Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Thoughts on the Kelly Thomas Verdict

This came across this on my Twitter feed this evening.



Hard hitting, painful as a father to see, to consider. To picture my son begging for his live at the hands of a merciless beating. It's a provocative image, eliciting a solid emotional response.

My intellect, as a general rule, questions emotion-based responses. Thus, I choose to search out details, and, perhaps, facts. Doing so, of course, simply adds muddle to this. Start with this, Whiting: Kelly Thomas verdict shocking, then understandable", adds a bit of color, and here's another piece with details "Two former officers found not guilty in death of Kelly Thomas"

I read through all of this, and am starting to feel confused and numb. Which side is right? Is this verdict really just? Unjust? Are these guys just doing their job?
A few details give me pause.

First and foremost, these officers beat Thomas for 10 minutes. Ten.

"Defense attorneys said Thomas suffered physically from drug abuse, and his exertions during the struggle were too much for him."That's countered by the county's pathologist's report stating Thomas cause of death was "from asphyxiation caused by injuries he received during the confrontation." Not heart failure or any other "failure". Being beaten savagely for nearly 10 minutes will kill the most physically fit of us. I find the defense's "expert testimony" to the contrary expected, and hollow. Sorry, but I'm sure if you pay out enough cash, you'll find someone with the right credentials to provide whatever argument you want. I feel the state's experts have the most valuable insight here. Not buying the defense's claims here.

Another was uttered by Ramos' attorney,John Barnett">, claiming "...they had no malice in their hearts." His client's own words counter this. The whole encounter started with Ramos "see these fists?....They're getting ready to ---- you up." No malice, indeed.

So, ultimately, I need to acknowledge I wasn't on the jury, didn't see what they saw and hear what they heard. Just or unjust, we need to keep that in mind. If this is a failure of "the system", then raging against some of the players is counter-productive (meaning the jurors, to be clear).

The defense, though, came up with one thought that should chill us. The defense said that "cops must protect themselves when they believe they are in danger, without fear of prosecution for handling the incident with force. "That fear costs livesJohn Barnett, an attorney for Ramos, told the Los Angeles Times. "Not because they fear the criminal, but because they fear the court.” Afraid of the court, or afraid of being held responsible for their actions? Sorry, but I think they should feel that fear, that they should have that concern in the back of their minds, "I can be held accountable for my actions".  And the argument that it costs lives specious.

Officers are granted great power, great authority and need to be held to a standard that warrants that trust. From what I've read this evening, it's hard for me to feel that these officers lived up to that standard. Mr. Thomas, for whatever his issues and failures, didn't commit a capital crime. I wonder if there is a way to prevent such terrible things from happening.

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