It's Very Hard to Convict Officers in Police Shootings, Experts Say - NBC 7 San Diego
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It's Very Hard to Convict Officers in Police Shootings, Experts Say

The cases of the fatal shootings of Philando Castile and Sylville Smith hinged on questions of "reasonable fear"

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    Newly released dashcam video shows Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez firing seven shots at Philando Castile during a 2016 traffic stop. (Published Tuesday, June 20, 2017)

    In the wake of three high-profile police shooting trials, criminal justice experts told NBC News that it is extremely difficult to convict a law enforcement officer for a fatal shooting.

    A pair of Supreme Court rulings from the 1980s puts the law on the side of the police, particularly if they believe they are in danger of death or serious harm. Two of the recent cases, the fatal shootings of Philando Castile and Sylville Smith, hinged on questions of "reasonable fear."

    "For better or worse, whether you believe in it or not, [the law] is very favorable to police use of force," said David A. Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. "That objective standard is very wide in terms of giving police discretion."

    But civil rights advocates say that the wider social issue is implicit racial bias, the idea that everyone holds subconscious racial prejudices — including people in positions of supposed impartiality, like police and judges.

    Milwaukee Cop Found Not Guilty In Shooting That Sparked Riots

    [NATL] Milwaukee Cop Found Not Guilty In Shooting That Sparked Riots

    Jurors found former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown not guilty of first-degree reckless homicide on Wednesday, June 21, 2017. Heaggan-Brown fatally shot Sylville Smith after a traffic stop and a short pursuit. Smith was carrying a gun when Heaggan-Brown opened fire. Smith's family plans to sue Heaggan-Brown and the city of Milwaukee.

    (Published Wednesday, June 21, 2017)