Supreme Court Helps Cops Stay Unaccountable
Law professor: Series of decisions makes it all but impossible to convict
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Aug 27, 2014 1:59 PM CDT
This Aug. 12 photo shows protesters standing on a street in Ferguson, Mo.   (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

(Newser) – It's possible that a grand jury will find enough evidence to conclude that Officer Darren Wilson should go on trial for the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. But even if that happens, don't expect Wilson to be found guilty of excessive use of force, writes law professor Erwin Chemerinsky in the New York Times. Why? Look to the Supreme Court, which in recent years has made it all but impossible to convict police officers and prosecutors, writes Chemerinsky, whose essay is headlined, "How the Supreme Court Protects Bad Cops."

Chemerinsky runs through several cases, including one in May in which the court found that officers acted reasonably when they fired 15 shots at a car during a high-speed chase, killing the driver and a passenger. He also cites a 2011 decision by Antonin Scalia, who "ruled that a government officer can be held liable only if 'every reasonable official' would have known that his conduct was unlawful." These decisions and others have given cops a nearly impenetrable "immunity" from citizens who have been wronged, writes Chemerinsky. "They mean that the officer who shot Michael Brown and the City of Ferguson will most likely never be held accountable in court," he concludes. "How many more deaths and how many more riots will it take before the Supreme Court changes course?" Click for his full column.

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Showing 3 of 88 comments
iobamaislost
Sep 5, 2014 11:46 AM CDT
Don't worry. Obama has got Holder and the DOJ on the case. You know how much respect the administration has for the constitution and the separation of powers.
opinionmuch
Aug 28, 2014 1:44 PM CDT
The moment you second-guess police officer protocol, you effectively strip them of their ability to do their job. You're right, horrible things have happened. Some were guilty. Some honestly made mistakes. And some were overblown by people crying foul. The end we should focus on is better training and psychological evaluations, along with amended measures to avoid these situations in the future. Prevention is always a better solution than the reactive approach, as this will only propagate tension between officers and citizens.
$115803099
Aug 28, 2014 12:10 PM CDT
It's possible, it's possible that an elephant could turn into a zebra, but it's never gonna happen, not in a million gazillion years. The evidence is irrefutable, the officer was in the right and brown was in the wrong.