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Dormin111
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I'll look into it. Can you tell me which page of the transcript to start on?

 

From Vol. 5, pg 228, lines 1-8:

"I shoot a series of shots. I don't know how many I shot, I just know I shot it. I know I missed a couple, I don't know how many, but I know I hit him at least once beacuse I saw his body kind of jerk or flinched.  I remember having tunnel vision on his right hand, that's all, I'm just focusing on that hand when I was shooting."

--

Now look again at that autoposy photo and tell me Officer Wilson didn't do a better job hitting his "target" than is being suggested here.  Training counts for something and I suggest this officer hit what he was focusing on under duress a reasonable amount of the time.  12 Shots fired, 6-7 hit Brown, and I see 3-4 hitting the arm Wilson was aiming for.

 

That being said, I'm not disputing that leg/knee shots aren't the way to go in a shoot out while being fired upon, but perhaps they're not as unreasonable as some here have posted against a large, unarmed target.  The last shot would have dropped him in any case.

 

Edited to clean up the number of shots fired and areas hit, according to what I've read and seen.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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It's not 100% clear that he was aiming at the hand - tunnel vision and focus are euphemisms for attention as well as being literal references to line of sight. I'd ask a clarifying question if I was interviewing him, but for now it seems safe to argue as if  he was aiming for the hand. So yes, he was a bit closer to his target (the waistband, where the hand was). But he still missed his target - assuming that Brown's hand was shot during the struggle in the car, which is my understanding. Regardless, if he was aiming for the hand to disable and not kill Brown, he got the result he could have expected. That is, he failed spectacularly and killed his target anyway. 

Edited by FeatherFall
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I think he was focusing on the hand because he was afraid it held a concealed weapon, and hitting the arm as a larger target would have the desired effect. I only present this as a counter to the argument that his trained shooting didn't serve him better than he's being given credit for.  Yes, the grazed hand appears to have happened in the car, which may be why Brown placed it in his waist band.  Again conjecture based only on my read of the transcript and view of the autopsy photo.  But I think it fits the evidence better than asserting Wilson went exclusively for a very large torso and missed spectacularly until a head was placed in front of his gun.

 

Edit: clarity, resulting from typing too fast while trying to stay ahead of you...

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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(On the distinction between chokes, I expect that the written policy 1) does not specify, but 2) was written to prevent situations just such as these. Thus, as pertains to the "spirit of the law," I would guess that "tracheal" versus "arterial" is a distinction without a difference. But perhaps I'm wrong on that point.)

 

If we are not arguing for the application of moral law, then aren't we necessarily arguing for the immoral? In this case, aren't you arguing on behalf of those who initiate the use of force, and against those who have force initiated against them (and have died as a direct result)?

If these are the results -- which seem immoral and reprehensible to me -- then what good comes from "protecting codified law" in this manner?

This CNN article explains that the tracheal choke is banned, and that the officer apparently used one. Look under the heading, "Forensic Expert: Chokeholds can be deadly." But they also say that the risk of using the arterial choke is that you accidentally apply the tracheal, so the officer's intent is unclear. Furthermore, they say the risk of the tracheal choke is that you cut off the airway and choke the victim to death. Which isn't what happened. It may also be useful to consider that the chokehold was seemingly not applied with the intent to choke Garner out, but rather to get him to the ground so he could be cuffed. My layman's understanding is that most of the risks are associated with prolonged application.

With regard to the last couple of questions, I don't know. I encounter the same question with regard to the immigration debate and I came to the conclusion that I simply don't care if people immigrate illegally. What prevents me from coming to a similar conclusion here is that I don't see any way that the law allows for prosecution. This situation is sort of a mirror, where the specifics are reversed. It's easy to ignore a law and not to prosecute; not so easy to imagine a law where none exists.

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This CNN article explains that the tracheal choke is banned, and that the officer apparently used one. Look under the heading, "Forensic Expert: Chokeholds can be deadly." But they also say that the risk of using the arterial choke is that you accidentally apply the tracheal, so the officer's intent is unclear.

I'm no expert in choking people, lol, so you can take this with even more salt than usual...

But I'd figure that there is more risk involved in an arterial choke than simply the possibility of also accidentally applying a tracheal choke. An arterial choke functions, after all, by directly restricting the brain's supply of oxygen. Still a very dangerous proposition. Still potentially lethal. In fact, I don't see how an arterial choke would be considered superior to a tracheal choke, with respect to trying not to accidentally injure/kill a suspect that you're attempting to subdue. If a person spent the amount of time in a tracheal choke necessary to kill them, but instead in an arterial choke, well... I think that would do the job just as well. Maybe even more effectively. (I've seen people pass out in seconds due to the application of an effective arterial choke, which I think is not uncommon.)

But again, I don't know what I'm talking about, so perhaps what I'm saying is not true at all, and someone more knowledgeable can weigh in.

 

Furthermore, they say the risk of the tracheal choke is that you cut off the airway and choke the victim to death. Which isn't what happened.

In the post of mine you've quoted, I believe I'd referenced that the medical examiner related Garner's death directly to the chokehold applied? Now I'd asked whether that was a misrepresentation, and you didn't respond to that question, but I'll proceed as though it is not a misrepresentation.

Wouldn't it be fair to say that the risk of the tracheal choke, or arterial choke, is also that it might help to kill someone suffering from conditions such as asthma or sleep apnea, or complications due to obesity? Isn't that borne out by the events of this case, and the medical examiner's conclusions?

Is this something we've just now learned? That people suffering from certain medical conditions might react more poorly to violent tactics? Or is this something we'd already known?

Now, we might say that these medical conditions aren't typical, but I'd argue that neither are they so rare as to not merit general consideration. The police knew Garner was obese. They knew he was complaining about not being able to breathe. I'd say that the actions of the police in this case carried more risk -- risk that a reasonable man could appreciate, or even anticipate -- than simply choking the victim to death in a manner that would satisfy you as to be able to say that "he was choked to death" (beyond the point I'd made earlier, thus far unaddressed, that dying in the ambulance from "heart failure" after being shot is still being shot to death). I'd say that treating people in this manner is risky. In fact, I'd say that it is to avoid these risks that police are prohibited from treating people in this manner.

 

It may also be useful to consider that the chokehold was seemingly not applied with the intent to choke Garner out, but rather to get him to the ground so he could be cuffed.

I'm certain you're right. But don't you think that such an application of a chokehold was taken into consideration prior to its being prohibited? Don't you think that someone, somewhere said to himself, "Well, on the one hand, it can help to get someone to the ground... but on the other hand, it's dangerous. Too dangerous." In fact, isn't it due to the appeal of the chokehold's apparent utility that it is is prohibited in the first place? Isn't the underlying message of such a prohibition "you might be tempted to use a chokehold, judging it helpful, but don't do it; it is too risky"?

I know you've said that this was a "legal arrest" only with some improper tactics being employed. But I would say that it is first of all an immoral action -- the initiation of the use of force, thuggery in itself, and ought not be legal in any event -- and further that an arrest should only be considered "legal" (let alone moral), even when enforcing that which ought to be enforced, if it is conducted in a proper manner. The "means" matter. The use of prohibited tactics change this, in my opinion, from an above-board (though still immoral) procedure to something else entirely. If the use of prohibited tactics carries a risk of injuring/killing the victim -- which is why I expect these tactics were prohibited in the first place -- then I'd say that the person who employs them bears the responsibility for the results of his actions.

 

My layman's understanding is that most of the risks are associated with prolonged application.

You know, I've seen it before where an athlete, in a fit of anger, lashes out at a referee, striking him. The intention being to hurt, perhaps, or maybe just to express frustration, but sometimes the referee is severely injured or even killed (despite the fact that we perhaps sometimes believe that a person can take a punch or two without grievous harm). It's a serious thing, physically assaulting a person. There are many risks. And when it happens that someone dies through such an assault, though rarely, and though unintentionally, I think we typically call it some variant of homicide/murder.

Perhaps most of the risks of choking, or bringing someone to the ground, and riding his back (as I recall it, though I've only allowed myself to watch the Garner video once), and not relenting when he complains of not being able to breath... perhaps most of the risks of such actions are "associated with prolonged application of a tracheal choke"? Perhaps most, but obviously not all. I think in employing prohibited tactics, the police in this case assumed the associated risks, just like if you take a swing at a referee, maybe it's just an assault, maybe it's nothing more than a league suspension/expulsion or a fine, depending on the outcome, but maybe it's murder, even if you didn't have that planned, and even if you couldn't have anticipated it.

In terms of morality and in terms of procedure what these policemen did was wrong -- and a man died accounting to their choices and actions (regardless of whether or not you think it fair to say "he was choked to death," as I thus far think it *is* fair to say). I think that's about as clear-cut as it gets to say "they were responsible for his death." People aren't simply mindless cogs carrying out bureaucratic orders. These men could have done otherwise. They should have done otherwise. They chose their path, and these are the results, and it is immoral, and it ought to be criminal.

 

With regard to the last couple of questions, I don't know. I encounter the same question with regard to the immigration debate and I came to the conclusion that I simply don't care if people immigrate illegally. What prevents me from coming to a similar conclusion here is that I don't see any way that the law allows for prosecution. This situation is sort of a mirror, where the specifics are reversed. It's easy to ignore a law and not to prosecute; not so easy to imagine a law where none exists.

At the very least, I'd say that if we see this as a crime (according to what we would believe to be a rational code of law), but fret that we have no statute to address it currently, that our first response would be to call for some statute to address it.

Beyond repealing laws against selling untaxed cigarettes, or whatever, would you support a statute saying that police who use prohibited tactics such as these bear the responsibility for their actions? A man accused even of a serious crime is not necessarily guilty of a serious crime, or any crime at all. He should be apprehended in such a way as to not cause him harm, where possible. Chokeholds, if judged generally too dangerous to use for these purposes, are sensibly prohibited. When and where prohibited, if a police officer employs a chokehold, and if someone qualified to do so judges that chokehold to cause the death of a suspect, then that police officer should be held criminally responsible.

If the argument is that Garner could not have been apprehended in any fashion other than choking him to the ground in the manner undertaken, well, I don't know that I'm competent to debate that point, though I feel dubious. I will say, though, that if the police had simply forced his arms behind his back to be handcuffed, and if that put such fear in him that he had a heart attack and died (according to his poor health), that we would not be having this conversation currently, and there would not be widespread protests.

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I'm sure the arterial choke kills faster. As you said, the brain is deprived of oxygen much sooner. When you deprive the lungs of air there is still a fair amount in the bloodstream. I can personally remain conscious for at least two minutes (probably longer) with a lungful of air, but nobody lasts more than several seconds if their brain is deprived of blood. Either way, neither of these things happened, which is why I maintain that it is flat wrong to say Garner was choked to death.

 

I've heard it reported that the coroner referenced the pressure to the neck. I didn't mean to dodge your question. I can't know if the coroner's report was a misrepresentation without access to it, which I don't have. I assume it was quoted accurately, but that people conclude things that don't follow from it. I'd like to see the report if and when it comes out to see exactly how relevant the choke hold was, but I don't think I'll get that opportunity. If it revealed that Garner's windpipe was crushed and could not reopen, that would change the matter. But such an event seems close to impossible given how clearly he can be heard after the choke hold was removed. Either way, the risks that make choke holds more dangerous than other means apparently didn't occur. Garner's brain seemingly was not deprived of blood or his lungs deprived of air, leading to cardiac arrest. It seems that it was the other way around; cardiac arrest leading to blood loss to the brain. More likely what killed him was the extra 200 some pounds on his back that compressed his chest and lungs and put stress on his heart. Either way, let's drop this talk of trying the officer for murder. Murder is intentional, and at worst what we have is a case of manslaughter... Unless you want to do the felony murder rule thing, in which case you've got several officers up for trial, every one of them culpable for murder and racketeering. But again, I don't understand how people who know nothing about the aftermath could watch that video up to the point Garner was released from the hold and conclude that he was about to die. Knowing what I know at the moment, I'd acquit the officer of a manslaughter charge.

Arrest should be withheld for the most serious of offenses. Most property crimes can probably be resolved without arrest. Just let the person know he'll be tried, give him the opportunity to appear and if he doesn't then you can take restitution when he isn't near his stuff. If a person's crime (including property crime) becomes so serious that he needs to be arrested, he's already assumed all of the risk himself. If resistance is then offered, I don't think I care if choke holds are used. The state is a deadly thing; all laws come with a death threat. If you resist, your only escape is to escalate force up to the point of lethal force. The best we can do is to make sure the laws we enforce are worthy of such an escalation. This case isn't a tragedy because a criminal died; it's a tragedy because an innocent man died.

Edited by FeatherFall
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If it revealed that Garner's windpipe was crushed and could not reopen, that would change the matter.

Not that it matters directly to this case -- I don't expect that Garner's windpipe was crushed -- but why would it matter to you if it had been?

If the choke caused this death in some manner, which I don't know except to again rely upon the medical examiner's conclusion, as it has been reported, why would the specifics of how the choke caused death matter? What difference would it make if Garner's windpipe had been crushed or not?

Because it would indicate to you that he had somehow used the choke "improperly" as opposed to properly? But there wasn't any way he could have choked Garner properly; the chokehold itself was prohibited. It was an improper maneuver to use; not held to be acceptable when used in some supposedly proper fashion.

It seems to me that your position is really that you disagree with the medical examiner: you do not believe that this chokehold caused Garner's death. You don't think it was held long enough. You don't think it did sufficient physical damage. I understand. But on these points, what possible argument can I give you? I'm not a qualified medical examiner, and even if I were, I wouldn't have access to the necessary evidence.

 

Garner's brain seemingly was not deprived of blood or his lungs deprived of air, leading to cardiac arrest. It seems that it was the other way around; cardiac arrest leading to blood loss to the brain.

Given that you are simultaneously telling me that you don't have access to the report such that you can analyze it critically, or judge whether it has even been properly represented in the media, I honestly don't know how you can draw these sorts of conclusions or rely upon them.

 

Either way, let's drop this talk of trying the officer for murder.

I don't know that I specifically called for "trying the officer for murder." I think I spoke of criminality and also of responsibility, and I stand by that.

I also don't know that trying the officer for murder is wrong. The officer did something he ought not have done and killed a man in the process. It was ruled a homicide. I think he's responsible for that, I think it's a criminal action (again, if not per current statute, then per statutes which ought to exist in a rational society), and I'm open to a discussion as to whether it's a variant of murder.

 

Murder is intentional, and at worst what we have is a case of manslaughter...

On that point, what do you mean by "intentional"? Here's a case that recently caught my eye.

Parents who (again, trusting the report; if it's inaccurate, so be it, but that's what I'm relying upon) forced their child to drink soda by way of punishing her for misbehavior. The child died.

Did they "intentionally" kill their child? (Beyond "intentionally" making her drink that soda, which of course they did, but so did the officer "intentionally" put Garner in that chokehold.) Let's say not. Let's say that they only meant to teach her a lesson, so that she would grow up to be a fine, upstanding citizen. But they miscalculated, just as this officer miscalculated. They employed improper tactics, even though disciplining one's child is generally a legal thing to do (just as arresting a person, and even using physical force to do so, may be proper). They were charged with -- and pleaded guilty to -- murder.

Perhaps you won't see these situations as analogous in any fashion? But I mean to probe your meaning of "murder is intentional." If these parents did not intend to kill their child, but their actions had that same effect, is that murder in your estimation?

 

This case isn't a tragedy because a criminal died; it's a tragedy because an innocent man died.

The police don't only arrest "criminals." Insofar as a criminal is someone who commits crimes, or has committed some crime, it sometimes takes a judge/jury to determine whether or not someone is a criminal. We may even consider people to be "innocent until proven guilty." You may not care whether chokeholds are used to apprehend suspected criminals -- and you may not find it tragic if someone dies in the course of being arrested, judging him to have brought it upon himself regardless of the specifics, and how his death may have been avoided -- but I think that if we'd like to minimize the risk of potentially innocent people being killed by the police prior to their criminality being adjudicated, then it's best that the police hold themselves to a proper code of conduct. And when that fails, as it does from time to time, that we hold them responsible for the consequences.

Edited by DonAthos
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I think he was focusing on the hand because he was afraid it held a concealed weapon, and hitting the arm as a larger target would have the desired effect. I only present this as a counter to the argument that his trained shooting didn't serve him better than he's being given credit for.  Yes, the grazed hand appears to have happened in the car, which may be why Brown placed it in his waist band.  Again conjecture based only on my read of the transcript and view of the autopsy photo.  But I think it fits the evidence better than asserting Wilson went exclusively for a very large torso and missed spectacularly until a head was placed in front of his gun.

 

Edit: clarity, resulting from typing too fast while trying to stay ahead of you...

This strays from the information available prior to the GJI documents. If Brown acted in a way that could be mistaken for having a concealed weapon - Wilson is faced with a split second judgement call after an altercation in his vehicle, which occurred after he realized that Brown may well be the thief from the store he was initially responding to, which happened after he started to drive away from having asked Brown and his cohort to walk on the sidewalk rather than in the street. From the entry points of the bullet wounds in Brown's arm, I'm having a hard time picturing where in his waist band he placed it. If it were in the front, palm facing his body, then maybe the lower bicep wound could make sense.

 

Was there anything in the first encounter that should have tipped Wilson off that when he backed the vehicle up to re-engage them, it should have been any different than the first time he spoke with them?

 

There are too many issues going on in this thread to sort them all out handily. I've pretty much confined myself to the Ferguson affair that I followed most closely.

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After the incident, city medical examiners concluded that Garner was killed by neck compression, along with "the compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police". Contributing factors included bronchial asthma, heart disease, obesity, and hypertensive cardiovascular disease.[2][1][16][17

He didn't die in the ambulance from "heart failure" or a heart attack. He died from being choked to death and smothered by the cops.

And no "well if we wasn't obese or had asthma then the chokehold wouldn't have killed him, therefore cops are innocent, protests bad!" (Actual argument from actual republican congressman) isn't valid.

If Garner was white, from a rural area wearing a cowboy hat, and was killed for the exact same reason (selling untaxed cigarettes) he would be a tea party, right wing media (breitbart fox etc.) hero. The reason he isn't is pretty obvious.

And there are tons of other cases just like Garner all over the place. Any objectivist that isn't out in the streets trying to burn the system that allows this down has the burden of explaining why not.

Edited by 2046
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This strays from the information available prior to the GJI documents. If Brown acted in a way that could be mistaken for having a concealed weapon - Wilson is faced with a split second judgement call after an altercation in his vehicle, which occurred after he realized that Brown may well be the thief from the store he was initially responding to, which happened after he started to drive away from having asked Brown and his cohort to walk on the sidewalk rather than in the street. From the entry points of the bullet wounds in Brown's arm, I'm having a hard time picturing where in his waist band he placed it. If it were in the front, palm facing his body, then maybe the lower bicep wound could make sense.

 

Was there anything in the first encounter that should have tipped Wilson off that when he backed the vehicle up to re-engage them, it should have been any different than the first time he spoke with them?

 

There are too many issues going on in this thread to sort them all out handily. I've pretty much confined myself to the Ferguson affair that I followed most closely.

 

Again, the conjecture is mine as I can't find anything yet in Wilson's account (vol 5, pgs 197-230+) that explicitly states he thought Brown had a concealed weapon.  Brown ran away with a grazed right hand after the incident in the vehicle and Wilson didn't think either of the 2 shots fired hit Brown.  Wilson pursued on foot, believing backup was half a minute away.  Brown turns at the lamp post and places his grazed right hand in his waistband, clenches his left fist and runs towards Wilson, who begins firing at (and hitting) what he perceived to be the most threatening part of Brown; the right arm.

 

The only difference I read in the testimony between the 1st and 2nd encounters was that Wilson initially thought he was dealing with an incident of jaywalking and suddenly realized he had the shoplifting suspects.  Wilson knew from the onset that Brown was acting defiant, so I'm at a loss to understand why Wilson thought parking in Brown's path would make Brown back down and follow orders.

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I'm not sure what your point is here. Garner wasn't choked to death, which is the narrative so many people seem determined to spread. He was asthmatic and probably panicking due to the physical assault by armed men. Garner didn't begin to complain about not being able to breathe until the choke hold was released. I'm sure the choke hold played a role in his death, but a normal person in that situation doesn't die. It isn't clear that the result would be any different if Garner was pulled to the ground by his arms.

I'd go with DonAthos' post regarding arguments about this part for most of what I'd say.

 

I suppose a normal person wouldn't die, but Garner was visibly not normal, as in obese. It'd be like saying "A guy who is in a wheelchair and visibly quadrapalegic was resisting arrest, so I put him in a chokehold for only 13 seconds. He happened to die later from complications of the chokehold." That'd simply be... an unreasonable action, and less likely to end normally than if he was totally able bodied. Even if Garner was only unable to breathe after, that only means the chokehold did something to make that happen, there's a causal relation initiated by the officer.

 

I'm not asking police to be medical experts, but we're talking about someone with visible issues. If it wasn't clear, I sincerely question an officer's ability to think and make sound decisions. Is it really a stretch to say an officer should be able to decide what is necessary force, not only what a normal person is able to handle?

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Not that it matters directly to this case -- I don't expect that Garner's windpipe was crushed -- but why would it matter to you if it had been?

[...]

It seems to me that your position is really that you disagree with the medical examiner: 

Too many people have run away with a narrative that is not fully supported by the one sentence quote I've been able to mine from the coroner's report via the media. 2046, for instance, even went as far as to say this:
 

 

He didn't die in the ambulance from "heart failure" or a heart attack. He died from being choked to death and smothered by the cops.

 

Even though the very wiki article he quoted had this to say:
 

 

 [Garner] had a heart attack in the vehicle and was pronounced dead approximately one hour later at the hospital.



I don't disagree with the medical examiner. I would expect if we could see the full report he'd fill in some much needed details. What I've seen doesn't point to someone establishing a choke hold with the intent to render a victim unconscious - the kind of hold that seems to carry significant additional risk of death.  The officer appeared to be controlling the body by controlling the head. Controlling the head happens to be an easy way to manipulate the body; something that might make taking down a guy who has 6 inches and 100 pounds on you a little easier. The hold was released as soon as its purpose was achieved (if you believe that narrative). I don't presume to know all of the possible implications that the coroner's report might contain, but I can think of at least two. A crushed windpipe would undermine the previous narrative. On the other hand, It isn't clear that the medical examiner is up to date on his mixed martial arts studies. More details might emerge that bruising of the neck (or some other indicator) was minimal, indicating that a "headlock" might have been a more accurate term, and that the main contribution of that headlock to Garner's death was primarily additional emotional stress - the kind that we wouldn't normally expect to induce cardiac arrest. Hopefully this helps explain how I believe I can both agree with the medical examiner and hold the position I hold. 
 
 

what do you mean by "intentional"? Here's a case that recently caught my eye.
 

 

I don't think I want to delve deeply into that awful case to parse the specifics, so forgive me if I suggest something that didn't happen. If I do, it is only by way of answering your question and not meant to be commentary on what occurred there. Those parents didn't appear to intentionally want to kill their child, so I suspect they were over charged and plead because they had a shit legal team and wanted to avoid a greater sentence. The other possibility is that felony murder rule we discussed, and that the forced consumption was part of some sort of disgusting felony child abuse regimen. Again, I'm not going to read much about that case, but I hope that clarifies where I stand.

 

 

The police don't only arrest "criminals." Insofar as a criminal is someone who commits crimes, or has committed some crime, it sometimes takes a judge/jury to determine whether or not someone is a criminal. We may even consider people to be "innocent until proven guilty." You may not care whether chokeholds are used to apprehend suspected criminals -- and you may not find it tragic if someone dies in the course of being arrested, judging him to have brought it upon himself regardless of the specifics, and how his death may have been avoided -- but I think that if we'd like to minimize the risk of potentially innocent people being killed by the police prior to their criminality being adjudicated, then it's best that the police hold themselves to a proper code of conduct. And when that fails, as it does from time to time, that we hold them responsible for the consequences.

 

I think we agree more than you're able to see. But I will say that I don't think resisting arrest is an innocent activity when the arresting officer is investigating a legitimate crime.

PS: I hope we're not losing sight of the possibility that chokeholds were banned because police were actually trying to choke people out.

Edited by FeatherFall
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I don't disagree with the medical examiner.

Okay.

 

I would expect if we could see the full report he'd fill in some much needed details.

Agreed. And if the report clarifies that this was a headlock and not a chokehold, or if it clarifies that the chokehold/headlock was not responsible for Garner's death -- that it was due to an unrelated heart attack, instead (or related only due to the unavoidable stress of the arrest situation) -- then I would certainly change my evaluation.

 

What I've seen doesn't point to someone establishing a choke hold with the intent to render a victim unconscious - the kind of hold that seems to carry significant additional risk of death.

I guess that I don't find it necessary to determine whether the chokehold was applied "with the intent to render a victim unconscious" in order to come to the conclusions I've already related -- "responsible" and "criminal." (Again: if it was a chokehold, and if that chokehold caused the death.)

I think that applying a chokehold carries certain risks with it which you accept when you apply it, just as my earlier example of punching a person in frustration -- sometimes you throw a punch, and you wind up killing the victim, even if that was very far from your original intent. Even if you couldn't have imagined that would be the result. Or you punish your child in order to instill discipline, out of love even, but you kill your child instead. In those sorts of scenarios, the intent matters, but in a slightly delimited fashion. You don't charge someone with murder one -- "malice aforethought" -- if you determine that they had no intent to kill, but they're still held criminally responsible for what I believe is a variant of murder. Or if any of these scenarios are ultimately judged "manslaughter," and not "murder," based upon the specifics of the case, that's fine, too, so long as it satisfies what I've insisted upon: criminal responsibility.

Because that, I believe, is the crux of where we'd initially disagreed. You felt that this officer should not be held criminally responsible for his actions (citing a paucity of existing statute, though you have not yet said whether you would support the creation of a more-applicable statute, as I then suggested), and if that continues to be your position, I must continue to disagree with it.

Since we've worked through a number of ancillary issues (the effectiveness of different types of choke, and so forth), perhaps we can focus our attention on that central topic. Let's assume it is the case that the police officer applied a chokehold prohibited to him by the police department, and that chokehold resulted in Garner's death -- in that event, do you believe that the police officer involved should be held criminally responsible? Or if your answer is "no," because you do not think that any existing statute allows him to be charged, do you believe that there ought to be such a statute?

Do you think that a police officer employing tactics that are expressly prohibited to him by his department, who then kills a person directly as a result of employing those prohibited tactics, should be held criminally responsible for the death?

If not, why not? It can't just be "the police have carte blanche," can it?

 

I think we agree more than you're able to see.

I don't doubt it. I'm sure we have far more common ground, even with respect to this case, than otherwise. But we tend to highlight differences of opinion in this kind of forum. Actually, I think that serves a far greater purpose than if we simply agreed. I don't come here to find people to tell me I'm right about everything (even though those would be intelligent, fine people indeed).

 

But I will say that I don't think resisting arrest is an innocent activity when the arresting officer is investigating a legitimate crime.

Neither do I.

I'd add, because I think it may matter to the thread, and our ongoing societal problems, that this does at least depend in part on the specifics/context. What I mean is, if I am to fully cooperate with the police, even as an innocent charged with a (legitimate) crime that I did not commit, then I must first trust them to do their duty in a fair manner, and trust that they will be doing everything that they can to ensure my safety in the process (while also protecting themselves).

The perception that is sometimes generated from these kinds of episodes, whether fairly or unfairly, is that the police play favorites. That they play too rough. That society doesn't care when "criminals" are killed (if criminals they are). Or sometimes when people of a certain race are targeted. And this perception erodes the vital trust that is necessary to have the state we'd both like, where the police are good people working on behalf of moral law, and so of course we should all comply with their orders -- because it is in our best interest to do so. (And those who then resist are almost certainly doing so for nefarious reasons.)

In other words, I do not think that violent/lethal arrests like these make it more likely that others will comply meekly with orders; I think it makes it less likely.

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I've got one last bit on intent. Consider the following: let's say the arresting officers tried to simply drag Garner to the ground by his arms but in the process he smashed his head on a curb, leading to brain swelling and eventual death. Smashing a suspect's head on the curb is prohibited, but we recognize that it was not the intent of the police to do so. We probably wouldn't hold them responsible, given that Garner was resisting. If the officer, in a similar fashion, was attempting a headlock that slipped into a choke hold for a few seconds, I would regard it similarly.

The evidence I've seen leads me to conclude that there should be no prosecution under current law. As I said, I may change my mind after seeing more evidence. But I still don't know of any change to arresting procedures that should be put in place. I'm open to them, but the topic is full of considerations above my pay grade. Such procedures are dependent on other factors like the resources of the police department, culture of the area, changing technology, etc. Wouldn't it be great if every police vehicle was also an ambulance? That may have saved Garner's life, but it comes at a huge cost. Restricting police tactics also comes at a cost. If police are not able to use headlocks or choke holds, does the duration of the average episode of resistance increase leading to more severe escalations of force? I have no statistics on that, but I would need to know that to say if we need to change procedures. That and a whole lot more. That's why I'm comfortable focusing on other legal statutes that I know for a fact are flawed.

The grand jury's seen a lot of information, and based on that have concluded that no prosecution is warranted. That's a form of legal justice. But I recently saw a piece about the power the prosecutors have in influencing a grand jury. I forget who wrote it or linked to it, maybe it was Diana Hsieh. I'm generally skeptical of police, prosecutors and the relationship the two have. The article made me more skeptical. A big part of me expects to see some kind of pro-LEO prosecutorial mischief in the Garner case. While I refuse to indict them until I have evidence, I can't shake the feeling that sooner or later something damning will surface. If something like that happens perhaps it will expose some needed reforms of the grand jury process. At this point, I have no suggestions. 

Speaking of the grand jury, I think black people are more familiar with the corruption that exists in the process. I believe that most of the racial incarceration disparity is not a result of racism but rather indicative of a problem in black culture. But because of this, black people are going to be exposed to the grand jury process more often and have a clearer picture of its failures and injustices. When they try to talk about the problems, they encounter whites and Asians who, having little or no familiarity with grand juries, don't understand. Such an encounter makes it easy for blacks to mistakenly conclude that all whites are racists. That conclusion makes communicating the problem a whole lot harder, if not impossible.

Edited by FeatherFall
spelling, clarity
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I've got one last bit on intent. Consider the following: let's say the arresting officers tried to simply drag Garner to the ground by his arms but in the process he smashed his head on a curb, leading to brain swelling and eventual death. Smashing a suspect's head on the curb is prohibited, but we recognize that it was not the intent of the police to do so. We probably wouldn't hold them responsible, given that Garner was resisting. If the officer, in a similar fashion, was attempting a headlock that slipped into a choke hold for a few seconds, I would regard it similarly.

I think we can certainly consider the possibility of an accident in this case, just as a police officer may accidentally shoot someone. That may well be what happened. The officer may have intended to use a permissible headlock, but slipped into a choke which caused Garner's death.

But if we had a tape of an officer shooting someone in the head, execution-style, and if I was saying "he should be held criminally responsible; officers aren't allowed to simply execute people like that" and you were saying "you know, it's possible his finger just slipped on the trigger," I would hold that as a possible criminal defense to be offered after we were agreed that the police officer was not justified in shooting the man in the head, and that it should go to trial; i.e. that this officer should be held criminally responsible for the fact that he did apply a chokehold which he was not permitted to use, and that this action did kill someone who ought not have been killed.

 

But I still don't know of any change to arresting procedures that should be put in place. I'm open to them, but the topic is full of considerations above my pay grade. Such procedures are dependent on other factors like the resources of the police department, culture of the area, changing technology, etc.

All of that is true. But with respect to the chokehold, which is instrumental to the case we're currently discussing, we don't need to have a change to arresting procedure vis a vis my argument that the officer who applied the chokehold should be held responsible for having done so. It's already prohibited. Prohibited by those who presumably have considered those considerations you mention, and more, and whose pay grade is allotted accordingly.

You may wish to second guess their policy re: chokeholds for reasons of your own, and maybe even good reasons, but they're the ones in the position, with the requisite resources and training, to make that call. They're charged with developing and refining tactics that speaks to the goals I've discussed of protecting the safety of both officers and suspects (and bystanders), and sure, doing so within a budget, and etc.

And in so doing, they prohibited chokeholds. That's the background here. That's why this officer should not have employed a chokehold. But he did. And it did not turn out well. And he should be held responsible for that. He killed a man by using a technique he had no right, no authority, to use. A technique he was told specifically *not* to use. Maybe he did so accidentally? I think that's certainly possible. But that's the case he would need to make in a courtroom.

***

I think I've expressed myself as well as I can on this specific issue. Maybe there will arise some element we can discuss further, but otherwise I thank you for the back-and-forth.

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I've got one last bit on intent. Consider the following: let's say the arresting officers tried to simply drag Garner to the ground by his arms but in the process he smashed his head on a curb, leading to brain swelling and eventual death. Smashing a suspect's head on the curb is prohibited, but we recognize that it was not the intent of the police to do so. We probably wouldn't hold them responsible, given that Garner was resisting. If the officer, in a similar fashion, was attempting a headlock that slipped into a choke hold for a few seconds, I would regard it similarly.

Okay, but that makes it sound like officers don't need to evaluate a person's visible health issue. If an officer can't tell that a certain type of force is necessary to apprehend a suspect, then he'd be blameworthy of ignorance and shouldn't be apprehending suspects.

 

Imagine a suspect had to use a walker, then an officer grabbed the walker thinking "perfect, now he can't get away". The suspect says "I'm gonna fall", but no one does anything - they all watch. Then, the suspect falls and hits his head badly. En route to the hospital he dies. Did grabbing the walker directly cause death? No! Would a normal person fall? No! Is the suspect normal? No! I see the Garner case as the same, I see no key difference. At some point, we have to acknowledge officers are EXPECTED to know better, otherwise, force will NOT be used appropriately by some people.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calculus_of_negligence

 

The link is meant to show that negligence matters legally in the US. We can hold people accountable for failing to know basic information that leads to harm/damage. I am not aware that negligence was taken into account here. 

 

If existing law allows an officer to make decisions without needing to worry about going too far, then I'm saying the SYSTEM itself is a bigger problem - there is a such thing as "too much force".

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I think your two examples (the wheelchair and walker) show situations where it is easy to choose different acceptable levels of force. But I believe those situations are different enough from the Garner case in degree to be different in kind. Nobody is going to mistake one of those two guys as a cyborg who might be more dangerous than your average person. You seem to suggest that we all have (or at least, every cop should have) the ability to eyeball a man like Garner and, with little else, determine that he is an at-risk asthmatic with possible heart conditions rather than an NFL defensive tackle. I don't have that skill, and I doubt it's an easy one to develop.

Edit: As far as the calculus of negligence is concerned, the Garner case is particularly problematic because his size represents an inflated burden of taking precautions.

Edited by FeatherFall
Edit for clarity and additional remark.
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But I believe those situations are different enough from the Garner case in degree to be different in kind. Nobody is going to mistake one of those two guys as a cyborg who might be more dangerous than your average person. You seem to suggest that we all have (or at least, every cop should have) the ability to eyeball a man like Garner and, with little else, determine that he is an at-risk asthmatic with possible heart conditions rather than an NFL defensive tackle. I don't have that skill, and I doubt it's an easy one to develop.

Yes, those things co-occur with obesity. It is easy to eyeball a person as obese, and know it comes with health issues. Do you mean to say distinguishing an obese person from an NFL defensive tackle is difficult?! He wasn't even trying to run away!

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You don't watch football much, do you? This guy is an offensive tackle, but he isn't that much different from some defensive players I've seen. He was drafted in the first round, meaning that physique of his is earning him millions of dollars despite the video's commentary.

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What's your point? That guy isn't obese, and doesn't look obese. He's big, that''s all. Garner looks obese in many ways.

 

 

Do you really mean to say it's hard to tell the difference between obese and a big football player? Garner isn't resisting violently or anything, either.

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Despite having taken a step back from this thread, it's continued to weigh upon me. I think that there's an underlying issue. An issue that comes up time and time again in various guises and a multitude of arguments across this board. And maybe I'm wrong about that, but...

It occurred to me, by way of analogy. Suppose that police sometimes have to give chase in the streets. There could be guidelines regulating how the police are meant to do so, and certain tactics prohibited to them; let's say that one such guideline is that police are not to drive on the sidewalk, even when in pursuit.

But over the course of a chase, suppose one police officer decides to do so anyways, as a matter of (perhaps necessary) convenience. He drives over the sidewalk in order to bypass traffic and... he accidentally runs over my daughter.

I would want him held responsible for his decision and for my daughter's death.

I anticipate that there are some who would say, "But no, you can't blame the police officer for doing that. The blame properly belongs with the criminal who is trying to escape, forcing the police officer to drive on the sidewalk to capture him/stop him from escaping. Be mad at him. Hold him responsible."

It's as though there's a belief that where defensive force is used, there are no (and ought be no) rules of engagement. But I don't believe that. That's not how I want the police to behave in my society. I would hold the criminal responsible for his actions in trying to evade the police, but I would also hold the police officer responsible for his action -- driving on the sidewalk -- which resulted in my daughter's death.

I don't want the police to stop the criminal element "by any means necessary" or without holding them to certain rules of engagement, designed to execute their essential function in preventing or redressing crime, but while doing so with the least amount of damage possible. And where the police do that which has been judged impermissible, they must be held accountable for that.

The methodology -- the process -- matters. Even in the execution of what otherwise would be justice. An officer who declares himself executioner is a murderer, even if the man he executes is in fact guilty and deserves to die. An officer who plants evidence on even a guilty party, helping to secure an otherwise proper and just conviction, is himself guilty of a crime. An officer who contravenes his department's own rules and regulations in arrest, or etc., should he damage or destroy person or property in the process, must be held accountable for that decision and for the consequences.

Who watches the watchmen? We all must. And this is how we must do it.

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Eiuol, he sure looks obese to me. Perhaps a google image search of Gilbert Brown will change your mind?

Edit 1: I don't know why you think it matters if he is resisting violently. Perhaps you think what the police did to Garner would have been ok if he was violently resisting rather than merely dodging their handcuffs? I'm not familiar with the police progression of force, but it's my understanding that the police are allowed to get aggressive when people show resistance like that. I can't say for certain whether it's right or wrong, but apparently you think its wrong. Why?

 

Edit 2: Look, I don't know what purpose this serves. It sounds like you're trying to deny that garner's size represented a greater threat than your average Joe's.

Edited by FeatherFall
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DonAthos, I don't think the force is defensive when police are arresting someone. I'd call it retaliatory force. And there certainly should be restrictions on what police can do. Such restrictions will impose a greater risk of a suspect escaping, but that's not a big deal if people retain the means to defend themselves. And of course we will hold people accountable for breaches of policy, on a case by case basis. Most people are at least partly responsible for how they interact with police. A little girl is not. But we're getting ever farther from the previous issue and I'm having a harder and harder time seeing how they relate. 

Edited by FeatherFall
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Eiuol, he sure looks obese to me. Perhaps a google image search of Gilbert Brown will change your mind

Not really...  

 

"my understanding that the police are allowed to get aggressive when people show resistance like that."

 

Like what? Lifting his arms as a reflex to being touched and getting upset at being arrested? Perhaps it is allowed. It shouldn't be. It's wrong for being over the top. Of course people will resist a little, doesn't mean that people of questionable health need chokeholds to apprehend. Garner was in no way a threat. The only reply I seem to get is  "it's legally permissible". Is that reasonable/rational, though?

"It sounds like you're trying to deny that garner's size represented a greater threat than your average Joe's."

I am.

Edited by Eiuol
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DonAthos, I don't think the force is defensive when police are arresting someone. I'd call it retaliatory force.

That's a fine clarification, though it's also worth keeping in mind that it doesn't apply as either "defensive" or "retaliatory" when we're discussing the present case.

Maybe it's a slightly separate issue? But unless the country somehow transforms into something that it's not -- and I don't anticipate this happening soon -- every power that we grant to the police and pronounce "moral," is going to be employed for the purposes of the initiation of force against innocents. Not as an accidental byproduct, either, but as a matter of intention and a matter of routine.

It is something perhaps, as I say, worth keeping in mind.

 

And there certainly should be restrictions on what police can do. Such restrictions will impose a greater risk of a suspect escaping, but that's not a big deal if people retain the means to defend themselves.

I don't want suspects to escape -- I want criminals to pay for their crimes -- but neither do I want to feel imperiled by the police, and neither do I want anyone, innocent, suspect, or even criminal, to be endangered or hurt or killed without just cause.

 

And of course we will hold people accountable for breaches of policy, on a case by case basis.

Precisely. And this officer, in this case, breached policy -- he did so in such a way that, per the medical examiner's report (allowing for your misgivings that there's more information, to which we're not yet privy, that might clarify the situation and/or change my opinion) killed a man. That's the very thing for which he should be held responsible.

 

Most people are at least partly responsible for how they interact with police. A little girl is not. But we're getting ever farther from the previous issue and I'm having a harder and harder time seeing how they relate.

The relationship is exactly what you're already pointed to: we must hold people accountable for "breaches of policy," which here means the police using tactics that they have no right to use and killing people in the process.

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