In the US, most state and county prosecutors are elected, not appointed. Paul Howard, the prosecutor in Georgia’s Fulton County, is trailing in his campaign, facing multiple allegations of sexual harassment and an ethics investigation for campaign finance irregularities. A six-term African American progressive incumbent desperate to hold on to the job, Howard has decided to run as anti-cop.
That, he calculates, is the way to go in the riotous rancor that has followed the killing of a black man, George Floyd, after his arrest by Minneapolis police — the atmosphere that also inspired the putatively ‘peaceful protesters’ to torch the Wendy’s where Brooks forcibly instigated the chain of events that led to his shooting.
So Howard has done what authoritarians do when endowed with power. He preposterously charged Rolfe with felony-murder, a death penalty offense. He did not wait for investigators to finish their probe. He filed the allegations unilaterally and had the cops arrested.
Will the charges stand? Hopefully not. The Constitution requires an indictment, and it is unlikely a grand jury would approve so blatant an abuse of prosecutorial power. But for progressive prosecutors, overcharging has become a strategy. The capital murder charge, with the mob baying for blood, puts pressure on the grand jury to indict the police. And if there is an indictment, that puts pressure on a trial jury to convict. Not because of evidence; because of intimidation.