Thursday, April 30, 2015

Let's take race out of the Freddie Gray case a moment and see what we have

While I agree there is a racial bias element in the Freddie Gray case that needs to be addressed, let's just remove that important factor for a moment. Let's remove it and see if we can all agree that the Baltimore police officers who arrested Gray did not do their jobs well and that failure resulted in a young man's death.

In one critical point, the Baltimore officers did clearly not follow state law. So, they are at the least guilty of criminally negligent homicide (or whatever Maryland calls it when you put another person's life in danger). Let's calmly consider the facts we know.

In 2013, the state of Maryland adopted a seat-belt law. Every passenger and driver must wear one. According to news reports, despite that law, Freddie Gray was not secured in the police paddy wagon by a seat belt.

Since Gray was handcuffed and shackled, he could not be expected to put on his own seat belt. He was in police custody and therefore at the mercy of the police. So, when the officers did not secure him in a seat, the put his life in danger. Since he died as a result of the officer's failure to follow state law, they are responsible for his death,

In a recently released report, "investigators say that Gray was mortally injured in the van and not during his arrest." Further, it's said that his spinal injury was the result of him slamming against the back of the van (Gray's spine was severed at the neck).

Another prisoner who was in the van says that Gray appeared to be trying to injure himself. I argue that it doesn't matter in this case. If the officers who put him in the van had put a seat belt on him, he would not have been able to throw himself anywhere.

According to a CNN report, the officers did not seat belt Gray because you have to get into an intimate space to put a seat belt on some. They were afraid he would bite them. Oddly, they could handcuff him, and later an officer shackled him, but they say they couldn't get close enough to him to put a seat belt on?

Most people in Baltimore city police custody are not seat-belted in paddy wagons, says CNN's source, but police have begun to seat-belt paddy wagon passengers since the Gray incident.

Bottom line, it doesn't matter how crazy Gray was in the back of that van. If he had been seat-belted, he would not have been slammed into the back of the van. Whether he did it on purpose is irrelevant. Once someone is in police custody, his body is under care of the police, and in this case police actions prevented a man from putting a seat belt on himself, and then they did not do it for him. That's negligence.

I can't help but think here about the meaning of Habeus corpus -- "you have the body." They had his body.

Where is the compassion of the people excusing the police in this case? Is a nation that never holds police accountable for anything really a free nation?


Sister Big said...

I completely agree! I keep going back to people saying he was acting injured before he was taken into custody - then why wasn't he transported first to a hospital? WTF, people?

Daphne Yvonne Bradshaw said...

Living in Maryland & having been in that particular neighborhood several times thru the years, my heart breaks for those there ... & for us all. No one was truly listening who could change things as more & more was stolen, ravaged,... as you told well in your canary in the mine essay after this one. Keep up your work. Please may we all wake up and demand real justice finally. Justice, then mercy, then peace ... or it is not real.

Vérité Parlant said...

Thank you, Sister Big and Daphne. :-)