A former police officer in Dallas, TX was convicted of murder this week. The officer entered her neighbor’s apartment and shot him as he ate ice cream. Her defense: that she was tired, distracted and confused.
Inside the wrong apartment
Going into more depth, the woman had recently finished a 14-hour shift and was stressed about a series of inappropriate text messages from a co-worker when she approached what she thought was her front door. She entered the apartment and saw the victim. Then she shot him.
The prosecution argued that it was another case of abuse of power by police officers. The officer’s defense was that the building layout leads many residents to accidently enter the wrong unit from time to time. In short, the defense argued that it was a terrible mistake.
Recent events play a role
There have been several high profile shootings in recent years, and a study shows that black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts. The study finds that 1-in-1,000 black men will die by these means. Or, as a sociologist behind the study disturbingly puts it, “That’s better odds of being killed by police than you have of winning a lot of scratch-off lottery games.”
This is a national problem that’s made louder by the fact that police rarely face criminal charges for such acts. Conviction is even less common. Officers often admit fault in these situations, but punishment is typically on a professional level or in civil court. In cases like Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and Philando Castile, the charges were dropped or the officer was acquitted.
Civil rights activists see this ruling as a positive step for justice, indicating a movement toward more criminal sentencing.
Does the law apply differently to police officers?
Police officers work difficult, stressful jobs but they are not immune to the laws they protect. Because self-defense is a big part of their job, officer-related shootings are often viewed in different terms than when a civilian shoots another civilian.
To listen to the case in Dallas, prosecutors paint an ugly, malicious scene that is very different than the confused, weary turn of events the defense presented. In the end, a 26 year-old man is dead and a former police officer has been sentenced to serve time.
Was a conviction necessary?