Remember that comment by Clarence Thomas in response to a question from then Senator Joe Biden during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Thomas further clarified his statement by saying, “You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate, rather than hung from a tree.” Brett Kavanaugh undoubtedly experienced the same feelings but his predicament was far worse by virtue of the frenzy whipped up by the internet.
In an age before social media and widespread use of the internet, Justice Thomas was quite prophetic in his analysis of how leaks to the media and their immediate dissemination influenced his right to a fair hearing and even more so in the case of Kavanaugh. This “high tech lynching,” was only the beginning of a trend that has now run roughshod over aspects of our legal system. The presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial, especially in high profile cases, can no longer be taken for granted. Rumor, innuendo and out right lies are presented as facts to the general public via the internet to influence a desired outcome. Unfortunately, this is the fate of too many law enforcement officers making an arrest, particularly one that involves a shooting or a death.
There will always be someone with a cell phone camera to capture some portion of the event and that will be posted to social media with their opinion of what transpired. Typically, the average audience will accept this as fact or form their thoughts based on a snippet of evidence. It doesn’t take long before it can garner media attention and often they run with a version of the story that will please their editor or producer. The officers involved in the George Floyd media circus, have already been tried and convicted by the media and general public and have virtually no chance of a fair trial. Public opinion has already condemned them before a trial begins and all the evidence is presented, (has anyone read Floyd’s toxicology report and do they have sufficient knowledge to make an accurate conclusion). I don’t envy the judge for this trial; he will be hard pressed to do his job and ignore the media “talking heads” who will question his every action or comment. Hopefully, we will not see the rioting and chaos that took place after the officer’s were acquitted in the Rodney King case if that should happen in Minneapolis.
Along with a lynch mob mentally toward law enforcement and armchair second guessing their split second reaction to events, many are calling for “defunding the police.” Despite some backtracking, words mean things and it’s hard to derive any other definition to the phrase than decreasing, (or in some cases eliminating), their budget. This comes at a time when the politicians should be increasing law enforcement budgets to ensure they’re getting a quality officer with the training the public demands and deserves. In some cases that may involve adding psychological counselors, but they better have armed backup because even the most benign duty of serving a warrant can turn deadly in a heartbeat as seen in the recent deaths and wounding of the FBI agents in Florida.
We have the best legal system in the world and the public and the media, must let it do its job without bias and the exploitation of social media. An officer, or anyone for that matter, deserves the benefit of the doubt and a complete examination of ALL evidence,
without a presumption of their motives
By the way, in case you’re interested, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 264 officers died in the line of duty in 2020 and so far for this year 18 have died. As a retired member of the military, it’s always nice to hear the comment “thanks for your service,” perhaps the next time you see a law enforcement officer you might offer the same thank you.