I half-heartedly defended the inclusion of “narcotics” in the search warrant of Botham Jean’s apartment the other day thinking the cops might be looking for drugs at the scene for some sort of understandable reason. Maybe they had reason to believe the shooter, Dallas cop Amber Guyger, had been using drugs and left evidence of it in Jean’s apartment. Or maybe they were anticipating that Guyger would try to claim at trial that she thought Jean was under the influence of something when she mistakenly opened the door to his apartment, believing it was her own, because he approached her “aggressively” or whatever. In other words, maybe they were trying to rule out the presence of drugs, to neutralize that defense.
This story is sufficiently gross, though, that it does lead one to suspect that this poor guy is somehow being blamed for the “crime” of getting gunned down in his own home when an off-duty cop walked in on him, completely unlawfully, and mistook him for a burglar. The fact that it took Dallas PD three days to arrest Guyger after the shooting already reeked of special treatment for a fellow officer. As many have noted, it’s unthinkable that Jean would have walked free for days if he had waltzed into Guyger’s apartment mistakenly and shot her. Now, with the media publicizing the fact that marijuana was found in his apartment, it smells even worse. The police are supposed to be building a case against the suspect; looking for evidence of criminal activity by the victim makes it appear as though they’re working for the defense.
And the racial dynamic only makes it worse. For years Dave Chappelle’s been doing dark jokes about how easy it is/was for a cop to get away with shooting someone black. Just sprinkle some crack on the body after the fact and your justification is set. The revelation that marijuana was found in Jean’s pad is way too close to that for comfort. Critics were noting last night on social media that if people are still confused as to why Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players are protesting, the fact that a black victim’s apparent use of a very mild illegal drug is “news” after a white cop blows him away in his own apartment due to a mistake is a pretty fair illustration.
Attorneys for Botham Jean’s family are outraged that the document describing drug evidence became public on the same day of his funeral…
“I think it’s unfortunate that law enforcement begin to immediately criminalize the victim — in this case, someone who was clearly was the victim that has absolutely no bearing on the fact that he was shot in his home,” said Lee Merritt, attorney for Jean’s family. “I would love to see more information coming out about the warrants executed on the home of the shooter who lived just below him. I haven’t seen any of those. And particularly for it to be on this day the day that we remember and celebrate him… to see the common assassination attempt on the victim that we often see in law enforcement involved shootings.”…
“This is nothing but a disgusting attempt to assassinate the character of a wonderful young man,” said Ben Crump, attorney for the Jean family.
You never know what a man with marijuana in his system might be capable of. When Guyger walked in, he might have been … playing video games and eating Funyuns?
The predictable partisan pattern after a “controversial” police shooting in the online age is for lefties to chase the “police misconduct” explanation of the incident and for righties to chase the justifiable homicide, i.e. “victim misconduct,” explanation. Not this time. Last night, after this story broke big on social media, condemnation was as uniform as I’d ever seen it for a “white cop, black victim” shooting. The comments at Free Republic — who cares if he had weed, how is it relevant? — looked like the comments at Daily Kos. Which is why I continue to wonder if there’s some alternate explanation for why the cops are curious about drugs at the crime scene. If this is bad as it looks, that they’re impugning the character of an innocent man to protect a sister in blue, a lot of people normally inclined to give police the benefit of the doubt are going to look more skeptically at them going forward. It’s not worth it to them institutionally to go into the tank for Guyger, whatever their personal affection for her might be.
Even if Jean did have weed in his apartment, I can’t imagine how it’d be relevant to the defense unless they could prove he had it in his system at the time of the incident. And even then, how much would he need to have ingested for there to be a credible theory that it affected his behavior so dramatically that he might have posed a threat to Guyger? How many homicidally enraged potheads does Dallas PD encounter every day? You can actually paint the most favorable conceivable scenario for Guyger — he was high as a kite, off his gourd — and still not really prove anything. If a stranger walked into your apartment, in the dark, taking you by complete surprise, wouldn’t you go into “fight or flight mode” too, sober or not? It’d be weird if he didn’t react aggressively to her. She was an unlawful intruder in his home, someone whom he would have had every legal right himself to shoot.
Although if a black civilian had gunned down a cop who burst in on him without probable cause, he would have been arrested — and a lot sooner than three days after the fact, no doubt.
There are still non-sinister explanations for this, I think/hope. A lawyer unconnected to the case told the Fox affiliate that it’s common for police to cast a “wide net” in a search warrant. You never know what evidence might turn out to be relevant as the facts develop, after all, however hard it may be to understand the relevance of Jean possessing marijuana. But even if you want to go that route, you’re left to wonder why the results of the search of Jean’s apartment became public but not (yet) the results of the search of Guyger’s place. Was there a search of her place? If drugs are material to this case, logically they’re more likely to be material to Guyger’s mindset. Was she on something that led her to mistake Jean’s apartment for her own? (Or, if you prefer the alternate theory that Guyger was in a rage at him and went to his apartment to confront him for some reason, was she on something that might have affected her temperament and judgment?) Where’s the search warrant of her home?