Justice Scalia, Please Pick-up the White Courtesy Phone

This comes from Capshaw Alabama (via the Agitator).

When 11-year-old Aaliyah McCoy heard crunching gravel Tuesday morning that indicated vehicles were driving toward her home, she peeked out a window and saw vans and “a bunch of cop cars coming.”

She heard voices yell next door, “Open up! Police!” and then she heard “boom, boom.”

“When they started shooting, I got scared and got down on the floor,” Aaliyah said. “I was scared they would come in on me.”

[snip]

The noises she heard were federal and local officers serving a search warrant —apparently at the wrong home, and without advance notice to the Limestone County Sheriff’s Department — on Honey Way.

[snip]

According to family members, officers shot Kenneth Jamar, a man in his 50s who suffers from gout.

U.S. Attorney Alice Martin said the task force did not have an arrest warrant for Jamar, but were searching for 28-year-old Jerome Wallace, who was wanted on federal drug conspiracy charges. Jamar is Wallace’s uncle.

Huntsville Police Chief Rex Reynolds said the task force had a search warrant for 13355 Honey Way. That is not Jamar’s address, but the address of James Wallace, father of Jerome Wallace.

[snip]

“I think this is a damn shame,” Wallace (yep, the man the Task Force was sent to arrest–Steve) said. “They got three truckloads of SWAT here for a man with gout who can’t even get up to make himself a ham sandwich.

When task force officials realized Wallace was on the scene, they handcuffed him and put him in a Huntsville patrol car. –emphasis added

Gee, they didn’t need a SWAT team, flash bang grenades and a dynamic entry…oh…wait the press was there. And exactly how many times and where did they shoot Jamar? They shot him 4 times, twice in the chest, once in the groin, and once in the foot.

This article claims that Jamar had a weapon, and this article claims it was a gun.

But Huntsville police officers and Alabama Bureau of Investigation agents say Jamar of 13355 Honey Way in far-eastern Limestone County was armed with a weapon and acted in an “aggressive” manner when they attempted serve a warrant Tuesday morning on his nephew, Jerome Wallace, 28.

And herein lies part of the perverse incentive with these kinds of raids. You are a law abiding citizen asleep at 2:46 A.M. You hear several loud bangs, then your daughter and son start screaming and crying, you hear the front door being kicked in. You grab your gun, go into the hall way, and are gunned down in front of your wife and/or kids. You thought it was a break in so like most rational people you grabbed a weapon to defend your family, but instead the supposed good guys have just shot you multiple times probably killing you.

Justice Scalia has done more to help the anti-gun movement than anything else with the Hudson decision. Well that and encourage more of these kind of events. This all fits with the progression of the Nanny State in this country. People are fat, so we have to legislate what people can and cannot eat. Some people smoke, so we pass legislation to control that. Many think that the government should be in charge of health care, educating our children, and heaven forbid that two men or two women want to get married. Gotta have the government “protect the sanctity of marriage” (nevermind that most heterosexual Americans are working overtime to destroy the sanctity of marriage by either getting divorces, or cohabitating without getting married and lets not get into all the fornicating). So giving the police officer a club, taser, pistol, body armor, and a machine gun and the right to enter our homes as if it were a nest of heavily armed terrorists all in the name of protecting us from crime seems like only a natural extension. One thing should be quite clear: We are Americans and we hate our freedom.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. Patrick McGuire says:

    Hmmm… guess I will need to make sure I don’t make a target out of myself if this happens to me. I need to remember to squat low behind a barrier while I empty my 12ga. short-barrel shotgun.

  2. Wouldn’t the proper control over the police conduct (what they can and can’t do) rest more with the legislature (setting up the laws) and the executive branch (promulgating the regulations and training the police)? Do you really want the policy trade off involved with “giving the police officer a club, taser, pistol, body armor, and a machine gun and the right to enter our homes as if it were a nest of heavily armed terrorists all in the name of protecting us from crime” to be decided by judges?

  3. Steve Verdon says:

    yetanotherjohn,

    The cowards in our various legislatures aren’t doing anything about this. So if not the legislators and not the judges, then who? Seriously, if you’ve got a policy alternative, I’d love to hear it. All I hear right now is a whole lot of nuthin’.

  4. legion says:

    As Bush has amply demonstrated, you can pass all the laws you want – if no one is willing to hold law enforcement to their own standards of training and professionalism, nothing will ever change.

    I’m not unsympathetic to the risks cops take just by putting on their uniforms, but putting themselves at risk for the sake of public safety is their freakin’ job. It’s the same thing with the current controversy over high-speed pursuits – it’s risky, but sometimes it may be necessary to stop a dangerous criminal from escaping. But if police actions become more dangerous to the public than the criminals they’re trying to stop something is very very wrong.

  5. Herb says:

    Every American can point directly at the left wing extremist Supreme Court for this type of “legalized” home invasion.

  6. anjin-san says:

    I find this repeated thread odd. OTB is constantly supporting the government’s quest for more power. What’s the problem? This is the logical extension of what you have been supporting so vocally…

  7. Anderson says:

    Whatâ??s the problem? This is the logical extension of what you have been supporting so vocallyâ?¦

    “It stops being funny when it starts being you.”

  8. Steve,

    I understand the frustration, but I question the wisdom of wanting justices to make policy. If legislatures aren’t acting or executives (e.g. district attorneys) aren’t acting, wouldn’t the right thing be to challenge them, support their opponents (at the primary or general election levels) who say they would act?

    I am uncomfortable with the idea that 1) X is bad, 2) the people who should be seeing X doesn’t happen aren’t doing their job so 3) we should look to justices to devise ways to limit X.

    There are a lot of people who would fill in ‘X’ differently, but no matter how passionate we are about X, do we really want judges to weigh the policy choices and make decisions that become difficult to change?

    As far as policy alternatives, I would suggest legislation that police executing a warrant at the wrong address become personally liable for any harm that occurs and that their chain of command also becomes personally liable. The liability could include criminal assault, civil liability for damages, potentially even civil rights liability. Stopping the “valid warrant executed at the wrong address” won’t solve all the issues, but it sure cuts down on them.

    Excluding evidence is not the right answer (generally the people are innocent unless something occurs during the raid) because it doesn’t help the victim and doesn’t deter the next raid.

  9. dougrc says:

    I’m not familiar with the case but it doesn’t look like this incident would fit within the framework of the Hudson decision. Of course, we can’t be sure how accurate any of the information is in the first news account, but the little girl heard the officers announce themselves all the way over in her house next door.

    If the man was dumb enough to pick up a gun after that announcement, then gout is not the worst of his troubles.

  10. randall says:

    Happens more often than you think. I have friend of 25 years who is a cop and he admits to carrying a throw-down gun, he says he “will never accidentally shoot an unarmed man”. If you couple this mentality with the right to kick in the door of a private home then these incidents are going to happen from time to time. I don’t thick cops want to terrorize or kill innocent people, but when they do they want to be excused and not be held accountable for their actions. Sad thing is the US Inferior Court always sides with the cops. I am not anti-law enforcement, and I know cops have a very difficult role to fill, but you cannot just kill someone because you had bad information. I would like to see citizens get a role in policing the police. And I would really like to see term limits put on judges.

  11. Gollum says:

    YAJohn –

    Personal liability for errors in executing a warrant is an interesting idea but ultimately unfair. Errors can be both reasonable and unreasonable. Imposing personal liability for a reasonable error puts a cop’s home and personal assets at risk simply for doing his job within acceptable standards. Unlike doctors and lawyers, cops can’t buy insurance against personal liability for professional mistakes. That’s an unreasonable risk to ask of someone in public service, IMO.

  12. Steve Verdon says:

    Anjin-san,

    For crying outloud man, There are several people who blog here now thanks to James’ decision to make this more of a group blog. Hence, my take on these things can be different than his and James has the intellectual honesty to let me disagree with him and still post on this blog.

    dougrc,

    If the man was dumb enough to pick up a gun after that announcement, then gout is not the worst of his troubles.

    Get thee over to Radley Balko’s site and read up on this issue. Usually the cops do this thing early in the morning, like say 2 A.M. Hence it is quite possible that Mr. Jamar didn’t hear the police announce themselves as he was asleep and the police wait at most maybe 15 seconds before detonating flash-bang grenades. So what Mr. Jamar may have heard was several loud booms, which woke him up and startled him. Out of fear he naturally reaches for a weapon to defend himself. It has happened before and it will happen again.

    YAJ,

    I understand the frustration, but I question the wisdom of wanting justices to make policy. If legislatures arenâ??t acting or executives (e.g. district attorneys) arenâ??t acting, wouldnâ??t the right thing be to challenge them, support their opponents (at the primary or general election levels) who say they would act?

    But neither side wants to do anything about it…at least not until it happens to them (e.g. Willie Jefferson). Both sides on this issue have been reprhensible cowards in dealing with it. Also for years, the oversight was done by the courts via the exclusionary rule. So now the only deterrent is removed with nothing to replace it.

    As for the personal liability thing, not a bad idea (in regards to insurance, I think a market in that could form so I don’t see the current lack of such a market as a major objection), but you’d still have the problem with cops protecting cops and as the other commenter notes, things like “throw-down guns”. Right now the police tend to be above the law, and when that happens justice is no longer blind nor equal.

  13. whatever says:

    “Gotta have the government â??protect the sanctity of marriageâ??

    Heterosexual initiatives have been passed in every state they have been proposed in – including California. These are voted on by the pople.

    The courts keep overturning and stalling these laws, so a case of the government overturning the will of the people, not the other way around. Your own bias on the matter shows, so I pretty much hold the rest of the argument in contempt.

  14. legion says:

    whatever,
    Just because a majority of people going to the voting booths on a given day approve of something doesn’t make it “the will of the people”. If a law is unconstitutional, the courts are supposed to overturn it – that’s their job. Even if 100% of the people vote for it, it’s still unconstitutional until you amend the Constitution.

  15. Steve Verdon says:

    whatever,

    Yes and that is still having the government protect the sanctity of marriage. I think a basic civics/government course is in order. Sheesh.

  16. Gollum,

    We ask juries to sort between complicated facts all the time. Honest mistakes that have minimal implications are not likely to be the bread and butter for this sort of thing. It’s the egregious case that would result in the big verdict and the biggest deterrent. But in any case clearly the exclusionary rule is not the right lever here.

    Steve,

    There is a third actor that you need to address. I still can’t justify looking to the courts to make policy if the legislatures won’t. The third actor is the voters. Make this a campaign issue and see if you can’t get the legislatures attention. I don’t see how the exclusionary rule makes any sense here. If the police are executing a proper warrant on the wrong address, what evidence is going to be excluded to help the wronged homeowner.

    For about 100 years we have been telling the police that truth and justice are not the most important issue in the courts. The truth about facts can get suppressed in the court because of the exclusionary rule. In addition, the rules can be added or changed after the fact based on a new court decision. Now given that we have continuously said that we will release the criminal despite the truth of his misdeeds, is it a surprise that cops think that courts are not the place to get justice and a “good cop” would consider resorting to carrying a “throw down” gun?

    Reward the behavior you want more of and punish the behavior you want less of. Rewarding the suppression of truth does not engender more truth.

  17. Steve Verdon says:

    YAJ,

    If you are going to place your faith in the voters who seem all too willing to vote away our freedoms then you are out of touch with reality. A significant number of voters think a federal health care system is a great idea. Banning smoking even quite possibly on one’s own private property is just dandy. Laws about using cell phones while driving, fatty foods, who can live with whome, etc., etc.

    There is a good reason our country isn’t simply a democracy. The founders realized that such a system of government kind of sucks (there are more technical arguments to back this up, but I’m too tired to post them here–google things like Arrow’s impossibility theorem, voting and cycling, and so forth).

    Many voters are quite willing to vote away our freedoms. They like voting for the candidates who support the War on Drugs, in the past they voted in favor of prohibition, and so forth. Voting in favor of heavy handed police tactics strikes me as a very real possibility. You can appeal to the will of the voters, but thank you, I’d rather stand on principle.

    For about 100 years we have been telling the police that truth and justice are not the most important issue in the courts. The truth about facts can get suppressed in the court because of the exclusionary rule.

    Yes, and to be clear this happens when the police break the law. Things like beating a suspect into confessing, planting evidence, searching a person’s home without a search warrant, and so forth. Am I to understand that you favor these illegal police tactics? I hope I’m wrong on this point.

    Now given that we have continuously said that we will release the criminal despite the truth of his misdeeds, is it a surprise that cops think that courts are not the place to get justice and a â??good copâ?? would consider resorting to carrying a â??throw downâ?? gun?

    I find it abhorrent because it subverts one of the very basic principles of this country–that we are country of laws. That you seem to find this acceptable means we have fundamentally different philosophies on how a country should work. Yours strikes me as being different from the tactics of the NKVD only in degree.

    Reward the behavior you want more of and punish the behavior you want less of. Rewarding the suppression of truth does not engender more truth.

    I agree, but there is no punishing of cops. Convicting cops is nearly impossible because other cops cover for the bad ones. Further, prosecutors tend to take a different view of the law when it comes to cops vs. civilians. And our elected officials seem completely uninterested in changing this most likely because many of the voters like a “tough on crime” candidate.

    Your solutions so far have been pretty much nothing other than vague references to processes that to date have been complete failures. The only process that seems to have changed police tactics have been the courts…throwing out evidence and letting criminals walk. Is it a good solution? No. But it was the only one we had…until Scalia changed that.