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Why Police Shootings Seldom Go to Trial

Police shootings make for graphic headlines but they seldom go to trial and end in convictions even more rarely.

America has been hit by a series of fatal shootings of unarmed black men in recent years, sparking demonstrations and concern over police use of lethal force. Notwithstanding several high-profile cases and more video evidence, convictions are rare.

Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, was not indicted by a grand jury, a decision that sparked civil unrest.

It set the pattern for other killings of black men in cities like Baltimore and New York.

One researcher at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University reported as many as 1,000 police shootings occur every year in the United States and black men are three times as likely to die from police force.

A CNN report noted from 2005 to April 2017, 80 police officers were arrested on murder or manslaughter charges for on-duty shootings.

police shotings

Police shootings seldom end up in court

Over those 12 years, 35 percent of the officers were convicted. The rest were pending or not convicted, according to work by Philip Stinson, an associate professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University.

In 2017 in Austin, the Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore confirmed a jury would not hear the case of Morgan Crocker, a man who was shot dead by police in 2016.

Two police officers shot Cocker who police said fired at them with a handgun.

Moore determined that credible investigative facts established each officer’s use of force was “justified under applicable Texas law.”

The 34-year-old Crocker died on Sept. 15, 2016, from injuries he sustained after exchanging gunfire with two officers, Bernardo Ramirez, and Brett Fritz and at the Sedona Springs apartments in Southwest Austin.

Police encountered Crocker as they investigated reports of a suspicious person looking into vehicles at the apartment complex.

Fritz initially fired a stun gun to slow Crocker during a chase. However, Crocker removed the prongs before falling to the ground, according to the district attorney’s office.

More officers including Ramirez arrived at the scene. They heard Fritz telling Crocker to show his hands. Crocker is then said to have rolled over and pointed a handgun at officers before firing several rounds.

Police opened fire and Crocker died of his wounds. It was the fourth police shooting case in Austin in 2016 that did not lead to any proceedings against the officers, The Statesman reported.

Cases elsewhere in the United States proved more controversial. In the same year, Philando Castile, 32 from Minnesota was fatally shot while at a traffic stop by police officer, Jeronimo Yanez.

Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, live-streamed the confrontation and said Castile was reaching for his identification when he was shot.

However, a jury found the police officer not guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death.

At Peek & Toland , we defend suspects charged with a wide range of crimes. See our frequently asked questions and call us at (512) 474-4445.

 

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