If Eric Garner had killed the cop who chocked him, this lawyer would’ve argued self-defense.
Among the last words of Mr. Eric Garner were: “this stops today!” He was referring to the harassment by the police, but what actually ended, tragically, was his life.
He could’ve fought back; he was certainly big enough to take a few officers down. But Mr. Garner didn’t fight off the mob of cops who surrounded him moments after he broke up a fight – and he didn’t resist arrest either, though many will argue he did – he, instead, allowed himself to eventually be cuffed and then chocked, while he said, eleven times, “I CAN’T BREATHE!”
But what if the encounter on Staten Island had ended differently? What if Mr. Garner, who, in fact, wasn’t selling untaxed cigarettes at the time of his death, decided to fight back and put an end to the harassment and police violence? What if instead of going down while the officer was applying a chokehold, Mr. Garner leveraged his size to defend himself against what he perceived to be criminal aggressors?
Maybe he would still be here today. And if he was, he would probably have to go to court… maybe.
If the latter was reality instead of hypotheticals, and if Mr. Garner’s encounter took place on the streets of Philadelphia instead of Staten Island, New York, then attorney Michael Coard would certainly consider taking on the case, and his justifications of Mr. Garner’s actions could be summed up in a few words.
“You have the right to defend yourself against any criminal aggressor… ANY criminal aggressor,” Mr. Coard explained, after him, and his colleagues, performed a 4 1/2 minute die-in at the Juanita Kidd Stout Criminal Justice Center in downtown Philadelphia.”If a rapist or a burglar comes into my house and I reach under my sofa for my gun and shot them, that’s justified,” he continued, “what stops me from doing something similar to an officer if I know the officer is coming to choke, beat or search me without a warrant, probable cause or reasonable suspicion? There’s no law that precludes self-defense”
There’s certainly legal precedent that exist to rationalize Mr. Coard’s way of thinking.
On October 10th, 1893, Chief Justice James McCabe, of the Supreme Court of Indiana, delivered the opinion in the matter of Plummer v. State, a case in which a manslaughter conviction was overturned because the convicted defendant, Jackson Plummer, was merely protecting himself from the illegal use of force by a police officer.
“There’s a law passed in a number of states that specifically points out your right of self-defense relative to cops,” he tells Techbook Online exclusively.
Even if the law doesn’t exist in your particularly city, Mr. Coard alluded to a thin line citizens can walk on between resisting arresting and doing what Mr. Garner did, which was refuse to cooperate.
“The legal definition of resisting arrest is when you engage in more than mere passive, says Mr. Coard, “if a cop tries to arrest me and I’m pulling back… I’m jerking back… that’s not resisting arrest; its only resisting if I punch or push the cop. If I’m just not cooperating, that’s not a crime. You cross the line into resisting arrest when you become aggressive and assertive.”
Mr. Coard isn’t a father, though he’s very fond of his very young godson, Zion. But if Mr. Coard had a son, he says maybe he wouldn’t be as radical and would advise his son to stick his tail between his legs when interacting with police in order to make home safely. But since he’s just a black man “empowering black people,” he suggests being lawful, not peacefully.
He’s not naive, however, to the consequences that may come for those, including himself, who choose to not cooperate with police. But there comes at time, he says, when black people have to stand up.
“This isn’t 1814 or 1914, its 2014 and we have the right to have as much dignity as everyone else. The idea that black people should do more to appear peacefully when confronted by cops is outrageous,” he exclaimed.
Just as no one can walk up to you and just choke you, he said, police don’t have that right either.
“They are sworn to enforce the law, but they are not above it,” he asserted.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™