Wednesday, September 21, 2011

No Official Accountability

Troy Davis has been executed for killing a police officer. There appear to be a large number of people convinced of his innocence, but the courts did not stop the execution. Some even claim that they have a confession by the actual murderer.

Assuming those protesting this execution are correct, then what does that mean? It means that the prosecutors, police, and a few other officials are guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. But what does that mean? Tragically, that means nothing.

First, the state holds a monopoly on criminal prosecutions. It is impossible to hold anybody in the law enforcement apparatus responsible unless they agree to do so. In the case of Kelly Thomas of Fullerton, CA, the worry of many was that the District Attorney would decline to prosecute entirely. That particular case had the population so enraged that it was impossible to bury without damage to the government structure, so two of the six police were charged. That case was very much an exception. In other cases where a criminal member of the law enforcement apparatus was held accountable, Mike Nifong got a single day in jail because neither the prosecutor nor the judge could believe that a prosecutor was being held accountable.

Second, assuming there was sufficient evidence to prove that an innocent was executed there is no guarantee that in a civil court these people could be held accountable. The law enforcement apparatus have granted themselves immunity for their actions. It takes a significant effort to prove that those responsible were acting outside what is legally allowable for them, and prosecuting someone who they have reason to believe is guilty at the time and then later ignoring the case when contradicting evidence comes to light is considered allowable. Refusing to reconsider a case is not forbidden.

If Troy Davis is innocent, as many claim, that means that there are several murderers in Georgia, from the police to the prosecutors to the judges, and it also means they have gotten away with it. Meanwhile in Fullerton there are four police officers who are accomplices to murder who are getting away with it. Both cases emphasize the need to reform the whole of law enforcement by stripping prosecutors of their monopoly on criminal prosecutions and severely diminishing the nearly all-encompassing protections of official immunity. Essentially there is no accountability anymore, and that is the indicator of a police state.

No comments: