If you are waking up and looking for something to get your blood boiling, you ought to check out this amazing district court opinion written by Judge Carlton Reeves out of Mississippi. Judge Reeves is an African-American Obama appointee who was slated to speak at the 2020 NCDC Trial Practice Institute had it gone forward.
Judge Reeves wrote an opinion granting immunity to a police officer based on a traffic stop of a black man who was driving a Mercedes. Mr. Jamison endured two hours of interrogation on the side of the road that culminated in police officers dismantling his car looking for drugs and then leaving him to put the pieces back together. Judge Reeves grants immunity, as he says he must, but then writes a 72 page opinion laying out why the doctrine must go.
The opinion starts this way:
Clarence Jamison wasn’t jaywalking.
He wasn’t outside playing with a toy gun.
He didn’t look like a “suspicious person.”
He wasn’t suspected of “selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.”
He wasn’t suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill.
He didn’t look like anyone suspected of a crime.
He wasn’t mentally ill and in need of help.
He wasn’t assisting an autistic patient who had wandered away from a group home.
He wasn’t walking home from an after-school job.
He wasn’t walking back from a restaurant.
He wasn’t hanging out on a college campus.
He wasn’t standing outside of his apartment.
He wasn’t inside his apartment eating ice cream.
He wasn’t sleeping in his bed.
He wasn’t sleeping in his car.
He didn’t make an “improper lane change.”
He didn’t have a broken tail light.
He wasn’t driving over the speed limit.
He wasn’t driving under the speed limit.
No, Clarence Jamison was a Black man driving a Mercedes convertible.
As he made his way home to South Carolina from a vacation in Arizona, Jamison was pulled over and subjected to one hundred and ten minutes of an armed police officer badgering him, pressuring him, lying to him, and then searching his car top-to-bottom for drugs.
Nothing was found. Jamison isn’t a drug courier. He’s a welder.
Unsatisfied, the officer then brought out a canine to sniff the car. The dog found nothing. So nearly two hours after it started, the officer left Jamison by the side of the road to put his car back together.
Thankfully, Jamison left the stop with his life. Too many others have not.
The Constitution says everyone is entitled to equal protection of the law — even at the hands of law enforcement. Over the decades, however, judges have invented a legal doctrine to protect law enforcement officers from having to face any consequences for wrongdoing. The doctrine is called “qualified immunity.” In real life it operates like absolute immunity.
1 That was Michael Brown. See Max Ehrenfreund, The risks of walking while black in Ferguson, WASH. POST (Mar. 4, 2015). 2 That was 12-year-old Tamir Rice. See Zola Ray, This Is The Toy Gun That Got Tamir Rice Killed 3 Years Ago Today, NEWSWEEK (Nov. 22, 2017).3 That was Elijah McClain. See Claire Lampen, What We Know About the Killing of Elijah McClain, THE CUT (July 5, 2020). 4 That was Eric Garner. See Assoc. Press, From Eric Garner's death to firing of NYPD officer: A timeline of key events, USA TODAY (Aug. 20, 2019). 5 That was George Floyd. See Jemima McEvoy, New Transcripts Reveal How Suspicion Over Counterfeit Money Escalated Into The Death Of George Floyd, FORBES (July 8, 2020). 6 That was Philando Castile and Tony McDade. See Andy Mannix, Police audio: Officer stopped Philando Castile on robbery suspicion, STAR TRIB. (July 12, 2016); Meredith Deliso, LGBTQ community calls for justice after Tony McDade, a black trans man, shot and killed by police, ABC NEWS (June 2, 2020). 7 That was Jason Harrison. See Byron Pitts et al., The Deadly Consequences When Police Lack Proper Training to Handle Mental Illness Calls, ABC NEWS (Sept. 30, 2015). 8 That was Charles Kinsey. See Florida policeman shoots autistic man’s un- armed black therapist, BBC (July 21, 2016). 9 That was 17-year-old James Earl Green. See Robert Luckett, In 50 Years from Gibbs-Green Deaths to Ahmaud Arbery Killing, White Supremacy Still Lives, JACKSON FREE PRESS (May 8, 2020); see also Robert Luckett, 50 Years Ago, Police Fired on Students at a Historically Black College, N.Y. TIMES (May 14, 2020); Rachel James-Terry & L.A. Warren, ‘All hell broke loose’: Memories still vivid of Jackson State shooting 50 years ago, CLARION LEDGER (May 15, 2020). 10 That was Ben Brown. See Notice to Close File, U.S. DEP’T OF JUSTICE, CIVIL RIGHTS DIV. (Mar. 24, 2017), available at https://www.justice.gov/crt/case- document/benjamin-brown-notice-close-file; see also Jackson State Univ., Center for University-Based Development, The Life of Benjamin Brown, 50 Years Later, W. JACKSON (May 11, 2017). 11 That was Phillip Gibbs. See James-Terry & Warren, supra. 12 That was Amadou Diallo. See Police fired 41 shots when they killed Amadou Diallo. His mom hopes today's protests will bring change., CBS NEWS (June 9, 2020). 13 That was Botham Jean. See Bill Hutchinson, Death of an innocent man: Timeline of wrong-apartment murder trial of Amber Guyger, ABC NEWS (Oct. 2, 2019). 14 That was Breonna Taylor. See Amina Elahi, 'Sleeping While Black': Louis- ville Police Kill Unarmed Black Woman, NPR (May 13, 2020). 15 That was Rayshard Brooks. See Jacob Sullum, Was the Shooting of Ray- shard Brooks 'Lawful but Awful'?, REASON (June 15, 2020). 16 That was Sandra Bland. See Ben Mathis-Lilley & Elliott Hannon, A Black Woman Named Sandra Bland Got Pulled Over in Texas and Died in Jail Three Days Later. Why?, SLATE (July 16, 2015). 17 That was Walter Scott. See Michael E. Miller et al., How a cellphone video led to murder charges against a cop in North Charleston, S.C., WASH. POST (Apr. 8, 2015). 18 That was Hannah Fizer. See Luke Nozicka, ‘Where’s the gun?’: Family of Sedalia woman killed by deputy skeptical of narrative, KANSAS CITY STAR (June 15, 2020). 19 That was Ace Perry. See Jodi Leese Glusco, Run-in with Sampson deputy leaves driver feeling unsafe, WRAL (Feb. 14, 2020).
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