REGARDING TULSA . . .
This we know: a white police officer gunned down an unarmed black man on the streets and is facing a manslaughter charge.
The video evidence is so clear that the officer should be denied a fair trial and sent straight to prison to serve a maximum sentence, right?
I mean, if there were any justice in this country, she’d be serving hard time already, right?
Look, I can certainly understand the Terence Crutcher family’s pain and outrage in the Tulsa shooting. I can’t imagine the pain they’re feeling. It’s a god-awful disturbing case.
But I’m also disturbed by the position of the family, and so many others, at this stage in the judicial process, that even though an indictment is good and fine and they’re happy about that, the family has said they want a conviction and aren’t going to settle for anything less.
Whoa. That translates to, “We demand a conviction and the constitution be damned.” There’s also an implied threat in there. We want a conviction or else—what?
I’m sure constitutional rights aren’t on their radar screen in all that excruciating emotion they’re processing.
But us looking on this from the outside without the fog of personal anguish, I’ll say this:
In my journalism career I covered more heinous, outrageous murder and capital murder trials, from start to finish, than I care to remember.
I learned early on that no matter the seeming amount of “mountains of evidence” or “clear-cut evidence of guilt” there appears to be, things aren’t always what they seem once a case with its many and very many details, large and small to tiny, are scrutinized in a courtroom.
There’s always this stuff called “mitigating evidence.”
I’ve also seen a lot of accused and indicted people (mostly people of color for sure) get railroaded by overzealous cops and prosecutors who are more like persecutors.
We all know that ours is a most imperfect judicial system that hasn’t always worked well for minorities and the poor folks who can’t afford the best defense attorneys. But we also know, or should, that it beats every alternative to justice by miles.
I see people in Belize every day who are charged with crimes in a day’s time who go directly to the national prison before sundown and wait months upon many months before going to trial with precious little defense–unless they happen to be a rich Belizean.
* * *
Anyway, I don’t care how “clear-cut” the video evidence in Tulsa appears to be, the officer who has been charged has a lot of pesky constitutional rights: the presumption of innocence (above all) and the right to a FAIR trial, for example.
That would be the same rights the Crutcher family and all of us have.
(And don’t think because you’re an honest, upstanding American citizen who would never commit a felony in a million years that you would never in a million years be charged with a heinous crime and need those constitutional rights. I once covered a case in which an upright white, conservative citizen was charged in a case of mistaken identity by two “eyewitnesses” and some flimsy backup evidence before the real criminal was caught. The innocent guy’s life was ruined for years even though he was freed before he went to trial.)
The officer in Tulsa may or may not be innocent of the charges, and I’m tempted to say she’s probably guilty as charged, but I can’t.
She needs to be tried by a fair and impartial jury of her peers, not by public pressure and “runaway-train justice.”
As for the case of an African American in Charlotte being gunned down–that case is about as clear-cut at this point as a mud fence.
To paraphrase a scripture, “Let justice (with fairness) roll down.”