On the one hand it’s perfectly understandable that law enforcement might not want to give the miscreant the opportunity to flush the evidence before it can be found, or to arm himself so he can go down fighting. But on the other hand, if someone breaks down your door without announcing himself as a police officer, and, whether with a licensed firearm or not, you shoot him as he comes across the threshold, if I’m on the jury you have an absolute right to self-defence. 

The policeman, on the other hand, does not. Why? Because he’s knowingly placed himself in a position in which that defence can be rightly invoked. This is why no-knock warrants should be outlawed. They place law enforcement personnel in far too vulnerable a position. The fact that no-knock warrants were legal at the time changes nothing in this analysis. If you put me in fear of my life you forfeit your right to yours.

But hang on. The officer who killed Breonna Taylor was also in fear of his life. But unlike the inhabitants of the apartment, he had ample opportunity to retreat. Had he done so he would not have been in fear of his life. So if I’m on the jury he’s guilty of at least negligent homicide.

When the state, in full possession of these facts – which apparently are not in dispute – fails to prosecute, it doesn’t thereby make itself party to the murder. Why not? Because it would be irresponsible to squander prosecutorial resources on a trial it anticipates will not produce a conviction. The fault, if fault there be, therefore lies with the jury that was never convened. 

In a sense it was on behalf of that jury that the state of Kentucky did away with no-knock warrants and paid the Taylor family $12,000,000. Apparently a human life is not priceless. Good to know if you’re an insurance adjuster.  

Categories: Everything You Wanted to Know About What's Going On in the World But Were Afraid to Ask, Social and Political Philosophy

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3 replies

  1. The uncomfortable thing about the Breonna Taylor case is that although the police obtained a no-knock warrant, they served it as a knock and announce warrant. Apparently, Breonna’s boyfriend had time to call his mother, call 911 and arm himself before the police entered. When they finally did, he shot the police who shot back, killing Breonna.

    As a counter factual, one can imagine the police could have not knocked and not have given time for the boyfriend to arm himself. Thus, it’s possible, no shots would have been fired and no one could have died had they actually used the no-knock warrant.


  2. Some witnesses also said that the police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot the unarmed teenager in the back while he was running away. The forensics said the officer shot him at close range in a manner consistent with the officer’s statement that the 275-lb. teenager was grappling with him and trying to take his service pistol when the officer shot him. So there were two conflicting versions of what went down there, too. But in Ferguson, the grand jury investigated.

    Witnesses lie when it suits them. The DA in Ferguson, in announcing the grand jury’s decision not to indict, commented that the task of the investigators would have been easier had more witnesses told the truth about what they saw, or didn’t see. Predictable outrage followed.

    Since you ask, I will speculate as to why the police in Kentucky might not have served their no-knock warrant as such. Maybe the officers felt that good community policing is to knock on doors instead of breaking them down. (Scoff if you like.). One practical reason might be to avoid being mistaken for home invaders seeking the cash and the drugs therein. The police would reason that normal suspects don’t pick up firearms when the police announce, no matter what BLM propaganda they’ve been listening to—they just flush the evidence instead. If you’re a cop, finding the evidence on the coffee table is less useful than not having a gun pointed at you by a panicking dealer who doesn’t know who you are. Partial surprise can be more chaos-producing than total surprise.

    But surely it is a matter of discoverable fact as to whether the boyfriend made the calls to 911 and to his mother, or not. If the calls happened, clearly some time elapsed between his awareness of the police and their entry into the apartment. And similarly it is discoverable whether or not the boyfriend shot at the police…knowing that they were police and not some rival members of the criminal set. While the police are fair game according to one view, articulating this out in the wider world is politically fraught, not to mention an obstacle to recruitment. So a police officer who returns gunfire non-recklessly is going to be exonerated. (And do you really think the police have the opportunity, and therefore the obligation, to retreat from armed conflict? Then who will take down the bad guys? Tactical considerations could merit a regroup for a Plan B,
    but not moral ones. The private citizen must run away from the gunman, yes, but she calls the cops. Whom ought the cops to call?)

    If there was going to be a trial, this would have all come out. I can see why Anon’s version, if true, would be disappointing. Better to just pay off and put up a statue. No questions answered. We can all keep sacred our own truths.


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