Is the Tide Turning toward Justice for Police-Shooting Victims?

It’s been almost two years since the puzzling, infuriating mistrial in one of the most grotesque police shootings ever caught on tape. A jury couldn’t reach a verdict after watching video footage of South Carolina police officer Michael Slager shooting 50-year-old Walter Scott in the back as Scott slowly ran away, before picking up a dark object (likely his Taser) and placing it by Scott’s body in a blatant effort to corrupt the crime scene.

Slager got away with it in large part because he testified that he was afraid. But now, there are signs that such a defense will no longer be enough. Now, there are signs that juries are prepared to do their jobs, follow the law, and appropriately second-guess even officers who express fear for their lives or the lives of others.

In August and October of this year, in two very different cities, in two very different states, two different juries convicted police officers for murdering young black men in abuses of power arguably less egregious than Slager’s cold-blooded murder of Scott.

The first verdict came in Texas, where a Dallas jury convicted Officer Roy Oliver of murder for shooting 15-year-old Jordan Edwards in the head as he sat in the passenger seat of a car that was attempting to leave a house party in Balch Springs. The facts of the case were terrible. Oliver was at the scene of a peaceful gathering when shots rang out in a nearby parking lot. As the partygoers scattered, Edwards tried to leave with his stepbrother. Oliver’s partner apparently ordered the car to stop as it was backing away from him and then broke the back windshield. Oliver fired five shots straight into the car, hitting Edwards in the head, killing him instantly.

The next verdict was handed down last week in Chicago. For the first time in more than 50 years, a jury convicted a Chicago police officer of murder for an on-duty shooting. The jury returned a guilty verdict against Officer Jason Van Dyke for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald as McDonald appeared to be walking away while holding a small (three-inch) knife. According to prosecutors, Van Dyke “continued firing for at least twelve seconds while McDonald lay prone in the street, emptying all 16 rounds [from his magazine] into his body.”

 Read more at National Review

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