I took some heat from my fellow libertarian friends last week over my post: “What do the facts and reality have to do with it?” I concluded that the Ferguson Mo. grand jury correctly determined from all the evidence presented that there was insufficient probable cause to indict white police officer Darren Wilson for any crime stemming from the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown.
Wilson shot Brown in self defense. That was the reality of the matter. But there are lots of folks, including those who looted and burned several buildings and businesses after the decision, who weren’t interested in the facts and the reality of what happened and why it happened.
They wanted Wilson indicted for murder. They wanted him put on trial. And I suspect that even if he were eventually acquitted at a trial because the case against him surely could not have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, there would have been just as much if not more looting and burning from the angry mob.
Now, my instincts are just like many of my libertarian colleagues. I don’t trust cops. I’m skeptical of their motives. I think that generally speaking today’s cops too often tend to use excessive force in the line of duty. Cops are far less likely to use restraint nowadays. They tend to exhibit an attitude of do violence first and ask questions later. Some of them think their badge is a license to do unjustified harm.
But I try hard to never allow my instincts to override my better judgment when confronted with the facts and reality of a situation. Reality always rules over emotion. What is the reality? It’s always a mistake to draw conclusions from a kneejerk response to an event like the shooting in Ferguson Mo.
Today I saw the video of the NY City police confrontation last July with Eric Garner, a black man who was resisting arrest for selling loose cigarettes on the street. Police officer Daniel Pantaleo along with several other cops took Garner down to the sidewalk with a choke hold. Pantaleo continued choking Garner even after he said he couldn’t breathe.
In short, Pantaleo choked Garner to death. The coroner ruled the death a homicide. Choke holds are specifically designated as against police department policy. Pantaleo testified that he didn’t intend to kill Garner. A grand jury found no cause to indict Pantaleo for any crime.
In fairness to this cop I will accept his testimony as true. He probably didn’t intend to kill Garner or do him great bodily harm. However, he was clearly using excessive force to affect the arrest. At a minimum then, this cop should have been indicted on a charge of negligent homicide, if not involuntary manslaughter.
This case is far more compelling on the issue of whether an indictment was proper than the facts presented in the Ferguson Mo. case. Panatela had no good reason to put Garner in a continuing choke hold. That is the reality of the matter. But as far as the NY City grand jury was concerned:
What do the facts and the reality have to do with it?