Comment of the Day: “Unethical Website Of The Month: Michael T. Slager Support Fund”

Now, let's not jump to conclusions...

Now, let’s not jump to conclusions…

UPDATE (MAY 3): I have been convinced that the original post that generated this Comment of the Day went too far. Asking for support for Slager’s defense cannot be unethical: Slager has a right to a defense, and the best one available. My thoughts on that issue, in relation to the Freddie Gray cops, are here. I still think it is obvious that the individual who posted the appeal is doing so for unethical reasons, and is likely a racist, an apologist for a bad cop, and an idiot. But the appeal itself is not unethical, hence the website was not unethical to post it.

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How can a website dedicated to paying for the defense of fired police officer Michael T. Slager be unethical, when every citizen is guaranteed the right to a defense before a jury of his peers? I thought I made my ethical objections to the site clear when I wrote:

Slager deserves a fair trial and will get one, but anyone whose immediate reaction to seeing the horrific video is sympathy for this killer cop needs psychiatric treatment, and quickly.

I also made it clear—I thought–that the text of the appeal betrayed a strange and ugly urge to shield Slager from the consequences of his conduct, which was per se, on its face, undeniably illegal under the laws of every state in the land, including South Carolina. He shot a fleeing man in the back; he cannot claim self-defense. Deadly force is forbidden in such situations. Unless Slager noticed that victim Walter Scott had death-ray shooting eyes in the back of his head, Scott’s death is a homicide, and it’s an open and shut case. The only remaining question is what level of homicide.

The appeal said that the poster supported Slager. Wrong. We should not support police officers who shoot citizens in the back. It attempted to minimize Slager’s offense by calling it a “mis-step.” Intentionally shooting someone illegally is not a mis-step. It’s murder. Then the appeal reminded us that Slager has a family, and didn’t do anything bad before he shot a man to death. Well, “first offense” is not a big mitigating factor when it comes to executing people.

However, I appreciate Ethics Alarms newcomer Gustav Bjornstrand‘s comment, though I don’t think this is the best context for it. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post “Unethical Website Of The Month: Michael T. Slager Support Fund.” I’ll be back at the end.

I venture to say that to offer support to Slager is certainly ethical, in and of itself. That is, if one believed that he or anyone deserves monetary support in order to raise a defence. It is conceivable that even someone who was certain he had committed a crime would choose still to aid him in getting good representation. It is unethical, I suggest, for anyone to assume that Slager is guilty of murder before a court decides the issue. It is possible, even if improbable, that there were circumstances prior to Slager firing that may shed light on his decision to fire. Additionally, there are a few other factors that need to be taken into consideration: Continue reading

Leslie Johnson, the Implications of Guilt and the “Innocent Until Proven Guilty” Confusion.

In the context of American justice, “innocent until proven guilty” means that nobody is legally guilty of a crime until a court proceeding has ruled so after a fair trial. The term is nowhere in the Constitution or Bill of Rights; it flows from the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment, requiring that no one can lose his or her freedom or property without due process of law. What it does not mean is that a wrongdoer is literally innocent of a crime until a jury or judge has officially declared that he is. If he did something, he did it, and if we all know he did it, we don’t have to pretend he didn’t or that we don’t.

I saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald on television and get taken into custody on the spot, and still had to listen to broadcasters say he “allegedly shot Kennedy’s assassin” as if it was still just a theory. By this standard, John Wilkes Booth only “allegedly” shot Lincoln, since he was never tried. The fact that a theater full of people saw him do it, leap to the stage and run off derringer smoking, doesn’t mean a thing. He’s as pure as the driven snow, innocent forever. Continue reading