Letter to the editor: Legal issue behind case

Posted 6/24/20

 

In the past few days, a number of conservatives have been publishing op-eds supporting changes to qualified immunity, which prevents officers from being sued in civil court for actions …

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Letter to the editor: Legal issue behind case

Posted
 
In the past few days, a number of conservatives have been publishing op-eds supporting changes to qualified immunity, which prevents officers from being sued in civil court for actions taken in the line of duty that do not break established constitutional or statutory rights. But people haven’t flocked to the streets- again- because it’s difficult to sue individual officers.
They’re protesting because it’s nearly impossible to hold individual officers-and the organizations that protect them- criminally accountable. Consider Darren Wilson, who wasn’t even indicted for shooting Michael Brown, claiming that his use of force was justified because he felt his life was threatened.Or Daniel Pantaleo, who killed Eric Garner with a chokehold and avoided indictment for muder with an argument that could be summed up as “I didn’t mean to.”
The good news with this case is that prosecutors decided to charge him without taking those charges to a grand jury first (unlike the last time Officer Chauvin killed someone on the job), and Minnesota has the option of a third-degree murder charge, which removes intent as a requirement for culpability. The second-degree manslaughter charge also asks for a ruling on reckless behavior resulting in death. This, along with extensive video evidence, will make it harder for Derek Chauvin to avoid being held responsible for his actions. “I didn’t mean to,” won’t be good enough. The reasons behind failed policing are myriad and complex, but no solution will be sufficient without the ability to hold officers criminally accountable. 
Rachel Donelson,
Arvada

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