Patterico's Pontifications

4/14/2015

Jack Dunphy on the South Carolina Shooting

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:36 pm



Jack Dunphy:

I’m in no way suggesting that witness Feidin Santana planned it this way when he shot the video, but the video is timed precisely to show that portion of the incident most damning to Slager. As the video opens we can hear the sound of a siren and that of a Taser being activated. We hear a voice, presumably Slager’s, saying something inaudible, followed by “I’ll shoot you.” When Slager and Scott come into view, at about 0:17 into the video, the two are an arm’s length apart, with Scott appearing to turn away and Slager reaching for his holstered pistol. The Taser wires, which connect the device to two darts fired from it, can be seen extending between Scott and Slager, and the Taser itself can be seen landing on the ground five to six feet behind Slager. Feidin Santana has said that Scott did not grab the Taser, but if he didn’t, how else to explain how it ended up on the ground behind Slager?

I suspect that Slager’s defense will be to claim that Scott did indeed grab the Taser, a claim not entirely unreasonable given where the device landed before the shooting. And I suspect he moved the Taser in a panicked attempt to bring the evidence into conformance with his mistaken perception of what had occurred. If a suspect gains control of an officer’s Taser and is preparing to use it against him, deadly force can be justified in defense. But once the threat has ended, so too must the use of deadly force. I think when Slager drew his weapon, he truly believed Scott still had the Taser. He had made the decision to fire, and he was unable to process the change in circumstances that made the use of deadly force unreasonable and therefore unlawful.

And this is where Slager all but shredded his only potential defense. If he had left the crime scene undisturbed, if he had allowed the evidence to speak for itself, any presence of Scott’s DNA on the Taser could only be explained by his having grabbed it as Slager claimed. As things now stand, if Scott’s DNA is found on the Taser, prosecutors can argue it was transferred by Slager’s handling of it after handcuffing Scott. In acting as he did, Slager not only destroyed his own credibility, he tainted the very forensic evidence that might have supported his already weak claim of self-defense.

Whatever Slager’s crimes, there is still a moral distinction to be made between a cop who errs, even as catastrophically as he did, and someone who kills in the course of a robbery or a gang feud or some other act of depravity. When the process has run its course, he will have earned the punishment the law prescribes for him. He has tarnished the police profession and made our job more difficult, but I cannot bring myself to hate him.

There is also a legal distinction between someone who kills in a premeditated fashion because, say, he hates rival gang members, and someone who uses deadly force unreasonably with an honest belief that he needed to use it. The former may be guilty of first-degree murder, while the latter may be guilty only of voluntary manslaughter. (Whether Slager had such an honest belief depends on the entirety of the evidence, but it is not an absurd notion.) These is also a distinction between a killer with no job-related duty to detain the decedent, who encounters no physical force from the decedent, and someone like Slager who does have such a duty to catch bad guys, who seems to have encountered resistance and force along the way.

To me, there are still unanswered questions. I have seen posts such as this one claiming that perhaps the Taser wire in the video was hanging off of Slager and not Scott — suggesting that Scott may have Tased Slager. The post in question has a picture of Slager with his left pants leg rolled up, as if he is showing an injury. I don’t know whether the analysis holds water or not, but it’s worth thinking about. I am not aware of whether Slager claimed that he was actually Tased himself (I see people confidently asserting what his claims are, or are not, but I am not sure what the basis for these confident assertions are), but I think that issue could be relevant to his state of mind. So yes, I persist in stubbornly refusing to leap to the confident judgments that most of the rest of the world has leapt to.

I think Dunphy has good insights here, but then, he always does.

33 Responses to “Jack Dunphy on the South Carolina Shooting”

  1. Ding.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  2. I think murder charges are ridiculous but the guy has put himself in very deep trouble, given the mood in the country.

    Mike K (90dfdc)

  3. I worry about the optics. One report I saw said he was an older, somewhat wealthy guy, who donated to the cops and was allowed to volunteer. It reeks of an older guy trying to re-live his glory days. I can see him on traffic stops or routine stuff, but at an undercover sting? Does not seem right. We have old guys in our town who volunteer for Sheriff’s Posse (Arpaio, at that) and they are completely unarmed! That doesn’t strike me as too bright, either.

    Gazzer (8d02a8)

  4. There’s a prima facie case for murder from what we’ve seen on the videos.

    not klinton (dbc370)

  5. Gazzer, are you thinking about this Oklahoma incident?

    Patterico (9c670f)

  6. Sigh. My sockpuppet comment was for the Scott shooting, not the “thought it was my taser” case.

    nk (dbc370)

  7. not klinton,

    Thanks for the helpful link to Wikipedia’s post on “prima facie.” I’m not sure I agree with a murder charge, however, Wikipedia legal link or no.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  8. Sigh. My sockpuppet comment was for the Scott shooting, not the “thought it was my taser” case.

    ????

    Patterico (9c670f)

  9. Pat my bad. I accidentally confused the two incidents. Thanks for putting me straight.

    Gazzer (8d02a8)

  10. Bates, in Oklahoma, that I believe Gazzer was talking about.

    nk (dbc370)

  11. The timing of the video probably has a simple explanation…Santana would not have realized this incident was worth videographing until it was well underway.

    kishnevi (adea75)

  12. Badge licking authoritarians.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  13. Me and nk; two like-minded dunces.

    Gazzer (8d02a8)

  14. “There is also a legal distinction between someone who kills in a premeditated fashion because, say, he hates rival gang members, and someone who uses deadly force unreasonably with an honest belief that he needed to use it. The former may be guilty of first-degree murder, while the latter may be guilty only of voluntary manslaughter. (Whether Slager had such an honest belief depends on the entirety of the evidence, but it is not an absurd notion.) These is also a distinction between a killer with no job-related duty to detain the decedent, who encounters no physical force from the decedent, and someone like Slager who does have such a duty to catch bad guys, who seems to have encountered resistance and force along the way.”

    – Patterico

    Agreed. And now a jury will make a decision about which scenario unfolded here.

    Leviticus (cb1e60)

  15. Indeed they will. It’s an appropriate case to go to a jury. I’m good with that.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  16. If I’m not mistaken, the taser also fires confetti marked with a serial number which marks the scene with an indicator as to the where the taser was fired. Picking up and movin the taser likely spoiled that evidence too.

    Xmas (bfaacb)

  17. Slager is a cold blooded murderer who deliberately and calculatedly tampered with evidence to cover up the crime he knew he committed.

    Please, Patterico & Dunphy, attempt to convince me that the man on the right just “made a mistake.”

    CTD (4903a9)

  18. anything that comes through Team Crump, which includes Julison, really shouldn’t be taken at face value,

    narciso (ee1f88)

  19. And I suspect he moved the Taser in a panicked attempt to bring the evidence into conformance with his mistaken perception of what had occurred

    As far as I know, the charge of tampering with evidence would be supported by a police report that conflicts with what was seen on the video. I have no idea why he picked up and moved the tazer. If his police report includes that he did move the tazer for the sake of whatever, then he didn’t falsify evidence, but he may have acted inappropriately.

    As we’ve seen before, it sometimes takes a while to clarify facts. If there is a verified police report viewable that conflicts with what we saw, then fine.

    If every cop was Walker, we wouldn’t have this problem, but that is not a very reasonable expectation, either.

    MD in Philly (not in Philly at the moment) (deca84)

  20. reading the entire link was helpful.

    MD in Philly (not in Philly at the moment) (deca84)

  21. The Dunphy article is excellent, and I commend Patterico and Dunphy for keeping an open mind about this case. People make mistakes — sometimes fatal mistakes — but we need to let the facts govern what happens, not our emotions.

    DRJ (e80d46)

  22. Slager is a political prisoner.

    jcurtis (23117c)

  23. well consider this tidbit,

    narciso (ee1f88)

  24. Dashcam video from a police car that arrived after the shooting is at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/video/news/video-1174432/New-dashcam-video-shows-Walter-Scott-scene-new-angle.html As you’ll see, Feidin Santana, who recorded the bystander video, is highlighted at 00:13 (as the arriving police car is moving along the roadway beside the fence) and at 00:34 (after the police car has made its U-turn and come down along the altercation path). Notice (1) that the area from which Santana recorded his video is not at all far from the spot where the shot Scott fell and that (2) Santana would seem to be in plain view of Slager and other officers near the felled Scott. That has struck me personally as important with respect to the moments, in the bystander video, in which Slager retrieves something from the struggle spot and then lets something drop to the ground near Scott. Because the bystander himself is right there, visible to all, it seems to me unlikely that the bystander video “caught” Slager doing something nefarious (planting evidence), as if the bystander had been recording from a hidden vantage.

    John Bonaccorsi, Phila (f364a5)

  25. 1:30:23 of the Santana video shows Scott on top of Slager. 1:30:27 also shows light green over blue so it is confirmed. 1:30:28 shows Slager starting to regain position. These are stills from the part of the video no one has bothered to look at yet, when the phone was held vertical.

    Add that to Scott grabbing for the taser after Slager got back on his feet and drew it means game over. If he is still in jail, it is false imprisonment.

    jcurtis (bd1f00)

  26. I’m a long-time reader but you going to bat for a clear-cut murderer is trying my patience. I want to give a point by point refutation of this garbage post but I’m having a hard time believing that you believe the shit you’re typing.

    John Doe (d7ea33)

  27. I think Slager is the fatted calf being kicked under the bus onto the altar of political correctness, which has gone insane in this country in connection with the protection of blacks as though they’re an endangered species.

    Slager got tasered by Scott, and it was in this moment that Slager began to fire. Ask some one to taser you with a law enforcement-grade taser and see what it does to YOUR mind. It’s highly unlikely that Slager saw Scott drop the taser after firing it at Slager or, if he did, that it registered in his mind, so he did what any police officer is and should be trained to do – stop the threat. Some moments later, Slager retrieved his taser. Cops are trained to retrieve any weapons dropped or displaced during an altercation so that bystanders can’t get their hands on them. It’s likely that when Slager saw that the cartridge was no longer in the taser, he simply dropped it because it was empty and not a threat. Then Slager appropriately continued to tend to Scott.

    Law enforcement is not a game of “Let’s play tag with the cop” or “If I make it to first base, I win.” Scott demonstrated that he was a danger by taking the taser and tasering the cop. The fact that he turned and began to run is irrelevant to his already demonstrated violence.

    We need cops in this world. We don’t need the Walter Scotts of this world who would destroy the thin blue line that separates us from chaos and anarchy.

    Honora (38f70a)

  28. Slager seems to have been acute enough to get his version of the episode on the record promptly. See “New audio captures aftermath of deadly South Carolina shooting” at http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/13/us/south-carolina-police-shooting/index.html While his voice was still being recorded on police radio—as he must have known—Slager apparently received a cell-phone call from his wife, to whom he said “He grabbed my taser, yeah” and “He was running from me.” This would seem to contrast sharply with the suggestion, in early news reports, that Slager, in reporting his encounter with Scott, had misrepresented what had happened. We’d have to see his incident report, of course, to draw a firmer conclusion about that.

    Use of the verb “grabbed” in the cell-phone conversation is interesting because Slager had said “took” just seconds after the shooting itself. This makes me wonder whether, at the time of the shooting, Slager thought Scott had taken the taser and had it with him. Slager’s statement to his wife, in the cell-phone conversation, might have been his way of making sure it was known that “took” had been honest. Maybe, in other words, he took advantage of the cell-phone conversation to indicate what, possibly, he’d learned only when he’d gone over to the felled Scott and handcuffed him, namely, that Scott had merely “grabbed” the taser.

    John Bonaccorsi, Phila (f364a5)

  29. Sorry, backshooting is not an error, it is an atrocity.

    The traffic stop/arrest of deadbeat dad is not a warzone.

    Of course, a soldier with the duty to capture a combatant, who rather than run and catch the unarmed fleeing prisoner shot him in the back would be charged with murder, even in a warzone.

    Steve Malynn (6b1ce5)

  30. Re: 26. The prosecution of Slager for shooting Scott has nothing to do with race or scapegoats or political correctness.

    If Slager got tasered, it was in an alternate universe, not the reality we are living in.

    Steve Malynn (6b1ce5)

  31. Of course, a soldier with the duty to capture a combatant, who rather than run and catch the unarmed fleeing prisoner shot him in the back would be charged with murder, even in a warzone.
    Steve Malynn (6b1ce5) — 4/16/2015 @ 3:07 pm

    Are you saying that in a war zone a soldier has a duty to run into an ambush rather than shoot a fleeing soldier who will likely try to kill him again once he reloads?

    MD in Philly (not in Philly at the moment) (deca84)

  32. “If Slager got tasered, it was in an alternate universe, not the reality we are living in.”

    There is basically zero evidence for this assertion.

    JD (3b5483)

  33. 28. Of course, a soldier with the duty to capture a combatant, who rather than run and catch the unarmed fleeing prisoner shot him in the back would be charged with murder, even in a warzone.

    Steve Malynn (6b1ce5) — 4/16/2015 @ 3:07 pm

    That’s ridiculous on so many levels.

    Military necessity (per the Law Of Armed Conflict) permits shooting an escaping prisoner. Because the prisoner is only a non-combatant while in custody. Once the prisoner escapes custody, and is no longer under the control of US forces, has become an enemy combatant again. And enemy combatants are always legitimate targets. Whether armed or not, whether you shoot them in the back or not.

    If you are in a warzone, in close proximity to the enemy, you are not liable to a murder charge because you refused to allow the enemy forces to replenish themselves in the field.

    US personnel are not required to commit suicide in the course of recapturing an enemy combatant. Yes, I would prefer to shoot rather then run into the same enemy forces the escapee it attempting to rejoin.

    Per the Army Field Manual (FM-27) guards are authorized to use weapons to prevent EPWs from escaping even if they are nowhere near a combat zone.

    http://www.armystudyguide.com/content/powerpoint/Military_Justice_Presentations/law-of-war-2.shtml

    Preventing Escape

    MUST Use Least Extreme Means

    Yelling Halt

    Recapturing

    Use of Weapons (FM 27-10, para. 118)

    Considered to be an Extreme Measure

    MUST Warn Before Using Weapons

    Aim to Disable and NOT to Kill

    Aiders and Abettors receive only disciplinary punishment for helping

    Puhlease.

    Steve57 (cd6f9a)


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