It was with some self-interest that I learned of the Monday outcome in court of the Baltimore police officer who was in charge of the scene that resulted in the death of Freddie Gray.
For it has me wondering what the chances are we’ll see a repeat of some kind in Chicago when the time comes eventually that one of our city’s police officers goes on trial for criminal charges related to the shooting death of a 16-year-old black male.
I’LL BE THE first to admit one major difference – the police lieutenant in Baltimore faced charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct while prosecutors in Cook County, Ill., have gone so far as to seek charges of murder against Jason Van Dyke.
He’s the Chicago cop whom prosecutors say fired those 17 shots that killed Laquan McDonald. Of course, that video we’ve all seen of the incident only shows an off-screen gunman firing shot after shot into the boy, while smoke eventually emanated from the body from the repeated gunfire.
There are those who are convinced we saw something nothing short of cold-blooded murder in that video.
Then again, I’m sure there are those who are convinced the case against police in Gray’s death was equally cut-and-dried – only to have two cops already acquitted and the lieutenant in charge now also cleared, with a fourth cop facing a new trial because a jury couldn’t reach any verdict.
WHAT HAPPENS IF a year or two from now, when Van Dyke goes on trial, something comes up and something less than a “guilty” verdict arises? What will the sense of outrage be?
For that matter, what kind of outrage would a “guilty” verdict produce from those individuals in our society who are determined to believe that police can do no wrong?
As it is, defense attorneys have hinted the video we have seen (and which can be found on the Internet if one looks hard enough) gives a distorted view of the incident because it does not include audio.
The video that shows several minutes of police rushing to the scene before encountering McDonald supposedly does not include all the information that police dispatchers were providing to the officers about the potential threat that Laquan presented.
I DON’T KNOW if such information would have really made any difference. Perhaps. Or perhaps not? But I’m aware enough that circumstances could arise that could result in acquittal. I don’t consider any criminal case to be open and shut – no matter what some want to believe.
Take Gray’s case. He died from a broken neck suffered while being jostled about in the back of a squadrol – where he was shackled, but not restrained with a seat belt.
Defense attorneys for the lieutenant contend he wasn’t aware of regulations requiring the seat belt, and that he was forced to make a judgment call to rush him into the squadrol because of the hostile environment developing at the scene of the arrest.
Some are bound to see a great injustice taking place in Baltimore. Just as I’m sure they would be equally outraged by anything short of a guilty verdict and a maximum prison sentence for Van Dyke.
BUT THERE ARE no certainties when it comes to the judicial system.
If anything, the courts are only as reliable as the individuals we rely upon to make decisions.
That is a truth we can consider no matter where in the country a court ruling is made. We can only hope that rational minds prevail, but we must be prepared for the reality that absolutes don’t exist – except in the minds of those people who’ve already made them up in advance!