With the events in Ferguson, Missouri, the public has rightly been discussing the growing militarization of the police forces in this nation. The flip side to that coin has been the increasingly reckless conduct by prosecuting attorneys, both at the state and federal level. Radley Balko, formerly of Reason and HuffPo, and now at WaPo, has done yeoman work documenting cases of prosecutorial misconduct and overreach. Just like the police, prosecutors are protected by qualified immunity and are rarely held to the same professional standards that their civilian* counterparts.
Prosecutorial misconduct is the reason I stopped supporting the death penalty. I can’t trust that the people exercising the ultimate government power are working within the law or even in the interest of justice.
That same reckless conduct led to the overturning of the convictions of police officer convicted for the killing of civilians on the Danziger Bridge during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. For those of you who don’t remember this:
The Danziger Bridge shootings were police shootings that took place on September 4, 2005, at the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans, Louisiana. Six days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, members of the city’s police department killed two people: 17-year-old James Brissette and 40-year-old Ronald Madison. Four other people were wounded. All victims were unarmed. Madison, a mentally disabled man, was shot in the back. New Orleans police fabricated a cover-up story for their crime, falsely reporting that seven police officers responded to a police dispatch reporting an officer down, and that at least four people were firing weapons at the officers upon their arrival. On August 5, 2011, a federal jury in New Orleans convicted five police officers of myriad charges related to the cover-up and deprivation of civil rights. However, the convictions were vacated on September 17, 2013 due to prosecutorial misconduct, and a new trial was ordered.
From the article:
“The case started as one featuring allegations of brazen abuse of authority, violation of the law, and corruption of the criminal justice system,” [Judge] Engelhardt wrote in his decision alluding to the Danziger prosecution. “Unfortunately, though the focus has switched from the accused to the accusors, it has continued to be about those very issues. After much reflection, the court cannot journey as far as it has in this case only to ironically accept grotesque prosecutorial misconduct in the end.”
This is unacceptable. The War on Nouns has lulled the populace into surrendering their liberty to the police and prosecutors. It’s time that those liberties were taken back and the offenders suffer the consequences.
h/t Ken Ostos, from the Book of Faces
* – Yes, I know that police and prosecutors are also civilians. It was a useful literary tool. It instantly made the dichotomy clear in your mind, didn’t it?