This is how a society erodes respect for the rule of law. It is a good way to pander to political correctness and social justice warrior jerks, though.
At the height of the mad fervor to tear down Confederate hero memorials and statues over the summer, Takiyah Thompson, 22, Dante Strobino, 35, Ngoc Loan Tran, 24, and Peter Gilbert, 39. pulled down a century-old statue of a generic Confederate soldier in Durham, North Carolina. This was done in front in front of news cameras and during the day.
Thompson is a student at North Carolina Central University, a black institution. The three men belong to the Workers World Party, which organized a Durham protest to piggy-back onto the Charlottesville, Virginia protests around the removal of a Statue of general Lee.
Notably, police spotted Tran at the court hearing for Thompson when a deputy asked him to help identify two people . Tran refused and he was arrested.
Tran explained the justification for the vandalism thusly: “Monday night hundreds of people gathered in front of the statue, and it was the will of everyone there that that statue come down knowing that in the state of North Carolina there is no legal route for removing Confederate statues.”
Of course there is a legal route for removing statues. Continue reading
This morning, my mind is occupied by one long-standing ethics issue, and the rest seem trivial in comparison. Let’s warm up by trying to find some way out of this mess.
The ethical problem seems increasingly beyond our ability to solve. Yesterday there was second mistrial in the retrial of Raymond M. Tensing, the former University of Cincinnati police officer who has been charged with the 2015 murder and voluntary manslaughter for fatally shooting Samuel DuBose, an unarmed motorist. This is the third example of a police officer shooting a black man under questionable circumstances being found short of being criminally responsible in a week:
In St. Paul, police dashboard video showed Officer Jeronimo Yanez shoot into the car where Philando Castile was sitting with his fiancée and her daughter, and acquitted the officer. In that case, the officer appeared to have panicked after Castile reached into his pocket for his wallet after telling the officer, unasked, that he was carrying a firearm. In Milwaukee, jurors acquitted Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown after watching frame by frame as he shot once at fleeing armed suspect, Sylville K. Smith, then fired a second time after Smith tossed the gun he was holding and lay on the ground. Now, in Cincinnati, jurors couldn’t agree on the proper culpability of Officer Tensing. He stopped DuBose for a missing license plate, then asked him for his driver’s license. Instead of producing it, DuBose pulled the door closed with his left hand and restarted the car with his right hand. The officer reached into the car with his left arm, yelled “Stop!” twice, and used his right hand to fire his gun directly, into Mr. DuBose’s head, killing him.
What can we say about these scenarios, and many others? Continue reading
Why is Pam smiling?
After his election victory, Donald Trump agreed to pay out $25 million in settlement of claims against the new defunct Trump University. In September, before the election, the Florida Attorney General’s office had announced that that there were “insufficient grounds” to proceed with a fraud probe of the school. Three years earlier, it had announced that it was considering such a probe in anticipation of legal action against Trump University.
Four days after that threat, Donald Trump’s personal charity illegally donated $25,000 to a political group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s re-election campaign. Bondi personally solicited that donation from Trump just as her office was deciding whether to pursue the Trump U. investigation. (This is almost certainly an prosecutorial ethics violation, as well as being obviously corrupt.) This revelation by the Associated Press emerged during the campaign, and was swamped by all the other Trump controversies at the time.
Yesterday, Trump’s transition team told Bloomberg that Pam Bondi has accepted a job in Trump’s White House. Continue reading
The other shoe dropped: prosecutors dropped all remaining charges against three Baltimore police officers accused in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, following the acquittals of three other officers by Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams. He was expected to preside over the remaining trials, and, as the Bible says, the writing was on the wall.
Make no mistake: this result was completely and entirely the result of the incompetent, unethical conduct of State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who vaingloriously announced charges against the officers in the immediate wake of rioting in Baltimore, following the dictates of a mob. She did this without sufficient investigation, evidence or, despite the ethical requirements of her office, probable cause. She had the city of Baltimore agree to a large damages settlement for Gray’s family before any of the officers were tried, prejudicing their cases. She spent millions on the prosecutions, and shattered the lives of all six officers, and yet never made a case that justified any of it.
There are more unethical things that a prosecutor can do, and they certainly do them. Some prosecute individuals they know are innocent, which is a bit worse than prosecuting someone who might be guilty because a mob wants blood. Those unethical prosecutors, however, try to cover their tracks. Not Mosby: she’s proud of being unethical, because its the kind of unethical conduct that African-American activists think promotes justice. Justice is when someone pays with their life or liberty if an African American dies, regardless of law or evidence. That’s the theory, anyway. Continue reading
George Washington Law School Professor John F. Banzhaf III has filed an ethics complaint against State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby with Maryland’s Attorney Grievance Commission. Banzhaf accuses Mosby in his 10-page complaint of breaching Maryland’s rules of professional conduct for lawyers, which requires that a prosecutor refrain from prosecuting a charge unless it is supported by probable cause, in her conflicted and incompetent prosecution of six police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray. The complaint also flags Mosby’s improper use of public statements to bias the administration of justice.
Of course he is right, as I have repeatedly explained here, here, here, here, and here. I assume there have been other complaints before this one, but he has made the issue a high profile one, and that’s excellent news.
Mosby has earned the Mike NiFong treatment: the unethical prosecutor in the Duke Lacrosse rape case was disbarred, briefly jailed, and sued. She is black, female, and a Democrat, and NiFong remains one of the very, very few prosecutors to be punished significantly for unethical conduct. I will be amazed if the commission does anything momentous or sufficient to discourage grandstanding prosecutors like Mosby in the future, even though such prosecutors are willing to ruin lives for political gain.
I hope I am wrong.
(But I’m not.)
Mosby in 2015, ruining lives, pandering to the mob, and undermining justice…
The third (of six) indicted Baltimore police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray was acquitted last week, and how the rest of the trials, if they even occur, will play out is now a foregone conclusion. To be fair, this was a forgone conclusion from that moment that Baltimore City Attorney Marilyn Mosby charged the officers a year ago without sufficient justification beyond her own political ambitions, those of her husband (who is now running for mayor), racial bias and a desire to mollify rioters. Most commentators believed the charges were premature, rushed to avoid civic unrest. To say that is really to say that she allowed a mob to dictate to law enforcement. This was unethical, dangerous and despicable then, and remains so today.
If officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., who drove the police transport van in which Gray suffered the spinal cord injury that killed him, could not be found guilty of intentionally killing Freddie Gray, nobody can. Says the New York Times,
“His acquittal on seven counts leaves the state without any convictions after three trials, in one of the nation’s most closely watched police misconduct cases — and continues to leave open the question of what, exactly, happened to Mr. Gray inside the van….Judge Barry G. Williams, who presided over the Goodson trial, issued the verdicts to a hushed, packed courtroom. He drew no conclusions about exactly when during the van ride Mr. Gray got hurt, saying there were several “equally plausible scenarios.” And he rejected the state’s contention that the officer had given Mr. Gray an intentional “rough ride” and knowingly endangered him by failing to buckle him into the van or provide medical help.”
The prosecutor isn’t supposed to ruin the lives and careers of presumptively innocent law enforcement officials to try to find out what happened to Freddie Gray. The prosecutor is supposed to investigate until sufficient evidence tells her that a crime was committed, and the she has enough of that evidence to get a legitimate conviction. The three trials have shown that such evidence either doesn’t exist, or was never found. No, we don’t know what killed Freddie Gray, and that’s called “reasonable doubt.” Continue reading