A Jury Gets An Unarmed Black Victim Cop Shooting Right, But The Reasons Why Are Significant

From the AP: “A white former Dallas police officer who said she fatally shot her unarmed, black neighbor after mistaking his apartment for her own was found guilty of murder on Tuesday. A jury reached the verdict in Amber Guyger’s high-profile trial for the killing of Botham Jean after six days of witness testimony but just a handful of hours of deliberation. Cheers erupted in the courthouse as the verdict was announced, and someone yelled “Thank you, Jesus!”

I am surprised at the murder verdict; I expected a manslaughter conviction, and thought that prosecutors may have over-charged.

Nonetheless, a guilty verdict was necessary. It must be remembered, however, that few of the factors typically present in cases where cops have been acquitted for shooting unarmed black citizens existed here. The victim, Botham Jean, did nothing to justify his shooting, indeed nothing to justify having a confrontation with police at all. He didn’t resist a lawful arrest or threaten the officer. Amber Guyger was absolutely and completely responsible for his death in every way. She may have thought her life was in danger, but she was ridiculously wrong, and even if Jean had threatened her, he had every right to do so. She was, to him, a home invader.

In such circumstances as these, none of the usual sympathy that juries have for police officers and their dangerous duties while protecting the public applies. Guyger wasn’t trying to protect the public; she wasn’t even on duty. A jury would naturally sympathize with the victim; if a confused cop could barge into his home and start shooting, it could happen to any juror. Did race play a part in the verdict? I hope not. Whatever the verdict was, there was no evidence to suggest that Jean was killed because of his race.

It will be interesting to see what sentence the jury recommends. I feel sorry for Guyger: she was badly trained, she may have been exhausted from an over-long shift, and there is no reason she wanted to kill Jean, or anyone. Yet with power comes responsibility, and with responsibility comes accountability.

I just re-read my post from a year ago about this case. You might want to read it again too. I’ve re-posted the whole essay below.

I could easily put this story in the Ethics Alarms Zugzwang file, because I see no analysis or result that won’t make the situation worse.

A white off-duty police officer named Amber R. Guyger  entered the apartment of  Botham Shem Jean, a 26 year old accountant, and fired her service weapon twice at him, killing the St. Lucia immigrant. She claims that she mistakenly entered the wrong apartment after returning home from her 14-hour shift and believed  Jean, who is black, was an intruder.

Indeed, her apartment was directly below his. She had inexplicably parked her car on the 4th floor, where Jean’s residence was, rather than the 3rd floor, where hers was. So far, there is no indication that the shooter and the victim knew each other. Guyger had a clean record. Other facts are in dispute. The officer told investigators the apartment door was  ajar and then fully opened when she inserted her computerized chip key. That seems possible but unlikely.  Lawyers for  Jean’s family say the door was closed. How could they possibly know that?  Guyger said in court documents that when she opened the door,  she saw shadows of someone she thought was a burglar, and shouted commands before shooting. Lawyers for Jean’s family have elicited testimony from neighbors that they heard someone banging on the door and shouting, “Let me in!” and “Open up!” before the gunshots.  Why would the officer do that if she didn’t know Jean, or if she thought it was her own apartment? They also said they then heard Jean, say, “Oh my God, why did you do that?”

Boy, that sounds like an awfully convenient exclamation to be remembering now, don’t you think? But who knows? Maybe it proves the two knew each other. (Why didn’t Jean say, “Who are you?”) Maybe it is another “Hands Up! Don’t shoot!” lie for cop-haters and race-baiters  to adopt as a rallying cry.

Surprise! Jean’s family is being represented by Benjamin Crump, the same lawyer who represented the relatives of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and managed to manipulate media accounts and public opinion into the narrative that those shootings were motivated by racial hate. If nothing else, Crump is diligent and zealous in creating an atmosphere that maximizes the opportunity for civil damages whether they are warranted or not.

Crump is referring to Jean’s death as an assassination. Of course it is! After all, Guyger’s a white cop, and they live to oppress, brutalize and kill unarmed black men for no reason whatsoever, except to protect white power in a racist nation. Dallas’s black citizens and white activists do not believe the officer’s story, because they presume racism. (Similar impulse: progressives and feminist believe Brett Kavanugh’s accuser, because they want to,)  Protesters chanted and disrupted a City Council meeting last week. There have been escalating  threats against the police. Officers say they believe Officer Guyger’s version of events, as weird and inexplicable as they are. The same bias is at work: they want to believe her.

Things don’t work when they are hemmed in by biases and agendas like this. Let’s say that an investigation yields no clarification. An innocent man was shot in his own home by a police officer who lived beneath him for no discernible reason, and the cop’s only explanation is that she was tired, confused, and made a mistake. What is the ethical course at that point?

There are a few easy calls. The police department has civil liability, and it is high time to put the same kind of limitations on police shifts that airline pilots must abide by. The accident, if it was an accident, may have been caused by unethical working conditions. It would also be sensible for apartment and condo complexes to be required to make all floors recognizably distinct. I have tried to enter the wrong hotel room, apartment, condo unit and dorm room at various times, in addition to walking into ladies rooms and the occasional closet. Luckily, I don’t carry a gun. However, my own experiences make me at least willing to consider that this might have been nothing but a terrible, tragic accident.

Obviously, Officer Guyger’s career is over no matter what the truth is, and should be. Thus I agree with the argument that she should be suspended without pay or simply fired. Off-duty cops are required to carry guns, and once a cop makes this kind of “mistake,” she can’t be trusted. I wouldn’t want her wandering around my neighborhood.

Beyond that, however, what is Dallas supposed to do? The race hucksters want to protest and exacerbate racial divisions. Guyger will be painted as a cold-blooded racist killer, and typical of all police. Any result that doesn’t have her sentenced to prison for a long time will be condemned as proof that the white fix is in. The city has a duty to prevent riots and deaths, but not to squelch protests, no matter how cynical and unfair. Should it indict and try Guyger for murder rather than manslaughter, knowing that over-charging could result in an acquittal?  This was Baltimore’s approach in the Freddie Gray case, and now police passivity has made the city a runner-up to Chicago as U.S. Murder Central. What if the investigation suggests that this was indeed an accident, and no more? Is it fair to try Guyger at all, then? Will jury members concede that she has lost her occupation and her reputation, and that imprisoning her is cruel—that she has suffered enough? Or will Guyger really stand trial not as an individual, but as a symbol of all cops who shot unarmed black men and escaped accountability?

Not only do I see no satisfactory ethical outcome, I can’t even decide what an ethical outcome would be.

I do know this, however. Bias not only makes us stupid, it makes fairness, justice and law enforcement impossible.

 

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/6/2019: Of Nike, MAGA Hats, Plays, Principals And All Manner Of Idiocy

Good morning.

Commemorating one week without our Rugby, who shrugged off his canine coil Saturday last. It has been a weird and lachrymose seven days, full of reflex attempts to call him, look for him, start to out out food, and more. Worsts of all have been the chance encounters with our neighbors and his admirers, which have ended in everyone involved getting choked up. This is all exhausting, and not conducive at all to adequate focus on other matters.

1. The rest of the story...Marshae Jones, the woman who got her unborn child killed by starting a fistfight with a co-worker, will not be charged for the death of the fetus in the Alabama case I wrote about here.  I thought that would be the result. In the Ethics Alarms reader poll, over 50% felt that she should be charged:

2. Grandstanding idiot alert! Arizona Governor Doug Ducey received applause among those who do not appreciate gratuitous America-bashing and wokeness-groveling  when  he reacted to  Nike’s decision to pull its “Betsy Ross flag” sneakers (because Colin Kaepernick objected) by announcing that he would no longer support state incentives for the company to build  a plant in the Grand Canyon State. Two days later, Ducey arrived  at a 4th of July party wearing Nikes.

I wonder how he managed to forget to wear his Colin Kaepernick tee shirt?

3. Harry Truman’s best quote comes to mind. That would be, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

Two British playwrights, Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley, have accused actor Idris Elba of misappropriating their work on  “Tree,” a play they worked on with Elba for several years. “Tree” will have its world premiere at the Manchester International Festival this month, but the aggrieved playwrights will not be at the premiere,

They complain that their role in the play’s development has been erased, and that their work is not being properly acknowledged. Elba and and the play’s director say Allen-Martin and  Henley withdrew from the project, and that the show that has evolved no longer reflects their work.

“This whole process has been terribly upsetting, and we’ve felt terrified about speaking out…People need to be better, especially people who inspire others,” the pair wrote  on Medium. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Marshae Jones Case

In case you missed the facts of this instant ethics train wreck a legal case, here they are:

Marshae Jones,  27-years old, was five months pregnant when she attacked female co-worker, Ebony Jemison, 23, in the parking lot of a Dollar Store. The two had a long-standing and bitter rivalry over their romantic designs regarding a man who worked at the same company and who is apparently the father of the unborn child.  Jones  had Jemison pinned in her car while punching her repeatedly. In self defense,  Jemison grabbed her gun and fired point blank at Marshae’s stomach. The car taking Jones  to the hospital broke down, delaying a medical response. Paramedics eventually arrived, but the unborn child had been struck by the bullet, and died.

A grand juryindicted Jones for  “initiating a fight knowing she was five months pregnant,” but chose not to indict Ebony Jemison, who fired the shot. Despite the confusing and incompetent reporting on the case, it is still not certain that prosecutors in Pleasant Grove, Alabama will ultimately prosecute Jones, who according to all reports wanted her baby.  I doubt that they will.  Lynneice Washington, the district attorney for part of Jefferson County, said last week that no decision had yet been made about whether to go to trial, file lesser charges against Jones, or dismiss the case altogether.

“Foremost, it should be stated that this is a truly tragic case,” her statement said. “We feel sympathy for the families involved, including Ms. Jones, who lost her unborn child.”

Observations:

1. The fact that Jemison was not charged should surprise no one, nor does it reasonably affect the ethical and legal issues at issue here. She was attacked. The law of self-defense almost universally allows the use of deadly force when the alternative is sustaining a serious beating.  If one is attacked by a pregnant woman, the response to the attack does not have to be moderated because of the possible consequences to an unborn child. The responsibility for any adverse result to the fetus is completely the expectant mother’s.

2. Thus this headline by ABC and others like it— “Alabama woman charged in fetal death, her shooter goes free”—are inflammatory, misleading and biased journalism, blatantly attempting to take Jones’ side.

3. Alabama law declares a fetus to have the rights of a person from the moment of conception. There is nothing unethical or unreasonable about such a law, whether or not you agree with it. The reverse law, that a fetus/embryo/unborn child has no rights until birth is also ethically and legally defensible. Both cause practical problems and ethical conflicts and dilemmas, as do any compromise positions.

4. As long as a jurisdiction allows abortions within Supreme Court guidelines, there is nothing unethical about the jurisdiction prosecuting someone other than the mother who kills a fetus, intentionally or through negligence. 38 states have laws that classify fetuses as victims in homicide or assault, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In Alabama, a “person” includes embryos and fetuses at any stage of development, and the state leads the nation in such prosecutions. Last year, Jessica Lindsey, 29, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to chemical endangerment for using heroin while pregnant. Raven West, a heroin addict who gave birth to a stillborn baby, received a five-year suspended sentence last year. And Alexandra Laird, who gave birth to two children who tested positive for heroin, received two suspended 10-year sentences and access to a treatment program, according to court records.

Regarding those three results: Good…Good…Good. I have no problem with them.

4. The question is, how different is a pregnant woman who starts a parking lot fist fight that precipitates sufficient violence to kill her unborn child from a woman who knowingly ingests toxic substances that harm or kill a fetus? I don’t see a material difference. If not, then why is it unreasonable to prosecute Jones?

5. It is amazing how deftly the same progressive advocates can turn on a dime and go from “Think of the children!” to “DON’T think of the children!” depending on what’s expedient at the time.

6. Although Alabama is currently challenging Roe v. Wade, this case has nothing to do with its defiant anti-abortion law. I see no reason to believe that Jones wouldn’t be charged under the same criminal statute a year ago or five years ago. This episode has just given pro-abortion advocates an opportunity to attack the state and make Jones into a martyr, though she was not seeking an abortion. At about 20 weeks pregnant, Jones was within the range where she could have had an abortion before the new law, so the feminist argument is, I guess, that if you can legally abort an unborn baby, you should also be able to get it shot without any consequences.

Nice.

7. The callousness with which the news media tries to spin stories related to the unborn is striking. Here’s the Washington Post:

“The 27-year-old was five months pregnant when she was involved in a fight that, authorities say, prompted a woman to fire a gun in self-defense. The bullet tore through Jones’s abdomen and caused a miscarriage.”

No, the bullet struck the unborn child and killed it. That’s not a “miscarriage.”

8. Whatever the outcome, Jones caused the death of her unborn child through outrageous, violent and uncivilized behavior, and warrants no sympathy whatsoever.

As always in such stories, her family says that Jones is a saint. Her mother calls her “a fun-loving mom, churchgoing, a hard-working lady,” insisting, “My child just doesn’t bother anybody.”  Except, that is, a woman trying to make time with the father of Jones’ unborn child, in a parking lot, where she engages in a fist fight. Yeah, that Marshae is a responsible, model citizen! How could this happen to her?

9. Her lawyers say, absurdly,

“This young mother was shot in the stomach while five months pregnant and lost her baby as a result. She lost her home to a fire and lost her job. Now, for reasons that defy imagination, she faces an unprecedented legal action that subjects this victim of violence to further distress and harm.”

I know lawyers must defend their client’s zealously, but this is legal demagoguery.  She was shot because of her own criminal actions. She was fired because she attacked a co-worker. She was a “victim of violence” necessitated by her own attack. I don’t know what the fire has to do with anything; the statement just as well might have said, “And she faces painful root canal work due to chronic tooth decay.” Talk about throwing in everything but the kitchen sink!

10. I think this is worthy of another poll.

________________________________

Sources: ABC, Washington Post, New York Times

From The Ethics Alarms “Now What?” Files: The Hopeless Dallas “Cop Shoots Black Neighbor” Tragedy

I could easily put this story in the Ethics Alarms Zugzwang file, because I see no analysis or result that won’t make the situation worse.

A white off-duty police officer named Amber R. Guyger  entered the apartment of  Botham Shem Jean, a 26 year old accountant, and fired her service weapon twice at him, killing the St. Lucia immigrant. She claims that she mistakenly entered the wrong apartment after returning home from her 14-hour shift and believed  Jean, who is black, was an intruder.

Indeed, her apartment was directly below his. She had inexplicably parked her car on the 4th floor, where Jean’s residence was, rather than the 3rd floor, where hers was. So far, there is no indication that the shooter and the victim knew each other. Guyger had a clean record. Other facts are in dispute. The officer told investigators the apartment door was  ajar and then fully opened when she inserted her computerized chip key. That seems possible but unlikely.  Lawyers for  Jean’s family say the door was closed. How could they possibly know that?  Guyger said in court documents that when she opened the door,  she saw shadows of someone she thought was a burglar, and shouted commands before shooting. Lawyers for Jean’s family have elicited testimony from neighbors that they heard someone banging on the door and shouting, “Let me in!” and “Open up!” before the gunshots.  Why would the officer do that if she didn’t know Jean, or if she thought it was her own apartment? They also said they then heard Jean, say, “Oh my God, why did you do that?”

Boy, that sounds like an awfully convenient exclamation to be remembering now, don’t you think? But who knows? Maybe it proves the two knew each other. (Why didn’t Jean say, “Who are you?”) Maybe it is another “Hands Up! Don’t shoot!” lie for cop-haters and race-baiters  to adopt as a rallying cry. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/18/18: The Persecution Of Josh Hader And Impeachment Plan N [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

It’s 4:40 am. I can’t get to sleep because I’m nauseous and my stomach’s upset, probably because of Fox’s miserable coverage of the baseball All-Star game as if it was a slow day on the boardwalk. At points when the game would normally be suspenseful, the awful Joe Buck was having inane conversations about facial hair and other trivia with players in the field. Such utter disrespect for the sport it was covering in what is supposed to be a showcase!

1. Speaking of the All-Star game...Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader,  who has been a break-out relief pitching star this season, gave up four hits and a three-run homer, his worst performance of the year, on his biggest stage to date, the All-Star game in Washington, D.C. That was the least of his rotten day, however. Earlier in the evening, some  sleuth dived into Hader’s Twitter history and found some high school tweets with racist, anti-gay and sexist words and sentiments in them. The dirt was slurped up by reporters while the game was going on, and they confronted Hader immediately after the game, which Hader’s team, the National League All-Stars, lost by two runs, or one less than he had given up.

To his credit, Hader didn’t deny that he had written the tweets. “No excuses. I was dumb and stupid,”he said. He was 17-year-old when he published them.

Let’s say that again: he was 17. This shouldn’t be news, and it shouldn’t have been reported. Yet some are speculating that Major League Baseball will fine or otherwise punish Hader, and worse, that they should. If they try, I hope the players’ union makes them sorry. Hader was legally a minor; he hadn’t been drafted by a MLB team yet when those tweets were made, and  MLB didn’t even have a social media policy then. If Hader is punished, it will be one more example of craven organizational misconduct and abuse in response to, or fear of, the speech police and the political correctness mob.

2. Per se negligent homicide. In another situation in which I reject the “he’s been punished enough” defense, six-year-old Makayla S. Bowling  was shot in the head and killed by her father last week when his gun accidentally discharged while he was cleaning it. He didn’t know the gun was loaded. He did know his daughter was within shooting range, however. The authorities won’t prosecute unless they find evidence of foul play, but there is already sufficient evidence of fatal negligence. He should be charged with manslaughter.

3. Plan N! Some Democrats and journalists who have real jobs and don’t live in a padded room really are saying in public that Donald Trump should be impeached for what he said in a press conference in Helsinki. Astounding. Astounding, and unethical, because a lot of Americans—you know, like the ones on Facebook who are passing around a meme showing Obama with the legend “Share if he’s your favorite President!” (Why not just a label that says “I have never read an American history book”?)—are so ignorant about law, politics, diplomacy, and just about everything else, that they can be convinced by ravings.

If you are keeping track, and it is hard, be sure to add Plan N (Calling comments at a press conference treason) to the list of “resistance” impeachment and removal plots. Oh, heck, I need to update the list anyway: Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms “Law vs Ethics” Files: The Deadly Hexes Of Sally Quinn

In a newly published memoir, Sally Quinn, the famous journalist who married iconic Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and became a D.C. society matron, then a religion columnist, reveals a lief-long obsession with mysticism and the occult. Ouija boards, pentagrams, witchcraft, charms, spells, seances, messages from the dead (like Ben), voodoo, the whole thing: Quinn writes that she has had an  “epiphany” revealing that “believing in magic is as legitimate as any religion or faith.”

I’ll buy that. I wouldn’t say that the next step is an application to Hogwarts, however.

So these are the people who presume to tell Americans what to think, eh? Good to know.

But I digress. In a recent Washingtonian Magazine profile contrived to puff the release of  “Finding Magic,” Bradlee’s widow says that she not only believes in hexes, she’s used them. And they work!

She reveals that, in her less mellow days, she put hexes on three people who promptly wound up having their lives ruined, or ended.

The first, cast in 1969, was spurred by old-fashioned jealousy. Some exotic beauty at a Halloween party inspired lust in Quinn’s beau at the time—and then killed herself just days after Sally cast her spell.

Her second victim was Clay Felker, the longtime editor of New York magazine who oversaw a brutal profile of Quinn in 1973, just before her catastrophic debut on the CBS Morning News. Quinn hexed Felker not long after flaming out at CBS and returning to Washington. “Some time afterward, Rupert Murdoch bought New York magazine in a hostile takeover, and Felker was out,” she writes. “Clay never recovered professionally. Worse, he got cancer, which ultimately caused his death.”

Target number three: a shady psychic who, the autumn after Quinn Bradlee was born, ran afoul of Sally’s maternal instincts. The woman dropped dead before year’s end.

This raises a classic ethics question that I nearly posed today as an Ethics Quiz. I didn’t, because I know the answer and have no doubts about it. (If it’s an ethics quiz, I at least have doubts.) The question would have been:

Ethically rather than legally, is there any difference between Sally Quinn and a murderer?

The answer is no.

I’d say that the first two victims make her the ethical equivalent of someone who is guilty of manslaughter, and the last one, after her first two hexes led to her targets’ deaths, was, again ethically rather than legally, premeditated murder.

Sally says that after the psychic dropped dead, she swore off her Death Hex. That’s admirable. The fact remains, however, the while believing an instrumentality would lead to harm when employed against specific individuals, she employed it, got her desired results, and believed that she was the cause of their subsequent deaths. She also doesn’t express any remorse or regret. Continue reading

The Michelle Carter Verdict

Michelle Carter’s 18-year-old boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, had told her that he has been considering suicide. First, she told him to seek counseling, then  she changed course, texting him to go through with it. “The time is right and you’re ready, you just need to do it!” she wrote.  “You can’t keep living this way. You just need to do it like you did last time and not think about it and just do it babe.”

Later, she texted to Roy that his family accept his death, and that he would enjoy the afterlife. “Everyone will be sad for a while but they will get over it and move on. They won’t be in depression. I won’t let that happen. They know how sad you are, and they know that you are doing this to be happy and I think they will understand and accept it. They will always carry you in their hearts,” she texted.

“You are my beautiful guardian angel forever and ever. I’ll always smile up at you knowing that you aren’t far away.”

A week before the suicide, encouraging her boyfriend to be more diligent as he searched for the supplies he needed and then going through with his plan in these exchanges:

“Do you have the generator?”

“Not yet LOL,”

“WELL WHEN ARE YOU GETTING IT?”

“Now.”

“You can’t think about it. You just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it. Like I don’t get why you aren’t”

“I don’t get it either. I don’t know”

“So I guess you aren’t gonna do it then All that for nothing. I’m just confused. Like you were so ready and determined.”

“I am gonna eventually. I really don’t know what I’m waiting for but I have everything lined up”

“No, you’re not, Conrad. Last night was it. You keep pushing it off and you say you’ll do it, but you never do. It’s always gonna be that way if you don’t take action”

 “You better not be bullshitting me and saying you gonna do this and then purposely get caught.”

“No, none of that.”

On July 12, 2014, Conrad drove to a Kmart parking lot and connected his truck to a pump that released carbon monoxide. When he lost his nerve and got out of the truck, his girl friend texted him  to “get back in.”  She never alerted any authorities to stop the suicide attempt. The young man was found dead in his truck.

Yesterday, Judge Lawrence Moniz, of Bristol County Juvenile Court in southeastern Massachusetts, ruled that Ms. Carter, just seventeen at the time of her crime, committed involuntary manslaughter by urging Roy to kill himself. Continue reading