PUBLISHER'S NOTE: As reporter Alex Johnson notes: "A video made by a bystander showing Slager shooting Scott in the back in April 2015 stunned the nation and led to murder charges for the former North Charleston police officer, who could be sentenced to 30 years to life in prison if he's convicted."..."This Blog is digging into the momentous on-going trial from time to time, when issues relating to the forensic evidence emerge from the fray. This post links the Mark Slager case in South Carolina (at trial) and the Ray Tensing case in Ohio (Jury deliberating but deadlocked) - both former police officers alleged to have committed murder's caught on video.
Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;
POST: "Cops Who Kill, on Trial: In Ohio and South Carolina, jurors are evaluating clear-cut cases of police violence that, legally speaking, are anything but," by Leon Neyfakh, published by Slate on November 12, 2016.
GIST: "It’s rare to see a police officer on trial for killing someone in the line of duty, but for the past week and change, it’s been happening in two separate courtrooms, in two different states. Both cases center on shootings of unarmed black men that were captured on video and became national news. Regardless of how they turn out, they will become widely cited data points in the story of how the criminal justice system deals with violence in American policing. They will also be the first high-profile police shootings to be criminally adjudicated since the election of Donald Trump, whose well-documented affection for law enforcement and contempt for the Black Lives Matter movement are sure to inform his public reaction to any verdict that may come down. In Ohio on Nov. 1, jurors heard opening statements in the trial of Ray Tensing, who was an officer for the University of Cincinnati campus police when he shot and killed Sam DuBose on July 19, 2015. Tensing had pulled DuBose over for driving without a license plate. According to an analysis of bodycam footage conducted by the university, DuBose started his car during the traffic stop and put it in drive after Tensing tried to open the driver’s side door. About two seconds later, after Tensing tried to reach into the car to pull the keys out of the ignition, he brought out his service weapon and shot DuBose in the head. Although the bodycam footage appears to show Tensing firing before the car started moving, the officer’s defense at trial has been that he’d pulled the trigger because DuBose was dragging him with his car. Tensing was indicted for murder 10 days after the shooting. As I write this, jurors are in their third day of deliberations and have just been sent back for more deliberations after informing the judge they are deadlocked. The other ongoing trial is that of Michael Slager, who shot Walter Scott in the back on April 4, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Slager, who had pulled Scott over for a broken taillight, told investigators that Scott had struggled with him and grabbed his Taser. But when a video filmed by a bystander surfaced a few days after the shooting, it became clear that Slager had fired on Scott only after the 50-year-old had started running away. Slager’s first defense lawyer quit the case after seeing the video; the officer was promptly charged with murder. Even the police union he belonged to refused to support him, declining to pay his legal bills on the grounds that he had acted outside the bounds of his job. On Thursday, the Slager trial entered its sixth day of testimony. At first glance, both the DuBose and Scott shootings seem to be open-and-shut cases of unacceptable, gratuitous, and illegal police violence. In both instances, video footage shows the exact moment when the officer decided to raise his gun and pull the trigger, and neither leaves much room for disagreement about whether the shooting was necessary. Tensing could have let DuBose drive away; Slager could have let Scott run. Both had already been identified, so they could have been apprehended later. Neither officer’s life was in jeopardy, and neither of them had any good reason to think otherwise. It’s important to note that most police shootings—the vast majority of which don’t get covered by the national media—aren’t as clear cut as these two. For one thing, most of them don’t get caught on tape, making it difficult for outsiders to draw confident conclusions about what really happened. More importantly, as the Washington Post’s database of police shootings shows, when police officers use deadly force, their victims are typically armed with guns or knives. Even the cases that end up being embraced by activists and that develop into national stories often contain some element of ambiguity........ But that doesn’t mean these two trials are going to end in murder convictions. For that to happen, jurors will have to decide that the actions taken by the police officers violated criminal laws that govern the use of deadly force. That will prove much more difficult than it sounds. As Saint Louis University researchers Chad Flanders and Joseph C. Welling make plain in a recent paper, neither South Carolina nor Ohio has formal laws on the books governing the use of deadly force by police officers. Instead, they both use interpretations of what’s known as the common law standard—a rule that says, basically, that police can use any amount of force, including deadly force, to “seize” a fleeing felon if necessary.........Seth Stoughton, an assistant law professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law and a former police officer, told me in an email that the confusing South Carolina rule favors the police officer. “The prosecutor’s job is to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt,” he wrote. “When there is no clear legal rule to follow, it’s easier for the jurors to be confused. That confusion can create reasonable doubts about whether the defendant’s actions fit the definition of a crime.” So much for open and shut. For what it’s worth, Stoughton told me he believes straight-up murder convictions are unlikely in either case because of the difficulty of proving premeditation or malice, though he does think manslaughter verdicts are possible. Even then, the shakiness and graininess of the Tensing footage will likely work in favor of the defense. “I think a jury may view the video there as less definitive, which means they’ll be relying more on other sources of evidence (such as the defendant’s testimony and expert witnesses),” Stoughton wrote. "
The entire post can be found at:
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/