Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Eyewitness

We come to depend on them.  Juries like the testimony of impartial witnesses.  Unfortunately, eyewitnesses are remarkably fallible and prone to connecting events they never saw.

Our beliefs, our experiences, even the physical nature of our senses can and does affect how we experience and remember an event.

Here’s a good example.

“Officer Blanford pulled his cruiser up to the curb and confronted Manyoun on the sidewalk.

Witnesses told various media on Saturday that the officer approached the man aggressively, his hand already on his gun, and alleged that Manyoun never swung the pole at him.

But the video released Sunday refutes that: the officer stands still, his arms at his sides, as Manyoun waves his hands around. Manyoun turns and storms away, out of the view of the camera. Blanford starts to follow, talking into his radio, then stops suddenly and takes two steps back. He draws his gun as the tip of the flag pole emerges in the corner of the video. The pole had been propped outside a store, with a flag attached reading "open."

Manyoun sprints into the frame, the pole cocked back over his shoulder. The officer cowers back against his police cruiser as Manyoun swings the pole down toward him.”

Did the witnesses lie?  It appears they remember an event that never happened, so from that perspective they did lie.  As I write this, I don’t know who’s black or white, but my mental image is of a black or dark-skinned Manyoun and a white Blanford.  That’s a reflection of my bias, partially influenced by the belief that if the situation were reversed, it would be a non-story.  

Clearly, America has been struggling with clashes between race amplified by questions of the justification of police shootings and the interactions of politics and the news media with these cases.  Don’t you think this may have something to do with how people saw the event?

Is it any surprise that some people have memories of a non-event?

Even when your actions are justified, there will be people who are more than willing to use your experience as a springboard for their own agenda.

Chanelle Helm, a board member of the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Oppression, organized the community meeting Sunday where two dozen people gathered to question why a police officer needed to use deadly force to subdue a man believed to be drunk and wielding a pole.

Tactical input:
I have to wonder how long before everyone starts wearing a video camera with sound on a 24 hour loop just for legal entanglements.  I am reminded of a Bloom County cartoon, of a time traveling lawyer returning to the present to find civilization erased and the survivors living in portable anti-lawsuits metal cages.

  • It’s better to avoid conflict if possible.
  • Retreat to a stronger, more defensible position if possible and safe.  Moving backwards gave officer Blanford time to put his plan in action.
  • The more eyewitnesses the better!  This seems like a conflicting statement, but those with statements that match the physical evidence become important to your legal case.
  • Don’t be afraid to point out physical evidence to the police before you request a lawyer.

Do I even have to say never alter physical evidence?  

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