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Are Prosecutor’s Attempts to Hold Officers Accountable Backfiring? | U.S. PATRIOT NEWS & REVIEWS

Are Prosecutor’s Attempts to Hold Officers Accountable Backfiring?

An increasing number of recent police use of force events have resulted in prosecutors immediately claiming the events were unjustified even before the investigation is complete. Not surprisingly, many of these prosecutors shortly thereafter announce the officer or officers involved are facing charges ranging from excessive force to manslaughter or even murder.

Each morning I wake up and turn on the television, listening to the local news while I get ready for work. In February of this year, I heard a reporter describing how a motorist, who was later found to be unarmed, had been shot to death by a police officer after a short pursuit. At first I did not think much of it; after all, it was becoming an all too common occurrence;  but, then I realized the shooting had not happened in some far off city or along a distant stretch of highway but in a neighboring county and in a town I was familiar with. This had happened in my backyard.

Over the next several weeks I watched the local news and read the area newspaper as reporters and experts dissected the shooting and questioned the officer’s actions. The District Attorney promised a full investigation and members of the community expressed shock. It was not long before the other shoe fell and fell hard. The District Attorney reported that video footage, from the officer’s own Taser, showed she had shot an unarmed suspect without justification and announced the officer would be charged with murder. The video was unavailable as it was now evidence and the officer was wisely not making public statements, but from the information that was available it did not look good.

Officer Lisa Mearkle
Officer Lisa Mearkle

Well, the trial recently ended and, after less than two days of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict – not guilty on all charges. Again, I was shocked. The prosecution had promised that the video made this a cut and dry case. Even as a fellow LEO, I was convinced that the officer involved had made a terrible mistake and was going to pay dearly for taking another person’s life.  How could the verdict be “Not Guilty?” Simple, the prosecutor reached too far and a jury of 12 citizens did not buy into it. In an interview days after the acquittal, the jury foreman explained that the evidence did not support the DA’s claim and the members believed she was in fear for her life; therefore, a conviction was not warranted. He said that the prosecution had not proven its case.

What about the video which the DA claimed was so damning that it proved the officer was so reckless that the only choice was a murder charge? As soon as the trial was over the former evidence was immediately available on every local media website; top of the fold news and even the subject of a recent conversation between Bill Mahr and Quentin Tarantino. What the jury saw was a 49 yr. old petty criminal flee from an attempted traffic stop, run from police in his vehicle and on foot, attempt to remove the Taser barbs and fail to comply with 23 requests by the officer to stop attempting to reach into his jacket. This, along with testimony by use of force experts and the officer herself, led the jury to believe that, although the suspect was not armed, there was no way for the officer to know that – other than waiting to get shot.

Honestly, I have no idea if the officer reacted properly. I would like to believe she did, but it would not be the first time an LEO over reacted or panicked and started shooting during the heat of the moment. What I do know is that, no matter what actually took place, the prosecution failed. If the officer was justified, then the DA’s office should have seen that as clearly as a jury and not filed charges. If the officer acted improperly and charges were necessary, then the DA’s prosecutor failed to properly convey that to the jury. Either way, and regardless of why the officer was put on trial, the plan backfired or now the question is no longer “Why was the officer acquitted?” but “What was the prosecutor’s motivation in the first place?”

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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