Eric Garner and Mike Brown Links

Here is the Columbia Law School FAQ I mentioned in class about the legal proceedings in Eric Garner’s case. There’s also an FAQ about Mike Brown on that same website.

Here is the New York Times timeline and explanation of what happened in the Michael Brown case.

Here is a short article, again from the New York Times, entitled “Grand Jury System, With Exceptions, Favors the Police in Fatalities.” It provides a valuable rundown of why it is so difficult to indict an officer under these circumstances. You’ll notice, however, that it differs from Professor Jeffrey Fagan and Bernard E. Harcourt’s Columbia Law FAQ in that it presents “legal scholars” as having a different understanding of the phrase, “whatever force they reasonably believe is necessary.” The NYT article, written by James C. McKinley and Al Baker, portrays the legal understanding of the word “reasonable” to be purely subjective in this context; that is, it is based on the officer’s perception of the threat the person poses. Fagan and Harcourt, on the other hand, frame “reasonable” as “objective… . Reasonableness is to be determined from the perspective of a reasonable police officer on the scene.” This discrepancy calls both of these sources (both from, it’s worth noting, highly reputable institutions) into question. It may be that there is a debate among legal scholars about the appropriate interpretation of “reasonable” in this context, and perhaps each set of authors is giving voice to only one side. Alternately, maybe McKinley and Baker are just wrong. Professors Fagan and Harcourt have a greater claim to authority since they are themselves members of the group “legal scholars” to which McKinley and Baker refer. Furthermore, Fagan and Harcourt provide a citation for their assertion about the objectivity of “reasonable”–a legal court case that presumably served as a precedent–whereas McKinley and Baker offer no evidence in favor of their claim. (If I were writing an essay on this and this were an important point, I would look into the precedent and try to get my own sense of where “legal scholars” came down on this issue).

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