Friday, July 06, 2007

Officer Involved Shooting: Possible or Not Possible?

The Canadian papers are full of the coroner's inquest that is going on today in the case of Constable Paul Koester, who shot and killed a mill worker named Ian Bush in Houston, a small British Columbia town.

Here's how it went down. Police had received reports of a rowdy crowd outside a hockey rink. Constable Koester responded and found Bush with a beer in hand. Bush gave two false names to police and was arrested. He was transported to a booking area and that's where the story gets confusing.

Koester says Bush grabbed him from behind with a choke hold, and he retrieved his service sidearm and whipped Bush on the head with it, and a shot was fired killing Bush. The shot entered the back of Bush's head.

Cleared after an internal RCMP investigation, a coroner's jury was impaneled. And that's where the story gets squirrely.

The RCMP blood spatter expert says that it happened just like like Koester says it did.

The family summoned their own expert witness over objections, one Constable Slemko, a 21 year veteran of the Edmonton Police Department and who seems to have a sideline in testifying as an expert in murder cases.

Slemko, whose own department does not use him as a forensics specialist and who has never been promoted in 21 years, insisted that Koester's version of events was impossible.

You either believe the officer or you believe the family and friends. There's no middle ground here. Is it, or is it not possible to shoot someone in the head when they've got you in a chokehold?

The friends Ian Bush was partying with say he wasn't drunk, but it appeared he'd had at least seven beers or so before the incident. The entire episode sounds like one that's repeated on a regular basis here in the states. Rowdy party, beer bottles being tossed, and police have to come and clean up the mess.

The matter is now in the hands of the coroner's jury.

I bring this up only to point out that even the most routine police procedure with a seemingly compliant person can spiral into a fight to the death in a split second. Always be aware of your distances and make sure that the detainee is restrained. It's even better to have another officer or jailer present at booking.

I always wondered about stories where a seemingly innocent defendant was shot, until I watched a video where a guy who was only going to be stopped for speeding led police on a wild chase that resulted in him being fatally shot by police as he rammed his truck into other cars.

People are capable of anything, including those things that family members would never believe of them in a million years.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Libby's Justice and Karla Faye Tucker's Demise

A number of publications like the Independent are carrying a spin on the Scooter Libby sentence commutation that has my ire.

It goes about like this: the President pardons his crony Scooter when back when Bush was the governor of Texas he wouldn't pardon Karla Faye Tucker, a woman on death row who'd experienced a religious conversion.

Parenthetically, the historical accuracy of the Independent's article is pathetically weak. Karla Faye Tucker was not 'the first woman executed since the civil war'. Far from it.

There actually have been fifty since 1900, including one in Texas in 2000, Betty Lou Beets and another in Texas in 2005, Frances Newton. You can read about it here.

Folks, Article 2 section 2 of the constitution gives the President the power to order reprieves and pardons. It's unfettered, unappealable, and rarely granted.

Libby did no more than have a semi convenient lapse of memory in front of a grand jury that hurt no one. As a first time, nonviolent offender with a good record of public service, the likely outcome of the case would have been probation and a suspended sentence, were it not for the federal sentencing guidelines, which more or less turned the federal judiciary into a vending machine.

I am not a Republican, I didn't vote for President Bush, and I do not like him or his crew.

But in this case, President Bush got it right. Libby is no great criminal genius or evil mastermind and he's going to pay through the nose like all convicted felons. A felony conviction is the gift that keeps on giving and he'll never be rid of the dishonor. All that happened is his sentence is going to be suspended. That's it. He'll report to a PO like all the other felons and his life will be an open book.

And Karla Faye Tucker? What sunk Karla Faye Tucker? Confessing to police that every time she swung the pickaxe into some poor fool's chest that she had an orgasm is what sunk her.

The person she killed with a pickaxe was the victim in a meth fueled riot of violence that started when she and her lover decided that the victim was too lame to own a Harley Davidson and ought to be punished for his impertinence.

That's what led her to the executioner.

Making any sort of comparison of the offenses of Karla Faye Tucker to the pecadilloes of Lewis Libby is a specious politically motivated crock.

Now. I'm not a religious man but I do study on it as it is sometimes informative about matters of great weight. There's a connection between mercy, justice and repentance that runs deep.

At the very least, the people of the state of Texas are entitled to determine the matters of law and punishment that fall within their borders.

Without justice being served mercy and forgiveness are irrelevant nonentities.

In Alma II, the judge asks his son: "What? Do you suppose mercy can rob justice? I say, nay. Not one whit."

It's worth pondering here in this winter of my discontent.