Friday, December 09, 2005

Mississippi Burning

Radley Balko of The Agitator posts on a somewhat disturbing case of a man sentenced to death because he shot a policeman who broke down his door in the middle of the night on a search warrant that didn't apply to that house. The shooter claims that the policeman never identified himself and never knocked, meaning that it's absolutely reasonable that the shooter was fearing for his life (and the life of his young daughter). There's still some holes in Balko's reasoning - for example, why did the shooter shoot first and ask questions later, and why would a cop burst through a doorway unarmed without identifying himself - but I'm inclined to agree with him for the most part. If he's right, it's a travesty that someone is about to die because a police officer was stupid. (The original post on the case is a little ways down.)

Interestingly, at the bottom of the Dec. 7 posts, Balko outlines a whole litany of "no-knock raids" in Baltimore. This careless activity by police is apparently more prevalent than we would like to believe. Furthermore, I don't see what is gained by not knocking on the door first. If it means you have to look a little harder to find the drugs, fine.

Yet another life claimed by the war on drugs. How much longer are we going to keep up this silliness?


Ben said...

Well, constitutionally speaking "no-knock" raids are allowed when the police have a reasonable fear that evidence will be destroyed (i.e. drugs flushed down the toilet) or someone will be harmed if they follow the normal "knock first" procedure.

Still agree with you on the war on drugs.

Btw, may I take this flurry of posts to mean that you have a new computer?

I'm actually in the middle of an 8-hour Business Associations take-home exam right now. So it's back to work for me!

Mike said...

This situation is inherently problematic, but to me the larger issue is that we shouldn't be putting people to death.

As an interesting side note, isn't it odd how people tend to receive greater punishment for killing a cop? Cops carry weapons. They are trained to defend themselves. Shouldn't murderers receive harsher punishment for killing those ill-equipped to counterattack?

Or better yet, shouldn't we simply hold to that self-evident truth that all men are created equal?

Jacob said...

Whoa, I don't check your blog for a few days and suddenly I have a whole book to catch up on. Nice bloggin!

Anyway, just wanted to chime in real quick to clarify that the part about the officer not announcing himself makes sense in the context of the story. The officers said they didn't realize the house was a duplex, so the one who was shot thought he didn't have to announce himself separately from the others busting into the other half. The story the poor guy who's about to get a lethal injection told seems to hang together.