of security and well-being. Personal security, financial security, good health and protection from accidents, harm, and their adverse effects are all included in safety needs.
Social needs also called love and belonging, refer to the need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. Social needs are important to humans so that they do not feel alone, isolated and depressed. Friendships, family, and intimacy all work to fulfill social needs.
Esteem needs refer to the need for self-esteem and respect, with self-respect being slightly more important than gaining respect and admiration from others.
Self-actualization needs describe a person's need to reach his or her full potential. The need to become what one is capable of is something that is highly personal. While I might have the need to be a good parent, you might have the need to hold an executive-level position within your organization.
I remember watching the Hurricane Katrina news coverage and wondering if the government was purposefully trying to create a Maslow situation to cause people to act on their survival instincts to show images of blacks behaving like animals. How else could the government's lack of aid to such an enormous disaster be described?
The opposite occurred and the people of New Orleans displayed exceptional amounts of humanity towards one another.
In many countries that do not provide an adequate safety net, kidnapping and other crimes that target well-off citizens are common. What many people do not seem to understand is that social programs such as food stamps, section 8 and others that help people meet basic needs, prevents people from being forced to turn to crime to meet those needs.
Use a simple common sense approach. What would you do if after following all the rules, you could not afford to provide for the basic needs of your family and your children are hungry? If you do not have family or friends who can help; and if there is no outside assistance available, many people would do things they would not have considered doing previously.
The media has demonized the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — formerly known as "food stamps" over the years, often portraying the recipients as lazy, dependent, or unwilling to work.
Most SNAP recipients don’t rely exclusively on the benefits for food – only 22 percent of the program’s 47 million beneficiaries in 2013 had zero gross income. Many recipients have recently lost their jobs, are low wage earners or employed part time. Among those 22 percent with zero gross income are children, elderly, people affected by disasters, injured or too ill to work.
As pointed out in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, when a person can't feed themselves or their family, they will do whatever is necessary to fulfill that need. Oxford University and the Pew Research Center have estimated that half of all job that exists today will be gone within ten years. The irony is that as computerization and robotics displace large numbers of workers; the very people complaining about these benefits today, will be the same ones that the benefits will not available for tomorrow.
Recent profiles of successful individuals illustrate how SNAP helps disadvantaged people achieve success.
Famous People who were on Food Stamps
When Jan Koum sold his company, WhatsApp, to Facebook for $19 billion on February 19, 2014, he signed the paperwork against the front door of the welfare office where his family used to collect food stamps. After the sale of WhatsApp, the Huffington Post profiled a number of prominent people who have had to rely on food stamps, including:
President Barack Obama and his mother Ann Dunham received food stamps when the future president was a baby.
Musician Bruce Springsteen received food stamps during the earlier parts of his career. I have always respected the fact that Springsteen recorded "American Skin (41 Shots)" is a song inspired by the police shooting death of Amadou Diallo.
For those not familiar with Amadou Diallo
Dr. Ben Carson, in his book "Gifted Hands", wrote, “By the time I reached ninth grade, mother had made such strides that she received nothing but food stamps," …"She couldn’t have provided for us and kept up the house without that subsidy.”
Craig T. Nelson who was once helped with food stamps seemed to be making an argument against government assistance for others.
Other notable food stamp recipients
Olympic speed skater Emily Scott was forced to apply for food stamps when her monthly Olympic stipend was cut to just $600.
Viola Davis, Actress – grew up in extreme poverty and stated, "I Have Stolen, Jumped in Garbage Bins With Maggots For Food"
Scarlett Johansson – She stated, “My family grew up relying on public assistance to help provide meals for our family”.
Tobey Maguire – "As a kid, I was very poor. I mean, it's all relative, but we would get groceries from neighbors. I always had a roof over my head, but I slept on couches of relatives, and some night we wandered into a shelter. My family had food stamps and government medical insurance.
I've often wondered if we as a society have failed to properly educate and support a child who would have cured cancer.
Five Hour Energy Billionaire Trying to Make a Difference in the lives of the poor
The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that an autopsy performed on Mansur Ball-Bey, showed that he died from a single wound in the back, police officials said. The black 18 year old's death by a white police officer's gunfire this week stirred protests, Mansur Ball-Bey was killed during a raid upon an aunt's residence near Fountain Park on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015.
According to family accounts, Ball-Bey stopped by an aunt's house to meet up with his cousins on his way home from his part-time job at FedEx. They were met by police in an unmarked car and Ball-Bey "got caught up in some bs being in the wrong place at the wrong time," Cotton-Booker said.
He was still in his FedEx uniform when he got shot, family said. The distraught family said they could not believe the police account because Ball-Bey, who went by Man Man, was not capable of those crimes: he had just graduated from high school, held a steady job and was heading to college, according to the New York Daily News.
His family belonged to Moorish Science Temple of America, at 2918 Sarah Avenue. Members wear a hat called a fez, and many include Bey or El in their last names.
St. Louis Police vigorously opposed body cameras, which could have easily proven the police's version of events. I live near the Fountain Park area and rode through there the day before this incident. It's hard to understand how you shoot someone pointing a gun and hit them in the back. "I understand people's skepticism," Police Chief Sam Dotson said Thursday. "But don't let social media and innuendo drive what you believe to be true. You have to let the facts speak."
It's been over a year since the national debate about police body cams began. Had the officers involved been wearing body cams, those "facts" would have spoke volumes. People usually get shot in the back when they are running away. Just last month, it was body cam footage that revealed the truth in the unjustified killing of a black man by a University of Cincinnati police office. That video is included on the racial bias in media page.
Maybe some St. Louis police officers are afraid body cameras will reveal the darker side of policing as in this video below from last year.
Millions of people including retail, bank, casino, school employees and even office workers perform their duties under constant video surveillance. I'm certain many of those employees do not like it, but it's part of the job. As Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey stated on Meet the Press, "we can't afford to have that sort of thing in policing, the role we play in a democratic society is just too important".
If the police routinely profile black people, then it's only fair those same people profile police when there are so many senseless police killings. The St. Louis Police Department has lost the benefit of doubt in these types of cases until they implement the mandatory use of body cams. Write or call your alderman and tell them you demand body cams for police officers.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that David Klinger, an UMSL criminologist said the Supreme Court has ruled it constitutional for police to shoot someone in the back if they believe that person could be a threat. However, under U.S. law, the fleeing felon rule was limited in 1985 to non-lethal force in most cases by Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S.
The Supreme Court of the United States held that, under the Fourth Amendment, when a law enforcement officer is pursuing a fleeing suspect, he or she may not use deadly force to prevent escape unless "the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others."
So far in 2015 police in the United States have shot dead at least 626 people, almost 10% of them were unarmed according to the Washington Post. Another sources, KilledByPolice.net list 751 people killed by police this year as of August 20, 2015. Police in the US Kill Citizens at Over 70 Times the Rate of Other First-World Nations. One area in which the U.S. is unquestionably exceptional is the level of state violence directed against African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and working and poor people of all nationalities, according to GlobalResearch. U.S. police killings outnumber those in other developed capitalist countries by as much as 100-1! It would be ridiculous to believe that all of these killings are justified, but I assume most are.
I believe most cops are good cops and many go their entire career without firing their gun or killing anyone. Police should embrace body cams for the evidence record they provide and they are certainly the best tool to remove doubt about an officer's version of events. The May 31, 2015 fatal police shooting of James Bushey, 47, of Elkhart, TX is a perfect example. The videos are taken from the body cameras of two officers with the Palestine, TX., police department. Bushey was suspected of stealing some alcohol from a local Wal-Mart. In the videos Sgt. Gabriel Green confronts Bushey in the bathroom of an Applebee’s restaurant. Green and Officer Kaylynn Griffin escort him outside then and then asked about identification, Bushey pulls a out what turns out to be a BB gun; and the officers open fire killing Bushey. I doubt that anyone watching these videos could argue that the officers were not justified. Any reasonable person would have feared for their lives in that situation. Warning, the video is graphic!
Sgt. Green Camera Footage
Officer Griffen Camera Footage
The two videos above demonstrate why police should embrace the use of body cameras. Those videos completely vindicate Green and Griffin and points out how professionally the officers handled the entire situation without escalation.
The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing. – John Adams
About 200 municipal judges, prosecutors and court administrators met in secret Friday, August 14, 2015, at UMSL to plan for Missouri court reform changes forced by Senate Bill 5, the legislation that takes effect Aug. 28.
Meetings held by public officials, especially when they concern issues as important as municipal court reform which has been the subject of public outcry and protest which gained national attention invites suspicion. It has already been well documented that St. Louis area municipal courts have been used to generate revenue and abuse rights. However, this is nothing new, municipal courts have operated this way for decades. Professor T.E. Lauer, a law professor at the University of Missouri published, "Prolegomenon to Municipal Court Reform in Missouri" a stinging indictment of the municipal courts in 1966. Professor Lauer stated in his argument:
"It must be recognized, however, that in bringing about this reform it may be necessary to overcome substantial resistance on the part of municipalities which will be reluctant to lose their power over offenses defined by state law. Not only would this reform diminish the importance of the municipal court, but more importantly it would cause a loss of revenue to municipalities, in that municipal fines, which are now paid into the municipal treasury, would become state fines to be paid to the school fund."
Missouri lawyers, judges and court personnel certainly knew the greater St. Louis municipal court system was an issue. I'm certain some Missouri Circuit Court, Missouri Court of Appeals and Missouri Supreme Court judges were at one-time municipal court judges or represented clients in municipal court and saw first hand the problems. The fact that constitutional rights of poor and minority defendants were routinely violated was known to most lawyers who after all are officers of the court. However, the vast majority of those court officers remained silent instead of bringing it to the public's attention. It appears that very few lawyers lodged formal complaints, and many attorneys profited from an unfair court system resulting in an increase in clients and fees. It's unfortunate that it took a protest movement and international attention before anyone took serious action.
In 2013, the municipal courts of St. Louis City and County collected $61,152,087 in fines and fees. During that same time, the combined total of court fines and fees collected by Missouri municipal courts was $132,032,351.63. This means that the municipal courts in the St. Louis region accounted for 46% of all fines and fees collected statewide, despite being home to only 22% of Missourians.
St. Louis area municipalities have most certainly become dependent upon the revenue generated by their municipal courts. The judges, prosecutors, and court administrators mostly likely, directly or indirectly, receive their pay, raises or bonuses based on the amount of revenue generate. Reduced municipal court revenue would probably result in job losses, which of course those in attendance at the closed meeting, would not want to fall victim to. St. Louis area municipalities have a vested interest to keep their courts because municipal courts can generate revenue in others ways besides traffic tickets. Municipalities have already stepped up enforcement of tall grass, housing code, and various other types of municipal ordinance violations.
Holding a closed meeting naturally makes people wonder if this was a strategy session to exchange ideas how to keep the revenue from municipal courts flowing. After August 28th, there will certainly be increasing municipal court revenue from fines other than traffic violations. Even if a municipality does not increase the number of violation citations, they could simply increase the standard fine from say $100 to $500.
Until people educate themselves and become familiar and active within our "justice" system, justice will remain a concept unavailable to many. If you have not already done so, become familiar with the ordinances of your municipality. Browse around this site to learn how you can help yourself with certain legal issues without having to pay for an attorney.
On the one year anniversary of Michael Brown's killing, keep in mind that before the militarized response to the Ferguson Protesters occurred, ignorance was weaponized in and around the St. Louis area. Ignorance is a state of being uninformed (lack of knowledge) and is not used here as an insult to anyone. Various police departments and municipal courts used people's ignorance of their rights and how to properly defend those rights in court as weapons against the very people they were sworn to protect and serve.
As the discussions about Michael Brown's death continued, the fact that people were being victimized not only by the police but by the municipal courts began to be reported. After I lost my job and ran into my own legal issues, I was shocked to see how blatant rights were being violated within our local courts. The new municipal court reforms put in place are a good start, but it's just a matter of time before municipalities start implementing new strategies. As time passes, new issues will dominate the headlines and memories of specific details about police and municipal courts will begin to fade. The remedies normally available through the courts are usually too expensive because of the high cost of attorneys, but you don't need an attorney to make the court system work for you.
Policing has changed and the reactions to excessive force by police has changed dramatically. Prior to Mike Brown's killing, police departments almost always stood by the side and defended cops accused of brutal acts and unjustified killing. That has now changed, at least when a video exists. Hopefully, there will come a day when a video is not required to bring justice against rogue cops. I am certain the vast majority of police are decent, honest and hard-working, but there are some that are not and that factor coupled with the blue code of silence wreak havoc on certain communities. Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, responding to comments about a University of Cincinnati Police Officer, during a conversation about with Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd conceded police do protect each other from criticism no matter what, as do other professions.
Americans have short attention spans and memories. Municipalities will most likely start violating rights again using new creative unfamiliar methods and ignorance will once again be weaponized and used against people. Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it. However, most people are only vaguely familiar with the law; even lawyers only know a small portion of the law. There is a principle which is sometimes put in the form of a rule of evidence, that everyone is presumed to know the law. That principal is based on the difficulty to prove that a person did, in fact, know the law. Additionally, many people would purposefully not make themselves aware of particular laws to preserve their ignorance. As long as people remain ignorant about their rights and how to invoke and protect them, that ignorance of the law will certainly be taken advantage of and weaponized not only by unscrupulous governments but by predatory businesses and institutions.
Just as slavemasters used ignorance against slaves to exploit them, St. Louis area municipalities have used ignorance of state law, legal procedure and constitutional protections to exploit and oppress people. Many St. Louis municipalities created illegal laws with the sole purpose of creating revenue. Just because an ordinance exists doesn't mean it's valid; ordinances and other laws sometimes get struck down as being void, illegal or unconstitutional. Most municipalities know that many people won't even bother to read or research the law.
You don't need a lawyer to discover what the law says, the law is available for everyone to read. Prior to my job loss, I made a pretty decent salary and could easily afford to pay an attorney to take care of traffic tickets. For example, I paid attorneys as little as $30 to handle traffic violations. Bellefontaine Neighbors has a speed trap on eastbound Lewis & Clark (Hwy 367) just past Hwy 270 overpass, where the speed drops from 55 to 45. There's a sign posted with the reduced speed limit about halfway on the overpass. A truck in the right lane blocked the posted 45mph sign from my view. A traffic cop was positioned just past the overpass and I got caught by that trap. I found an attorney on Craigslist, paid that attorney $30 to have the violation reduced to a moving violation, but I had to pay the City of Bellefontaine a fine of about $200.
However, even a $100 red light ticket fine became a major burden after my steady income was gone. There are a lot of organizations that provide free legal assistance, their resources are limited and they can only help so many people. When my legal issues arose, I could not afford an attorney, and the legal assistance agencies I contacted couldn't help. I was facing the loss of tens of thousands of dollars, so I learned how to effectively defend myself. This site contains valuable free information for you to help yourself and additional information is constantly being added. No one will ever fight as hard for you as you will, don't get caught in the trap of being dependent on someone else to do for you what you can learn to do for yourself. Even if you can currently afford to pay for legal services; keep in mind that may not always be the case. During the very time when I was most vulnerable and need assistance the most was when I could not afford legal services. Fortunately, I was able to research the law for myself, but most people I witnessed in court on their own lost; your ignorance is their power.
Skewed statics, policial, institutional and media spin all contribute to confusing the issues and create or increase ignorance. One of Adolf Hilter's closest advisers, Joseph Goebbels, stated; If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself. To overcome ignorance, you must first learn to see through the layers of lies to first understand what the actual issues are and then formulate a strategy to overcome them.
Phillip Agnew, with Dream Defenders, gives a near perfect response to the systematic oppression of black people during the PBS program America After Ferguson and exemplifies what can happen when a person is no longer held captive to ignorance.
See the full-length PBS program America After Ferguson, which includes additional statements by Phillip Agnew not shown in the brief clip above. Tim Wise during his lecture on the Legacy of Institutionalized Racism addresses the topic of responsibility brought up in America After Ferguson.
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.
The only officer in the group facing a murder charge. He drove the van that transported Gray to jail.
One 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.
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.
Porter, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.