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Law enforcement has a built in “feared for life” defense.  Prosecutors have to dismantle that defense in order to convict a police officer for killing an unarmed suspect.

The fact that a suspect is unarmed does not make the case easier.

It makes it harder.

All the defense has to point out is the possibility of danger.  The slightest movement by the suspect will be portrayed as a life threatening gesture toward the accused.  The defense will instruct the jury to put themselves in the police officer’s position.  After the jury imagines the danger they have no reason to doubt the officer feared for their life.

The prosecution is burdened with refuting the fear factor to prevent the jury’s leap of faith.  That means the prosecution has to convince the jury that a police officer’s fear wasn’t warranted.

High hurdle.

Sometimes the prosecution proves there was no immediate threat to the officer right before the shooting, but the jury is still more sympathetic to the officer because the jury normally judges the action of a lone officer without any reference of comparison to the actions of other officers on the scene.

What separated the Terrence Crutcher police shooting from other high profile cases involving White cops and unarmed Black males was there was a total of four officers on the scene.

This should have eased the burden on the prosecution, because four police officers on the scene, instead of one police officer trying to single handedly control the situation, reduces the fear factor.

That should have weakened the built in defense for the jury.

The three officers that didn’t react to the same “life threatening gesture” as the shooter was a reference of comparison for the jury, but it’s possible the jury didn’t consider the reference an equal comparison.

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The three officers that didn’t shoot were men, the officer that shot was a woman, and the jury was made up of four men and eight women.

The question is did the jury grant more latitude for the defendant because she was a woman?

The prosecution told the jury to ask themselves whether there was really any threatening movement by the suspect or if he was “simply going to the car with his hands up, and making the turn and pivoting to put his hands on the car when the shot is fired.”  The prosecution pointed out the woman officer fired several seconds before “the gesture the defense cited as the basis for the fear.”

This clarifies why the men didn’t respond.  It was several seconds before the gesture.  The prosecution proved the shooting was an overreaction.

The jury foreman stated despite what the verdict may suggest many jurors had reservations about her judgment and ability to perform as an officer.  They took issue with her decision not to use a Taser and pull her gun.  Because of this perceived option that she may have had, many on the jury could never get comfortable with her being blameless.

But if that’s true the jury should have been hung.

So the jury must have included the several seconds before the gesture into her fear factor to grant an acquittal instead of excluding the several seconds to secure a conviction.

The foreman concluded that any officer put in that situation at that exact moment and regardless of the skin color, gender or size of the suspect, would have performed the same way, which is in accordance with their law enforcement training.

But if any officer put in that same situation would have performed in the exact same way, why didn’t the three men right beside her?

(J. Pharoah Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier. He blogs at jpharoahdoss@blogspot.com)


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