WP: Judge weighs delaying Bland wrongful-death lawsuit trial

The Texas state trooper who pulled over Sandra Bland and now faces a perjury charge in the case remains on the payroll even as a federal judge heard arguments Thursday on whether a wrongful death lawsuit should be delayed until he’s tried in criminal court.

Brian Encinia deserves a fair criminal trial on the misdemeanor, said Seth Dennis, an assistant Texas attorney general.

“Let the criminal case play out,” Dennis urged the judge….

This and other cases are highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement. Time magazine covered a story where “[t]he nation’s first African American president convened a group of activists, both young and old, for a discussion on how he can spend his final year in office tackling issues that impact the black community—from criminal justice reform to police-community relations.” Although some say the movement is decentralized, certainly the case of Sandra Bland is not falling through the cracks as the officer was indicated for perjury:

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NYT: Settlement Reached in Samuel DeBose Shooting

The NY Times reports that  the University of Cincinnati will settle with the family of, yet another unarmed black man killed b y police, Samuel DuBose:

The University of Cincinnati has agreed to pay $4.85 million to the family of an unarmed black man who was shot to death in July by one of its police officers, a settlement that also requires the college to provide an undergraduate education to his 12 children, create a memorial to him on campus and include his family in discussions on police reform.

The family of Samuel DuBose, who was killed by a white officer during a routine traffic stop in what a prosecutor called a “senseless, asinine shooting,” reached the settlement after two days of mediation, the university said Monday in announcing the deal. It estimated the total cost to the university, which is publicly funded, to be $5.3 million.

Mr. DuBose, 43, was shot and killed on July 19 by Officer Ray Tensing, who pulled him over in a Cincinnati neighborhood adjacent to the campus because his car lacked a front license plate. The shooting was captured on a body camera, and Officer Tensing, who was fired from the department, faces trial on a charge of murder….

The university has since created a community advisory council, led by a prominent African-American judge, and the settlement calls for a DuBose family member to participate in the panel. Mr. DuBose’s sister, Terina DuBose Allen, an educational consultant in Columbus, said the provision “brings us peace with the fact that they are going to make some reforms.”

The deal, mediated by Billy Martin, a Washington lawyer whose clients have included basketball stars and other prominent figures, appears in line with other recent settlements of cases involving police officers. The City of Baltimore agreed in September to pay $6.4 million to the family of Freddie Gray, an unarmed black man who suffered a fatal spinal injury in police custody….

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Wash. Post: Prosecutors will seek murder charges against Georgia officer who shot an unarmed, naked black man

The  Washington Post reported that a Police Officer killed a “Anthony Hill, an Afghanistan war veteran who was naked and unarmed when he was killed.” The article continued on stating that…

Prosecutors in DeKalb County, Ga., will seek a criminal indictment of the police officer who in March 2015 fatally shot Anthony Hill, an Afghanistan war veteran who was naked and unarmed when he was killed.

DeKalb District Attorney Robert James said Thursday that he will recommend a criminal grand jury indict Officer Robert Olsen on two counts of felony murder, two counts of violation of an officer’s oath, aggravated assault and making a false statement.

“Our decision is that we’re going forward on an indictment,” James said. “Ultimately it is going to be up to a grand jury as to whether or not Officer Robert Olsen is charged with felony murder.”….


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Chicago Tribune: Family of woman accidentally shot by Chicago police files lawsuit

The  Chicago Tribune recently reported that a lawsuit has been filed by a women who was shot and killed by police fire in Chicago. The article reports that:

The lawsuit says Bettie Jones was inside the building in the 4700 block of West Erie Street when she was fatally struck. The officer’s response to a domestic dispute involving her neighbors, Quintonio LeGrier, 19, and his father, Antonio, was “an excessive use of force,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit contradicts a law enforcement source who told the Tribune last week that the officer said he had gotten to the second-to-top step of the two-flat’s front porch when LeGrier came running out of the building, swinging a bat, before the officer opened fire. LeGrier also was killed.

Larry Rogers Jr., who is representing the Jones family, said the officer was about 20 feet away when he opened fire.

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Houston Chronicle: Grand jury indicts, DPS to fire trooper who arrested Sandra Bland

Although it often occurs without further scrutiny, police are rarely indicted for giving false testimony under oath.

The state trooper who arrested Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old African-American woman who was found dead three days later in her Waller County jail cell, has been indicted on perjury charges, a special prosecutor said.

Hours after the decision was announced, the Texas Department of Public Safety said it was initiating termination proceedings against Brian Encinia, the 30-year-old trooper who last July stopped Bland for failing to signal a lane change and arrested her.

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ABC News: Chicago Cops’ Versions of Teen’s Killing at Odds With Video

ABC News recently provided an update to the story of Laquan McDonald:

Police officers who watched a colleague shoot a black Chicago teenager 16 times filed reports depicting a very different version of events than what dashcam footage showed, portraying the teen as far more menacing than he appeared in the video.

The city released hundreds of pages of documents late Friday pertaining to the October 2014 killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Jason Van Dyke, a white police officer. Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder last month, only hours before the department released the video under a court order, sparking protests and accusations of a cover-up.

Chicago Sun-Times quoted the Mayor of Chicago, responding then to the investigation by the Federal Government: Continue reading

Chicago Shooting & NYT: The Real Problem with Police Video

The New York Times in a recent opinion page stated that “A CHICAGO police officer shot and killed a teenager named Laquan McDonald in October of last year, but most of us learned about Mr. McDonald only last week, after a judge ordered the release of police video footage of his death. That is also when prosecutors finally brought first-degree murder charges against the officer. Clearly, such footage has considerable power.”

Why did it take a year for the release of the video which prompted first-degree murder charges? Perhaps it is obvious but as the New York Times states, it is because the police own the video footage recorded by most of these camera programs and, as described in the article, the body cameras.

About a third of police departments in the United States have started to use body cameras, and they typically have almost complete control over the programs. Police departments decide when cameras should be rolling, how long the footage is stored, who gets to see it and how it can be used in the future. Individual officers operate the record button, and their supervisors decide what happens when those officers fail to comply with the department’s recording policy (usually, not much).

The author of the article, a staff attorney at the Bronx Defenders went on to write about the issues facing the New York Police Body Camera Program:

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Miami Herald: Amid a series of police-involved shootings in Miami-Dade, a search for patterns …

“Over one six-day stretch over the past two weeks, South Florida police officers shot seven people. Two of them died. Four who survived were teenagers. Three of the teens were inside a truck. One of those shot was a reputed gang member. The two who died suffered from mental illness.”

The Miami Herald published the above content on November 22, 2015.

NYT: Appeals Court Rules for Transcripts in Eric Garner Case to Remain Sealed…

The New York Times continues coverage on Eric Garner, the African American man who was choked to death by a New York City Police Office: “The decision by the Court of Appeals, in a six-word ruling published on its website, ended a yearlong legal effort to pry open records from the private proceeding. The grand jury declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo or other New York police officers involved in wrestling Mr. Garner to the ground during an arrest in July 2014 on Staten Island. Mr. Garner, who was suspected of selling loose cigarettes on a sidewalk near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, was declared dead about an hour later at a hospital.

The court’s ruling leaves in place another decision by an intermediate appellate court. In July, a four-judge panel of the Appellate Division in Brooklyn ruled unanimously against releasing the information, which was being sought by the city’s public advocate, the Legal Aid Society, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the N.A.A.C.P. The appellate judges cited the “dangers inherent in violating the secrecy of the grand jury process.”

The grand jury’s decision last December spurred protests across New York and beyond, and amplified national calls for changes in police practices and to the grand jury system. Grand juries, which by law operate in secret, have rarely brought charges against police officers for fatal on-duty actions. Continue reading

Wash. Post: Uneven Justice, Police Killings and Mixed Verdicts

“Society is loath to convict cops who kill, so civil court is often the best place for victims’ families to get results. But there, some get millions, and some get nothing.” Read the whole store here: Uneven Justice – Fatal shootings by police lead to a wide range of settlements for families… “The Washington Post tracked civil lawsuits filed by 46 families after fatal shootings in which the officers were criminally charged. Most families received awards, with a median value of $1.2 million. The amounts ranged from $7,500 to $8.5 million.”

The article details several police killings. In all of these cases, civil and/or criminal charges were brought but the results were drastically different depending on the victim. The Washington Post is now maintaining a database, the number of people killed this year by police at 838 as of the publishing of this article. Although thousands are dead, the Washington Post reports, few police officers are prosecuted. Indeed, “[m]ost of the time, prosecutors don’t press charges against police — even if there are strong suspicions that an officer has committed a crime. Prosecutors interviewed for [the aforementioned] report say it takes compelling proof that at the time of the shooting the victim posed no threat either to the officer or to bystanders.” Lay this against the backdrop of police killing of Jeremy Mardis, just six years old….

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