General Question

pleiades's avatar

Officers who beat Kelly Thomas to death found not guilty, what were the key points for the defense victory here?

Asked by pleiades (6571points) January 14th, 2014

“Police officers have the privilege, the right to use force to overcome resistance,” said Ira Salzman, a defense attorney who often represents police officers. “When you have the law allowing use of force, that is a tremendous protection.”

This was reported by the LA Times.


Washington Post


Does this quote single handedly excuse cops from excessive force?

PS I added FOX news in there for “balance” purposes haha

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8 Answers

GoldieAV16's avatar

I think a key point was them emphasizing that if police fear being prosecuted for use of deadly force, they’ll hold back when restraining mentally ill homicidal maniacs who may be targeting you next. They used fear to create uncertainty in the minds of the jury, about just how far the police should be able to go when they are trying to protect you.

And the answer for most of us is that they should go as far as they need to, to keep me safe. They should be able to use stun guns on the mentally ill; they should be able to beat homeless people to death; they should be able to stop and frisk anyone who looks suspicious; they should be able to pull over any driver who may be an illegal immigrant; neighborhood watch captains should be able to kill someone for appearing suspicious.

The media stokes these fears, with ridiculous hyped up stories like The Knockout Game.

The defense simply played to the hype and fear that many of us already live with on a daily basis, and it worked to their advantage.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Good lord, this has been spun so many ways that the truth no longer seems to make a difference.

The cops were trying to subdue – not kill – the guy. That is their job. They didn’t set out to kill anyone; that was an unfortunate by-product. Shit happens.

Cops are allowed to – as part of the job – use force. If they didn’t have the ability to use force, they would not be effective.

Whether he was homeless or not – is an utter red herring. Homeless people are not immune from law enforcement. Schizophrenic people aren’t either.

The jury’s decision is 100% correct.

(Side question: Where was Kelly Thomas’ family – the ones weeping in the courtroom – while Thomas was out on the street? Why weren’t they caring for him? Why is only AFTER this is in the news and on TV that they show up? I see a little opportunism here.)

snowberry's avatar

@elbanditoroso So using a tazer on the guy’s face was “trying to subdue”? Really?

elbanditoroso's avatar

@snowberry – they are trained to taze muscle mass if it is accessible. If the guy moved, then the muscle mass moved.

Tazing is not the first line of trying to subdue someone; it is usually the last. If the taxer had to be used, it means that there was significant resistance before that moment.

SavoirFaire's avatar

“If the taser had to be used, it means that there was significant resistance before that moment.”

Only if the officers were following proper procedure, which is the question at issue. Your line of argument, then, is circular for the time being. Can you show that there was significant resistance before the taser was used? And as for the family, many homeless people who are schizophrenic leave their families with whatever free will their illness leaves them. It is possible to care for someone who refuses to live with you.

Seek's avatar

^ Agreed, and besides, the fact that you might not feel it is safe for a mentally ill family member to live in your house with your kids doesn’t mean you want them dead or don’t care about them.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@SavoirFaire – of course I can’t. I’m 2000 miles away. Can you?

Unless you were at the scene – and I’m doubting you were, then you are in no better place to make the judgment than I am. The police offers WERE there. After the action, they were put on leave, and they were question by their internal investigators, then by the DA, and then tried in a court of law.

And they were found innocent of criminal activity.

So unless you have examined the situation in more depth than the various levels of the justice system (again, which I doubt), and have an alternate and plausible reasoning, I’m afriad that I have to utterly disagree with your argument.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@elbanditoroso Of course I am in no better position than you are. That’s why I made no judgment. You, however, did. And that’s what my argument was about: you made a claim that you cannot—by your own admission now—back up. Moreover, you based that claim on a circular argument. That’s poor reasoning, which is why I pointed it out.

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