How a major U.S. news and public affairs website can produce an article like Daily Beast Editor-At-Large Goldie Taylor’s is a fertile subject for inquiry, as is the question of how much the ignorant, un-American, values-warping assertions it contains are reinforced throughout our rising generations’ education and socialization. Those investigations must wait for another day, when I have the stomach for it.
For now, let’s just consider what Taylor wrote. It is titled “Six Baltimore Cops Killed Freddie Gray. The System Set Them Free,” an unethical headline that kindly warns us regarding the awfulness to come. No, six Baltimore cops did not kill Freddie Gray, as far as we, or the system, knows based on the evidence. That Taylor would state such an unproven and unprovable statement as fact immediately makes her guilty of disinformation, and shows that she is willfully ignorant of the principles of American justice, as well as too hateful and biased to comprehend them. Damn right the system set them free. That’s because in the Freddie Gray cases the system worked spectacularly well, despite the best efforts of an incompetent and biased prosecutor to make it do otherwise.
And that was just the title. The rest is infinitely worse: if you are feeling sturdy, read it all here. If not, the selected highlights (lowlights?) to follow will suffice.
Taylor wrote early on,
“There is little question about what happened to the 25-year-old. We know where he was injured and how. We know that he was in police custody. And we know that the officers responsible for his well-being took actions they knew would result in bodily harm and then ignored injuries and his pleas for help.“
In fact, we don’t know this. The trials did not prove it, and what we do know doesn’t make certitude possible. We know that Gray was injured at some point during the trip in the police van, but we do not know how, and there was not conclusive evidence that the officers were trying to harm him. Gray had a history of faking injury during his arrests, and may have cried wolf once too often. The judge in the case found that the explanation for why Gray wasn’t seatbelted into the police van—a mob of onlookers was threatening the officers—to be supported by witness testimony and credible accounts by the officers. Four of the officers charged weren’t in the van during the alleged “rough ride,” so how they could be found criminally culpable for Gray’s injuries during that ride is a mystery. Taylor accepts a false and absurd conclusion as the starting point for her essay, so it is not surprising that the rest leaves fact, fairness and law behind.
“There would be a reckoning for what happened to a young black man who had been suspected of nothing more than averting his eyes and jogging away when police officers looked his way.”
This is an intentionally misleading statement. When a known criminal with a record, like Gray, starts running as soon as he sees the police, that is probable cause for a police stop. Gray, who was just 24, had been involved in 20 criminal court cases, with five still active at the time of his arrest. He was due in court on a drug possession charge just two weeks from his arrest. In February of 2009, Gray had been sentenced to four years in prison for two counts of drug possession with intent to deliver, but was paroled in 2011. He was arrested once again for violating parole in 2012, but not sent back to prison.
The police knew him as habitually engaging in illegal activity, usually drug possession, and when he started sprinting away upon seeing them. They had reasonable suspicion to apprehend him under a long string of Supreme Court cases. He was not suspected of “averting his eyes and jogging away”; he was suspected of illegal acts because he averted his eyes and ran away, as in “fleeing.” The officers found an illegal switch-blade on Freddie Gray, which they would not have done if he hadn’t run. No, Freddie was not very bright. In fact, he was brain-damaged due to lead-paint poisoning. In her essay, Taylor calls him, deceitfully, “able-bodied.” Not exactly.
“While some criticized Mosby’s move to secure indictments against the law enforcement officers at all or warned that she had leveled top charges that would be difficult to convict on, many people believed her when she said she would be their voice. For them, the math was simple: Gray was an able-bodied man before his encounter with police that day in April 2015. Days later, he died from injuries sustained while in custody.”
“Many people” believed Mosby because she told the rioters that she was their voice, and this was, as I and many others have written, an unethical, false, and irresponsible thing to say. She’s not the voice of the mob, she’s the voice of the state, as well as a representative of law enforcement, just like the police. The “some” who criticized Mosby’s indictments were essentially everyone who understood prosecutor ethics and the requirement for there to be sufficient evidence before anyone, police or civilian, can be charged with a crime. Those for whom “the math was simple”are known as ignorant citizens, or perhaps Black Lives Matters followers. That “math” does not equal “crime,” and never has.
Other “math” from vengeful and legal rights-ignorant activists is the theory that if a police officer kills an unarmed black individual, it is presumptively murder regardless of the circumstances, and if the cop is white, racism must have been involved. This “math” is the reason police are being assassinated and abused, as in the recent incidents of officers being refused service in restaurants, and in one case, served food laced with glass. It is the duty of journalists, opinion writers and editors to explain why this incompetent, deadly “math” is misguided, not to encourage and validate it, which is what Taylor did.
“Many people needed to believe that for once the system could work, that it could finally do the job of meting out justice when officers were the ones committing the crimes. They needed to believe that the rule of law and equal protection applied to Gray—and to them too. His death, the blunted end of a black life, they asserted, was worthy of inspection.”
I have noted more than once of late that the African-American community has seemingly adopted a tribal, eye-for-an-eye version of “justice” which is alien not only to American principles but civilized society. Included in this dangerous vision is the assumption that “crimes”are self-evident, which they are not. It cannot be stated that crimes were committed by the officers until the commissions of crimes are proven by the State, in court, beyond a reasonable doubt, with real evidence and just not wailing family members and angry mob protests.
If “many people” believe that for the rule of law and equal protection to apply, police officers must be convicted without adequate proof, then many people never bothered to educate themselves on basic civics. Again, Taylor could correct that problem. Instead, she exacerbated it.
“…Prosecutors know that getting a judge or jury to convict a police officer who was acting in the line of duty is all but impossible—no matter the race of the victim. Mosby had to know that. As she measured the charges, she had to know that the deck was stacked against her. She had to know that by charging the officers with murder, she was asking a judge or jury to do her job and fill in the gaps in evidence.”
It is not “all but impossible” to convict a police officer, when there is sufficient evidence. Police officers who are proven to have deliberately and unnecessarily harmed a citizen with malice aforethought will be convicted. It is likely that Michael Slager, the South Carolina police officer caught on video shooting Walter Scott in the back while he was running away from him, will be convicted, for example. The “deck was stacked” against Mosby because the system does not operate on the uncivilized, visceral assumptions that Mosby, Taylor and Black Lives Matter endorse. The violent death of a black man isn’t enough to prove a crime. The deck was stacked because Mosby had insufficient evidence to get guilty verdicts, and the ethical remedy was not to bring charges unless and until she had more evidence.
That is the system, and that aspect of it protects all of us. Instead, the prosecutor tried to pervert the system to force the officers to face trials anyway.
Judges and juries cannot “fill in gaps.” If they do, they are violating the rule of law, and the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
“…the burden of proof is extraordinary when a member of law enforcement is involved. That is not codified into law, but it is baked into our social consciousness. The bar for holding officers to account is higher, because—for better or worse-—we raised it. Those six officers will walk away scot free because Mosby did not do her job. Despite knowing the hurdles, she pressed ahead with an aggressive prosecution knowing her office could not meet the socially-imposed standard….”
Baloney. The burden of proof was exactly the same for the officers as it was when Freddie Gray was tried: Proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The fact that a police officer is duty bound to face peril every day, must risk conflict rather than avoid it, and must view daily stressful situations within the context of his or her experience is part of the evidence that juries and judges must consider in determining their state of mind and motive. It isn’t an extraordinary standard at all. The police defendants are different. A pattern of criminal activity can be relevant evidence to convict a defendant, and a pattern of risking life and limb to protect the public and enforce its laws is also relevant. So is a pattern of excessive force, bias and racism. There is no socially imposed standard. There is a necessary assumption that police officers are trustworthy, just as there is necessary assumption that elected officials are trustworthy, and that journalists at least try to tell the truth. Lacking those assumptions, the system does not and cannot work.
Sure, this allows a few to take advantage of the system, and makes it especially difficult to punish them. For trusted professionals, the presumption of innocence has special power. The alternative that this subversive essay is calling for is a presumption of guilt.
“…Maybe they did not intend to kill Gray, but make no mistake. They meant to do him harm.”
No. She cannot say that. She does not “know” they meant Gray harm, any more than we “know” that he tried to hurt himself, as a witness initially claimed. Although Taylor eventually condemns Marilyn Mosby for bringing charges that she couldn’t prevail on because of what Taylor calls a flawed system, what she is calling for is a system that will punish not merely cops but all defendants when we “know,” or think we “know,” they are guilty. That is the system the United States has explicitly and intentionally rejected for one that holds that it is better that many guilty men go free than to convict the innocent. Her system, which would punish presumed guilt, is the “justice” of totalitarians, the “justice” of the mob, and the “justice” of “The Ox-Bow Incident,” (photo above) the famous dark 1943 Western about a lynch mob.
It is also the system of justice advocated by Black Lives Matter, at least when white police officers are involved, and thus the system of justice endorsed this week by the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton. Make no mistake about that.
After I read the article, I looked up the biography of Goldie Taylor to see what kind of individual actively participates in convincing young Americans and blacks that what is wrong with the “system” is its insistence on certainty of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. She’s an African American who has become more radical as she has proceeded through her writing, political and journalism careers. Her world view seems to have been molded by her experience as a victim of sexual abuse. She declared George Zimmerman guilty of profiling, murder and racism on national television, appearing in a hoodie, because she “knew” Zimmerman was guilty. Naturally, she has been a regular contributor to MSNBC, but has far more influence than that.
Taylor has served as executive consultant to NBC News and CNN Worldwide. In 2009, while serving as a consulting producer to CNN, almost entirely on race issues, and was previously an external affairs executive for several Fortune 500 companies, as well as two large public relations agencies, the GCI Group San Francisco and Edelman Atlanta Public Relations. She heads her own company, Goldie Taylor Brand Communications, an Atlanta-based “multi-cultural advertising and public relations agency.”
All of this, despite having no understanding or respect for the criminal justice system, the burden of proof, or the rule of law.
It is profoundly frightening that an educated, wealthy, influential and presumably respected (though not by me) opinion journalist can think it is appropriate to state that she “knows” that the six officers charged by Marilyn Mosby were guilty, that their guilt is a fact, and thus condemn the justice system for freeing them. There are cases where it is reasonable for informed onlookers to say that they know an accused defendant is guilty—O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony come to mind—though this isn’t one. But even in those cases, it is outrageous, ignorant, and irresponsible to maintain that because we just know a defendant is guilty, a properly functioning system should take away their liberty or even their life without sufficient evidence.
Opinion leaders like Goldie Taylor in academia, politics, and journalism are increasingly promoting this primitive, brutal, biased and undemocratic idea, and now, through Black Lives Matters, they have the symbolic support of a major political party, because it wants votes by any means necessary.
Taylor and the Daily Beast are just symptoms of a potentially disastrous crack in the ethical foundation of our justice system being widened for political gain.