District Judge Frank Marullo acquitted former police officer Robert Evangelist in the excessive beating of Robert Davis during an arrest in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. The judge watched the taped recording made by an Associated Press News crew of the incident and came to the conclusion that the tape showed, without question, that the authorities didn’t use excessive force. And the assumption is that the trumped up charges that Mr. Davis was drunk and disorderly were just conveniently ignored. Mr. Davis required some pretty extensive medical attention from this altercation. According to Dr. Frances Smith, who treated Mr. Davis in the emergency room, he had suffered facial fractures. Mr. Marullo suggested that Mr. Davis could have stopped the entire altercation if he just put his hands behind his back. The tape records one of the officers saying put your hands behind your back. The tape also clearly records Mr. Davis saying, let me go and I will. It’s hard to put your hands behind your back when people are holding them and beating you in the process.
Mr. Marullo is under the opinion that the only reason the sixty six year old Mr. Davis’ suffered from his injuries was because he was obviously resisting arrest and should have simply allowed the police officer to do whatever as he apprehended Mr. Davis. The police report contends that Mr. Davis started the confrontation after police stopped him on suspicion of being drunk. Mr. Davis was booked on suspicion of public intoxication but was never charged.
Mr. Davis testified that he was headed to buy cigarettes when he asked a police officer what time a curfew took effect that night. But before the officer could answer, another officer cut him off. Mr. Davis recalled making a comment about the unprofessional behavior of the officers and started to walk away. Moments later, an officer grabbed him from behind, threw him against a wall, punched him in the face, and made a racist remark.
Mr. Marullo contends that Mr. Davis could have avoided excessive battering if he would have just succumb to whatever the officer wanted to do. Maybe it’s just me, but if anyone is grabbed from behind, thrown against a wall, and punched in the face, it would be reasonable for the person to make the assumption that their person is in danger. Chances are very good that the human instinct of self preservation will kick in and the person being attacked will automatically try to defend themselves.
Of course this is only Mr. Davis’ interpretation of the incident. According to the cops Mr. Davis was behaving drunk and disorderly. But we do know that Mr. Davis was not drunk so its quite possible that the officers were, at best, mistaken or, at worst, liars. Given this fact, it is quite possible that the officers were further mistaken and Mr. Davis was not disorderly as well. And despite what police officers may try to sell as just part of a day’s work, a suspect should never come into the jail house with facial fractures resulting from being arrested. When the officers were confronted by Richard Matthews, a white journalist, another officer demonstrated his public hostility by jabbing his finger into the journalist’s chest while pushing him up against an automobile.
Now Mr. Davis wants to give the officers and the judicial system the benefit of doubt and contend that the officers were not being racist. I respectfully differ though. One of the few black people able to return to New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina, the police officers made their choice to vent their pent up frustrations and negative emotional exhaustions on Mr. Davis who happened to be in the wrong place at the right time. Mr. Davis was the victim of the prejudice of police officers who obviously don’t think very highly of African Americans. And Mr. Davis was also the victim of prejudice from a judicial system that doesn’t think highly of African Americans.
This is the same judicial system that was willing to let Paris Hilton go home to house arrest in her playgirl mansion because she had the unprecedented and awful preexisting condition of claustrophobia. Her constitution was simply too delicate to tolerate being behind bars. At the same time, women in prison who are pregnant, probably one of the most delicate conditions for any human being, are routinely giving birth without missing a day behind bars.
And let’s not forget Scooter Libby who just a couple weeks ago received a commuted sentence from the President who was to have benefited from Mr. Libby’s crime. Having Mr. Libby spend a single day in jail was simply too excessive from the President’s perspective even though Mr. Bush wouldn’t lift a finger to save even retarded people from the murder machine called the Texas judicial system.
Mr. Davis can give the system the benefit of his doubt if he wants. However, it is obviously his prerogative. But it is also obvious that Mr. Davis can consider himself one of the latest African Americans to fall victim of a prejudicial legal system marketed to mainstream America as fair and just.