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News Oakland station shooting

  1. Jul 9, 2010 #1

    Office_Shredder

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    I'm sure some of you remember the cop who says he intended to taser someone at a subway station in Oakland, only to pull out his gun and kill the guy

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/07/09/national/main6661809.shtml?tag=stack

    He was convicted for involuntary manslaughter, and now apparently the DoJ is investigating the case. Isn't there some sort of double jeopardy thing here that would prevent him from being prosecuted?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 9, 2010 #2
    It looks like involuntary manslaughter. What else could it be? I doubt he meant to shoot him in the back with a real gun, even though it's hard to believe he thought he was holding a taser.
     
  4. Jul 9, 2010 #3

    russ_watters

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    Yes, double jeopardy would apply - as would jurisdiction (the feds have none).

    And I agree with leroy - I don't see that there is any reason to believe this was an intentional act. Being hard to believe that it was unintentional is not evidence that it was intentional and thus it is impossible to convict him of intentional killing.
     
  5. Jul 9, 2010 #4
    BLACKHAWK! makes Taser holsters that are meant to be pulled down and out, unlike a pistol where it is straight out. I am not sure if he was using a proper Taser holster or not, but it seems as though he should have had much more awareness of what his current weapon was (the grips are much different). Easy for me to say in hindsight though.
     
  6. Jul 9, 2010 #5

    chemisttree

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    I think it's second degree murder. Tasers don't feel like 9mm handguns. The perp was lying on the ground, face down so the "rush to judgement" was entirely unnecessary and cavalier IMO.

    Definition of 2nd degree murder from FindLaw... "a killing caused by dangerous conduct and the offender's obvious lack of concern for human life."

    Shooting a prone suspect in the back with a 9mm qualifies. The "I didn't know it was a gun, thought it was my Taser," defense is just sickening.

    What a weird place LA is. Boycott AZ for 1070 but let this guy off with manslaughter.

    Its a mad world.
     
  7. Jul 9, 2010 #6

    russ_watters

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    Your belief that he knew it was a gun cannot possibly be strong enough - based on evidence - to be "beyond a reasonable doubt".
     
  8. Jul 9, 2010 #7

    chemisttree

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    That is part of the sickening aspect of the defense. Anyone can use that defense and get away with it -based on evidence- of course. Too bad that the words 'reasonable doubt' are used in that definition. I think the officer is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Is it reasonable for me to doubt that he doesn't knows the difference between his lethal and non-lethal weapons? Is it reasonable to expect that this officer should know the difference between a Taser and a 9mm by feel? By sight? By the side he holsters his two weapons? Did he have any training at all? It is reasonable that he should know these things and that he was trained to kill or to incapacitate. Therefore it is not reasonable that he should use that asinine defense and expect it to produce a "reasonable doubt" in the jurors.

    Guilty of murder in the second degree IMO.
     
  9. Jul 9, 2010 #8
    Looks like manslaughter to me.
     
  10. Jul 9, 2010 #9
    I agree with you, but I can't convince myself to believe that the cop thought to himself "What the hell, I'll just execute this guy right here."
     
  11. Jul 9, 2010 #10

    russ_watters

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    The "reasonable doubt" standard is used to ensure that innocent people don't go to jail. It may turn out that it allows the guilty to go free (which by the way, it didn't in this case), but that's the penalty you pay for needing to be sure.
    You're not following the standard properly because you are not considering all of the issues you are required to consider. You forgot several issues:

    1. Adrenaline: is it reasonable to think that in a high stress situation, he forgot his training and lost awareness? It happens all the time. I think it is quite possible.
    2. Motive: In order for this to have been 2nd degree murder - for him to have done it on purpose - there had to be a motive. Do you know of a beyond-a-reasonable-doubt reason why he did it on purpose?
    3. His statement in the heat of the moment that he said he was going to use his taser: Do you have a beyond-a-reasonable-doubt reason to believe he was thinking that he wanted to kill the person and had the clarity of forethought to throw in a little misdirection?
    4. His record: He has a spotless record. This goes to credibility regarding all 3 of the above: is it reasonable to believe someone with some unstated desire to murder would not have revealed associated character flaws during his career? And is there a beyond-a-reasonable-doubt reason why you would throw out his record and credibility to believe he was lying?

    The bottom line is that there is no direct evidence at all that points to to a purposeful killing. All you have is a doubt that it could be accidental. A doubt that it could be accidental is not a reasonable certainty that it could have been on purpose. Your incredulity of how big of a mistake it would have to be does not equate to beyond a reasonable doubt that he did it on purpose.

    Heck, I can provide a simple analagous error that happens relatively frequently: unintentionally hitting the accelerator of a car instead of the brake. The pedals feel completely different from each other, so how could it be possible to mistake them for each other? Yet people do - and occasionally people die. No one would ever get convicted of 2nd degree murder for that without some evidence that they drove through a crowd on purpose.
     
  12. Jul 9, 2010 #11
    Double jeopardy only applies if the separate charges are the same or substantially similar (i.e. murder and murder or murder and manslaughter). If they prosecute for a crime that is wholly separate from manslaughter then it is not double jeopardy. Since it is apparently the civil rights division that is investigating I assume that they will be looking into the possibility of prosecuting on the basis of an alleged infringement of the victim's civil rights which would not qualify as double jeopardy.

    As far as jurisdiction goes the particular department is responsible for prosecuting violations of the Civil Rights Acts. Also the DoJ runs a program called C.O.P.S. which contributes funds to most of the law enforcement agencies in the country (local police included). Depending on the contract this may require local law enforcement (at least those that accept the funds) to submit to investigation and prosecution from the DoJ.

    All that aside, I agree that manslaughter seems most appropriate. I do not believe that the officer intended to shoot the man. I am not sure I could find any source on it but I remember reading that witnesses said he seemed rather shocked by what had happened.
     
  13. Jul 11, 2010 #12

    chemisttree

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    Thats why it should be second degree rather than first degree IMO.
     
  14. Jul 11, 2010 #13

    russ_watters

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    No, what separates second and first is premeditation. Unless the cop knew he was going to be in that situation that day, he couldn't have possibly planned it. So first degree murder was never really on the table here.

    Second degree murder is still on purpose, so if you don't believe (beyond a reasonable doubt) the cop decided he wanted to execute the guy, then you don't actually believe it is second degree murder - you're just misusing the term. http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/second+degree+murder
     
  15. Jul 11, 2010 #14

    chemisttree

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    You are invoking an "adrenaline" defense? Should it be that easy to get away with second degree murder. "I was excited and therefore not guilty!"

    Nope. Just dangerous conduct and being careless about human life is all that is required. Motive is not even in the discussion. Where is motive in this definition?

    "a killing caused by dangerous conduct and the offender's obvious lack of concern for human life."

    Thinking that he wanted to kill the person is premeditation which is not part of the discussion in second degree murder. What the officer was thinking is unimportant. No one can know that but the officer anyway. That's just not a defense. It is a poor excuse.

    His record? He is on record shooting a suspect in the back. Would you trust someone that would either tase you shoot you while you were lying face down on the floor? People lie all the time but it isn't important anyway. He caused a death due to his lack of concern for human life. Second degree murder.


    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/01/30/BABI15KCD5.DTL&type=adfree" [Broken]

    Judge Jacobson thought he was lying since his story appeared to change with time.
    What's worse than a cop that lies about his actions (thus maintaining a spotless record)? A cop that would shoot you in the back and lie about his actions is much worse.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  16. Jul 11, 2010 #15

    Ivan Seeking

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    By Russ's argument, any cop could get excited and then shoot someone, and use the same defense. If the police are so poorly trained and excitable that they can't tell a taser from a 38, then they are too dangerous to be carrying lethal weapons.

    More likely he was consumed with personal hatred, and reacted accordingly. I can't watch the video without deeming it an execution.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2010
  17. Jul 11, 2010 #16

    chemisttree

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    I think it is more likely that he thought the guy was going for a gun. That's what he told one of his officer buddies after the incident. If I thought he was going for a gun I wouldn't choose my taser. Do you even have to stand and draw to use the taser? Isn't it better deployed by pressing the prongs against the target?

    He is on record saying that, "I'm gonna tase him", he stands but then chooses his 9mm and fires. Afterward he explains to his officer buddy that he thought the suspect was reaching for a gun.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2010
  18. Jul 11, 2010 #17

    Ivan Seeking

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    If he thought the guy was pulling a gun, he wouldn't be going for his taser.
     
  19. Jul 11, 2010 #18

    Chi Meson

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    As was the case with OJ, you can be prosecuted a second time for the same act as long as you are being prosecuted for a different crime. The feds are investigating the case, and so far that is it. If they find a reason to pursue prosecution on "civil rights" grounds, then it would be a "different crime."

    In order to quell some of the unrest in LA, the feds have to at least investigate. If they find no shred of evidence that the cop has a history of hatred of blacks, then it probably won't go further. At the very least, it would put some time into the picture and let tempers drop a little.

    I can simultaneously understand that a person could grab the wrong device while rushing on adrenaline , AND be totally dumbfounded that he didn't notice the weight difference and grip difference between the two.

    I also think that even the worst racist cop is not ever looking forward to executing anyone. With my limited knowledge of the case, it seems as if he got the right conviction.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2010
  20. Jul 11, 2010 #19

    chemisttree

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    Beat me to it.
     
  21. Jul 11, 2010 #20

    j93

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    The truth is you are right any officer can kill any person randomly for any reason and at most get involuntary manslaughter unless he leaves some type of premeditation paper trail. This is the truth is period unless maybe they could prove a history of being dirty in some way. So if your interested in what it feels like to kill someone join the force and just do it once randomly and at worst you would get involuntary manslaughter ,and if you are lucky there might not be a camera around and it might be your word against someone else and you would likely not be prosecuted.

    There is no way the jury would of convicted him of second degree murder without the officer loudly and clearly screaming something along the lines "another dead (insert racial epithet)".

    In summary the conviction is as good as it gets for the situation, like it or not.
     
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