Demonstrations May Prevent Prosecution

Demonstrations May Prevent Prosecution

© David Burton 2020

Kenosha, WI Demonstrations

     All the demonstrations – violent or peaceful – resulting from the deaths of Blacks at the hands of law enforcement personnel may well have a very significant unintended consequence – the inability to bring to trial the police officer(s) accused of killing the Black victims. With all the publicity associated with the demonstrations, is it possible for anyone accused of the crimes causing the demonstrations to obtain a fair trial? Will it be possible to find twelve unbiased jurors? Is there any place in the United States where the news of the demonstrations has not prejudiced any potential jurors?

     Let’s see what a mountain of publicity has caused in one more or less open-and-shut criminal case. At the end of July in 2020, “A federal appeals court in Massachusetts . . . overturned the death penalty of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the man convicted in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. . .
     “The decision vacates his death sentence and he will now have a new penalty-phase trial on whether he will executed.
     “Tsarnaev was convicted in 2015 of murdering three people and wounding hundreds more in the attack, which led to dayslong manhunt that shut down Boston. Tsarnaev's lawyers say his brother . . . was the mastermind. He was killed in a gun battle as authorities closed in on them. An officer died in the shootout with the brothers and the pair also killed {an MIT} campus police officer while authorities pursued them.
     “Tsarnaev's lawyers argued in December that it was impossible for him to receive a fair trial in Boston, and Friday's opinion questioned the decision by the judge who oversaw the trial to hold it there. [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 1)

     There was never any doubt of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s guilt in the bombing and the deaths resulting therefrom. But, excessive publicity has resulted in the well-deserved death penalty being overturned, with the argument being put forward that some members of the jury were prejudiced by pre-trial publicity. Should the trial have been moved to a location other than Boston, where the bombing occurred? Could a location have been found where the Marathon bombing had not received the news coverage that it had in Boston?

     Now, some seven years later, we have the death of Floyd George and the shooting of Jacob Blake, both unarmed Blacks, causing enormous turmoil throughout America. The resulting demonstrations have often been violent, the news coverage unrelenting and there is likely no corner of this country that has not been affected in some way by the events. Could any of the accused police ever receive a fair trial? Have all those demonstrations so poisoned the well that no unbiased jurors can be found?

     At the start of September 2020, in “The Daily Signal Podcast”, Rachel del Guidice interviewed Amy Swearer, a legal fellow in the Edwin Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation. My summary of the interview is as follows:

     Jacob Blake is the 29-year-old man who was shot multiple times by police on 23 August in Kenosha, Wisconsin. As a result of the shooting, often-violent demonstrations racked Kenosha for nights thereafter. According to one video of the shooting, Jacob Blake walks away from an officer with the officer’s gun drawn. Jacob Blake tries to get into the car. The officer tries to pull him back. As he’s leaning into the car, the officer shoots Jacob Blake roughly seven times in the back.
     There are times like this where even when it looks bad, there’s context that can matter. There are dozens of videos of individuals quickly reaching into a vehicle, or a pocket, or within a split second, having a weapon, and now the cop is injured or dead if he hesitates.
     It’s important for us to wait for the facts to come out, but that’s not what happened. We immediately have this narrative of police shooting an unarmed individual for no reason. Then the facts started coming out, and it was different than what was initially reported.
     The officers had been called to the residence for a domestic dispute in which Blake was reportedly threatening a woman. The officers knew he was wanted on a felony warrant for sexual assault.
     Previous video shows him about 30 seconds earlier, physically fighting with the officers, brushing off a taser. At some point, it’s unclear whether he had a knife on him. The officers seemed to be under the impression he had a knife on him, and a knife was ultimately found on the floorboard of the car.
     There’s just a lot going on here with that added context. We don’t know that there’s enough to determine from what we have that the officer either did everything right or absolutely nothing wrong, but it was immediately apparent that this was far more complicated and dangerous of a situation than what we saw reported with the George Floyd situation.
     There have been some reports saying Blake had threatened to shoot the officers, but none of that has been confirmed. In any case, without all the facts being known, a firestorm was set in motion that has since destroyed major parts of Kenosha. [2]

     Some six years ago, in November of 2014, I wrote about a Missouri grand jury’s decision to not indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown. In my article, I wrote:

     “Following the announcement of the grand jury decision, violence erupted in the St. Louis area and in other cities across the nation. Immediately after the announcement of the verdict, more than 80 arrests were made in the St. Louis area, as protesters fired more than 100 gunshots and burned and looted as many as 25 buildings and vandalized police cars in Ferguson, Mo.
     “These events recall what transpired following the 2012 shooting of a 17-year-old black youth, Trayvon Martin, by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman was ultimately acquitted of charges against him and rioting and protests took place after the verdict was announced.
     - - -
     "Legitimate protests are a time-honored American tradition, but blocking traffic, looting businesses, burning down buildings and torching cars does not constitute legitimate protest. What we have witnessed in Ferguson, Missouri and elsewhere around the nation is nothing but a call to vigilante justice by perpetual agitators, malcontents, ‘professional’ protestors, and closet anarchists.
     "I wasn’t present in Ferguson when Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown - neither were any of the people protesting his killing. I wasn’t in the grand jury room during the months of testimony and presentation of evidence in the case - neither were any of the people protesting his killing. The only people who have heard all the testimony and seen all the evidence were the 12 people on that grand jury. The grand jury of nine whites and three blacks had been meeting weekly for over three months to consider evidence in the fatal shooting of the 18-year old Michael Brown. The panel met for 70 hours and heard from 60 witnesses. Those jurors, and only those jurors, had the right to judge whether or not to indict Officer Wilson. They were the only people who heard every witness and reviewed all the evidence. The undisciplined protesters now rising up in indignation and who remain ignorant of the facts in the case deserve no respect or support for their actions. They prejudged Officer Wilson and found him guilty without a trial, without hearing all the testimony, and without being presented with the evidence in the case. Shame on them! America does not need vigilante or mob justice – it has a system of justice that is fair to all. We all need to let the system do its work and we need to abide by the verdicts that are produced by this system. There are more appropriate means of appeal than irrational protests and the violence that nearly always accompanies these protests.
     “The English and American concept of a trial by jury means that guilt or innocence of the accused is to be determined by a jury of one’s peers after all evidence for and against the accused is presented. While the American system of justice presupposes innocence, it does not mean that one is innocent. It simply means that guilt must be proven during the trial. The determination of guilt or innocence awaits the conclusion of the trial and the verdict by the jury.
     “This concept appears to be incomprehensible to a number of people in this country. We see, read and hear about people proclaiming the guilt or innocence of persons on trial and also their victims before a trial even begins and before all of the facts in the case become known. Such behavior smacks of gross stupidity, ignorance, prejudice, and/or a total disregard/disdain for the English and American concepts of justice and the law.
     “All too often today, we have ‘trials by tabloids’ or ‘trials by Media’, when media outlets create a widespread perception of an individual’s guilt or innocence through the release of prejudicial material before any trial actually takes place. The sensationalism that frequents today’s media severely threatens the judicial system’s ability to render an unbiased verdict in many cases. All too often, people decide on the guilt or innocence of the accused long before the actual facts are presented at trial or in grand jury hearings.
     “Prior to and during the trial, our judicial system requires a presumption of innocence on the part of the accused. It is up to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty. Adverse pre-trial publicity and media bias are inimical to the American system of justice – freedom of the press should not foster a lynch-mob mentality in the public." (Ref. 3)

     Here in 2020, America is allowing those intent on creating racial unrest, disorder, rioting, looting and mayhem in general to take the spotlight. And in so doing, these same parties, along with the unwitting followers and unknowing masses are creating an atmosphere in which those accused of committing racially inspired violence may not be able to receive a fair trial and hence may go free even if they did, in actuality, commit the crime of which they are being accused. To a certain degree, today’s demonstrators, in addition to enabling riots, looting, and violence are creating an environment in which legitimate justice cannot be achieved. By blindly demonstrating before all the relevant facts are fully disclosed these demonstrators are practicing vigilante justice. They may, in fact, be producing just the opposite result of what they are demonstrating for. Instead of thinking for themselves, too many protestors are blindly obeying the loudest and most strident voices and are thereby doing a great disservice to those they think they are supporting. There is nothing wrong with standing back and letting justice take its course. There is nothing wrong with watching to ensure that justice is being fairly and correctly applied. There is nothing wrong with standing back and watching while all the facts are impartially uncovered and presented. Above all, here in America, anyone accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty, not vice-versa. Demonstrating before all the facts are known amounts to an a-priori presumption of guilt.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- -------------------------

  1. Appeals court overturns death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber, Clare Hymes, Caroline Linton, CBS NEWS, 31 July 2020.
  2. What You Need to Know About Jacob Blake, Kyle Rittenhouse, and the Kenosha Violence, Rachel del Guidice,
    The Daily Signal, 2 September 2020.
  3. The Call for Vigilante Justice, Clare Hymes, Caroline Linton, Son of Eliyahu; Article 205, 26 November 2014.


  27 May 2021 {Article 478; Whatever_79}    
Go back to the top of the page