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

(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.

This Aug. 12 photo shows protesters standing on a street in Ferguson, Mo.
This Aug. 12 photo shows protesters standing on a street in Ferguson, Mo.   (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
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