Tag Archives: Staten Island

LIONEL PODCAST: Police Protests – It’s About Time

Protesters march in New York, carrying signs depicting the haunting eyes of Eric Garner.

The eyes have it. As symbols go this one’s hard to beat. The message and power are breathtaking.Too bad Eric Garner’s not the best case to be made, but it’ll have to do.

But don’t listen to this podcast if you want to be mollified. Either way. There’s no specific right or wrong here. Nothing Manichean or apodictic. This is a nuance minefield. It’s years of perceived and actual police excess but this time it’s been accompanied by a deliberate and powerful activism, the likes of which New York City, in particular, hasn’t seen for decades.

  • Eric Garner and Michael Brown are not good cases to clearly exemplify raw and unbridled police excess as both resisted arrest, confronted the cops and contributed in large part to the tragic and deadly escalation of their cases. You simply can’t get past these facts. Brown charged Officer Wilson; Garner resisted arrest. That is not to say that the police acted appropriately or professionally in any wise. In fact they may have. The point is that’s not the point. There are better cases. Fact. Kelly Thomas, Dillon Taylor, Gil Collar, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice — these are better examples of clear excesses. Easier to digest and grasp by all parties and factions. Woefully bereft of pithy memes and hashtag messaging.
  • My Nine-Point Plan I commend to you for your perusal and review. It lists and adumbrates my suggestions and recommendations as a necessary start.
  • There are white folks who want nothing to do with the suggestion that police act inappropriately and excessively. They believe that it’s racial bellyaching, promoted and exacerbated by poverty pimps and racial arsonists. And they’re wrong.
  • There are people of color who, perhaps habituated to yet another example of police shooting, want nothing to do with the suggestion that Eric Garner and Michael Brown had anything to do with precipitating their own tragic ends. They see Messrs. Brown and Garner as police victims, simple. And they’re wrong as well.
  • This issue requires careful consideration and rational analysis and, moreover, critical thinking skills. Keep the sloganeering and the catchy meme rhetoric. I want solutions. Not an Instagram moment or a retweet.

Breaking the Set. Abby Martin of RT’s Breaking the Set and I enjoy a spirited and targeted discussion on all that is the latest in Eric Garner and the problems associated therewith. Abby’s without peer in getting down to the the tacks of brass and — get this — allotting adequate time to discuss, dissect and digest an issue.

I invite you to refer to my YouTube Channel and subscribe.

THE LIONEL PLAN: Preventing and Dealing With the Next Eric Garner

As the country moves past its initial and collection reaction and shock to the Michael Brown and Eric Garner grand jury decisions, the issue is now what to do after. Specifically, what needs to be done to move forward and how to both prevent and deal with the next (inevitable) tragedy. Herein is my nine-point plan.

  • Mandatory special prosecutor assigned in police shootings. DA’s will be prohibited from handling prosecutions of police officer shootings and/or deaths within their jurisdiction regarding officers whom they must necessarily deal with on a daily basis.
  • Police union messaging. Police unions must not be viewed as adversarial to the public and must tailor their message and directives avoiding at all costs ostensible tone-deaf insensitivity.
  • Civilian ride-along programs. The public simply has no idea of what police do. Increased participation in ride-along programs and similar liaison programs will help dramatically especially when combined with media and social media outlets highlighting the efforts.
  • Media instruction and tutelage as to what police do. The public and media think that arrests are invitations to cooperate. They must understand the rather brusque process of surrender and the danger to police of “pretty please” seizure.
  • Education of public as to grand jury process. The ham sandwich myth must be forever corrected and eliminated altogether.
  • Reevaluation and ultimate reversal of 1033 programs. Programs providing for militarization of police agencies fuel subliminal antagonism and exacerbate the inherent problems.The historic firewall between civilian law enforcement and military operations as in Posse Comitatus must be enforced.
  • Mandatory camera programs. Cameras proved invaluable in establishing a level of transparency in the Eric Garner case. Without them, no facts would have been readily available. The ACLU has instituted programs allowing for citizens to download apps for smartphone use to document and record questionable and suspect police behavior.
  • Expansion of Citizen Complain Review Boards and CCRB-like programs. Civilian jurisdiction in reviewing police abuse claims creates the perception of cooperative involvement and community investment.
  • Police-civilian liaisons. Emphasis on community policing and symbiotic cooperation is encouraged versus antagonistic coexistence.

 

LIONEL PODCAST: Indict This!

One more time. Just listen to me. This is all you’ll need to know.

 

What Ferguson Doesn’t and Didn’t Mean

WHAT FERGUSON DOESN’T MEAN

by

LIONEL

Let’s be very clear about something regarding the tragedy that was Ferguson. And clarity is something desperately needed. It’s critical to note what the case does not mean.

The grand jury’s refusal or reluctance or inability to indict Officer Darren Wilson, i.e. by returning a “no true bill” on a host of charges from murder to involuntary manslaughter, doesn’t mean that another grand jury cannot be reassembled to indict because double jeopardy does not apply. (Double jeopardy attaches when a petit jury is sworn.)

It doesn’t mean that Officer Wilson wasn’t a bad cop or negligent or racist or incompetent. It doesn’t mean that Ferguson is not a hotbed of intolerance. It merely means that a grand jury did not find probable cause (PC) to indict. And as burdens of proof go, PC is notoriously simple to overcome. I contend a more contemporary definition of PC is “He probably did it.” And, yes, it’s significant to note that not a single charge was found to satisfy PC. Nothing. Especially in view of the esteemed New York jurist Sol Wachtler’s now famous quip that a good prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich.

It doesn’t mean that Bob McCulloch was an inept prosecutor or held back evidence or that the evidence was in and of itself insufficient. It doesn’t mean that Wilson will not be found civilly liable in a host of potential lawsuits and it doesn’t mean that the failure to find criminal liability in any way precludes civil liability exposure. It doesn’t mean that witnesses were necessarily lying or perjurious. They can and often change their minds, forget and experience different perceptions of the same events.

It doesn’t mean that McCulloch should have necessarily appointed or requested a special prosecutor, though in retrospect it might have been wise. It doesn’t mean that his familial relationships with police somehow disqualify him as a prosecutor. Try finding one who doesn’t have strong ties to cops. It doesn’t mean that Michael Brown asked to be killed or is a thug or a criminal. No, the lack of criminal charges, the deliver of no true bill doesn’t mean anything other than no criminal liability was found. A radiologist who scans an X-ray and announces no evidence of bone fracture doesn’t mean that a patient isn’t hurt or in pain or limping. A negative pregnancy test doesn’t mean that no one had sex or that a rape didn’t occur.

Many civilian observers have quickly realized that criminal law and real life prosecutions aren’t Law & Order. And I daresay they’re shocked. Shocked at what many of us who’ve served in the M*A*S*H units of the DA’s office and trial warrior trenches have known for years: the system exhibits many iterations from surgically precise to reckless and inept. The grand jury was theoretically designed to act as a buffer, a detached and separate tribunal to protect us from a marauding crown. And it’s fraught with problems.

Historically the grand jury is the prosecutor’s tool. And interestingly enough, now making the rounds is SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia’s 1992 opinion in Williams. It’s been quoted (interestingly enough) by the same folks who until recently most probably reviled him. He noted that historically “neither in this country nor in England has the suspect under investigation by the grand jury ever been thought to have a right to testify or to have exculpatory evidence presented.” Touché, Nino. The Williams court refused to dismiss an indictment where exculpatory evidence was not introduced. Here, in a most novel approach, it seems the juridical vigilantes want an indictment delivered because too much exculpatory evidence was presented. Go figure.

The grand jury’s decision anent the tragedy that is the death of Michael Brown doesn’t mean anything other than PC as to criminal liability was not found, seen, presented or allowed to be established. That’s it in a nutshell. It’s time to take a breath and continue to demand accountability from all police departments everywhere and always. And if you’re up to the challenge, Google “Kelly Thomas,” the case of a schizophrenic homeless man who was beaten to death by two Fullerton, California, cops who were ultimately acquitted. There were no riots in protest.

Now imagine the reaction to an acquittal in Wilson’s trial had it been permitted to go forward.