Pay-to-play reserve sheriff’s deputy claims he mistook his gun for a taser when he killed a man in handcuffs

April 14, 2015

Tulsa police officer, Sergeant Jim Clark, who was appointed to investigate the shooting death of Eric Harris, 44, came up with an incredibly lame explanation to justify his conclusion that no crime was committed and no departmental policy was violated.

Vox sets the scene,

Robert Bates, a white reserve deputy in Tulsa County, Oklahoma, shot and killed Eric Harris, an unarmed black man, during an April 2 sting operation after Harris was pinned to the floor by multiple officers.

In video footage released Friday, it appears Bates meant to use his stun gun on Harris, warning deputies that he was going to use his Taser before firing a shot from his actual gun. Immediately after firing, he shouted: “I shot him! I’m sorry!”

The footage was taken after a sting operation, in which officers caught Harris illegally selling guns, NBC News and CNN reported.

Robert Bates, 73, is a pay-to-play reserve sheriff’s deputy. When he is not playing cops and robbers, he is an executive with an insurance company.

Harris is black and yet another unarmed victim of a police shooting.

USA Today reports what Sergeant Clark said,

“Reserve Deputy Bates did not commit a crime,” he said. “There’s no other determination I could come to.”

Clark cited “slip and capture,” a psychological phenomenon where, under stress, someone’s behavior “slips” off the intended path after being “captured” by a stronger response demanded by the brain.

Clark determined that Bates was a “victim” of the phenomenon.

We have at least criminal (gross) negligence here. Besides Harris being black, maybe they decided to call this an accident because Bates has ‘paid’ a lot to play cop.

Sheriff’s Maj. Shannon Clark told the World that Bates donates his time and is a highly regarded member of the Reserve Deputy Program. He has also donated multiple vehicles, guns and stun guns, Clark said.

“There are lots of wealthy people in the reserve program,” he said. “Many of them make donations of items. That’s not unusual at all.”

I don’t know if I am more shocked by the killing or the incredibly lame justification to excuse it.

I guess the smell of greasepaint and the roar of the crowd beats watching a movie.

UPDATE: CNN reported late yesterday after I published this article at Firedoglake that Reserve Deputy Sheriff Robert Bates has been charged with second degree manslaughter.


Anthony Ray Hinton is free at last after 30 years on death row

April 4, 2015

Anthony Ray Hinton is free at last after 30 years on death row. The Washington Post reports,

Anthony Ray Hinton was one of Alabama’s longest-serving death row inmates, having spent more than half his life incarcerated. Now, after three decades of insisting that he is innocent in the 1985 murders of two men, the 58-year-old Hinton is finally a free man.

“The sun does shine,” Hinton said just after his release from jail on Friday, according to AL.com.

His freedom came down to the same four bullets that put him in jail to begin with.

“I shouldn’t have (sat) on death row for 30 years,” he told reporters according to CNN. “All they had to do was to test the gun.”

He added: “Everybody that played a part in sending me to death row, you will answer to God.”

Hinton was convicted of two separate killings of restaurant workers — the Feb. 25, 1985, slaying of John Davidson, and the July 2, 1985, killing of Thomas Vason — even though there were no eyewitnesses linking Hinton to the crimes, no fingerprints linking him to the scene, and no other physical evidence except for the questionable link between a set of bullets and a gun found in Hinton’s home.

Subsequent tests of the only physical evidence in the case raised serious doubts about whether the weapon in Hinton’s home had fired those bullets — and it even called into question whether the bullets were all fired from the same gun.

Why was he convicted, you ask? His lawyer thought he was limited to spending $1,000 to hire an expert, so he hired a civil engineer who was blind in one eye, could not handle a microscope and did not know much about ballistics. Needless to say, he did not fare well on cross examination.

The United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) unanimously vacated his conviction and death sentence last year and remanded the case to the trial court to hold a hearing to determine if his lawyer’s failure to provide effective assistance of counsel prejudiced his defense. He was granted a new trial and on Wednesday prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss the case on the ground that three ballistics experts could not link the bullets to the gun.

Thanks to one of my heroes, Bryan Stevenson, Anthony Ray Hinton is free at last.


Tsarnaev, prosecution blood lust and the death penalty

April 1, 2015

I am opposed to the death penalty in all cases, no matter how egregious. I always have been. I oppose the death penalty for many reasons. Today, I’m going to talk about one of them with which most readers may be unfamiliar.

Trying a death case changes people, particularly prosecutors, and not for the better. I’m talking about prosecution blood lust and the desire to kill. Desire to kill the defendant, my client. The human being whose life I am desperately trying to save. I’ve seen prosecutors cheat to win by concealing exculpatory evidence and cutting secret deals with jailhouse snitches to reward them for falsely claiming that my client confessed to a murder he did not commit. I saw it on Monday morning when the prosecution attempted to bury Dzhokhar Tsarnaev beneath a mountain of blood soaked garments and ghastly autopsy photographs.

The prosecution went too far. The desire to arouse and inflame the passions of the jurors to kill Dzhokhar Tsarnaev prevailed over reason. The defense had admitted that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had committed the crimes charged. The prosecution did not need to literally wave Martin Richard’s bloody, sooty and melted clothes in front of the jury, but they did.

Rule 403 of the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE) requires the trial judge to weigh the probative value of the evidence against its prejudicial value. When the prejudicial value substantially outweighs the probative value, the judge should exclude the evidence. Judge O’Toole admitted all of it and it was unnecessary.

The ruling is discretionary and will not be disturbed on appeal unless the judge manifestly abused his discretion.

In deciding whether a trial judge manifestly abused his discretion by admitting gory and grisly evidence, an appellate court will consider whether the evidence likely affected the verdict. That is, whether the verdict would have been different but for the evidence.

I think the answer is the error likely will not affect the verdict in the guilt/innocence phase. But I cannot confidently say that about a death verdict in the penalty phase.

I think this is another example of Judge O’Toole navigating perilously close to reversible error.

Just because the government has a slam dunk case does not mean that the court can ignore the rules of evidence on the ground that any error is necessarily harmless.

The government should not be permitted to strip the defendant naked and flog him in front of the jury.

That is what basically happened on Monday and it was wrong.

For more information on what happened Monday, please read my article, Tsarnaev: Government rests after presenting graphic and disturbing autopsy evidence.


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