Jurors Tend Not to Convict Cops

I’m not surprised by the result in the Philando Castile. I disagree with the assertion that the system is broken. Trial by jury is one of the best things we ever inherited from the British, and while it’s flawed, like every human endeavor, a properly functioning jury system is one of the ultimate checks the people have on the power of the state.

But the system only works as well as the people who comprise it, and the fact of the matter is that jurors will give cops breaks they wouldn’t give you and me under similar circumstances. It might not be right, but it is a fact. So it was always an uphill battle for Castile to get justice.

The Washington Post and other outlets are trying to make hay out of NRA’s silence. I’ve seen other outlets suggesting the reason for NRA’s silence is racism. That’s nonsense. The reason for NRA’s silence is that a not insignificant number of NRA’s membership are police officers. Hell, a not insignificant number of NRA’s staff and Board are former police officers. They aren’t going to be speaking out against a jury verdict acquitting a cop. NRA doesn’t care very much about pain coming from the media, anti-gun groups, or politicians. As I’ve noted, they actually thrive on that. NRA does care about internal pressure from its membership. If you don’t believe that, just ask Harry Reid.

32 thoughts on “Jurors Tend Not to Convict Cops”

  1. If you cannot defend the right in the breach, it is not a right. Castile did everything you are supposed to do, and still got killed.

    The NRA really should get behind this story, no matter the amount of police membership. And so should you. Instead of trying to defend the NRA here, how about you post a story about what you think should have happened instead?

    You’re a little too caught up in the inside baseball of this and are missing the larger picture.

    1. It’s not my intention to excuse it. It’s my intention to explain it. The only way to make NRA change is by internal pressure from members. They care about little else.

      I rarely speak out forcefully about jury verdicts or try to second guess them. I was not on the jury, and I did not closely follow the trial.

      1. I think on this one you should closely follow the trial and speak out. If there’s any meaning to an individual right to carry, it has to mean something in the breach, and it has to mean something when interacting with the government, which includes police officers.

        1. I thought the case would end in acquittal, to be honest, based on the facts heading into the trial. It’s one reason I’m a big fan of recording police encounters. If the girlfriend had recorded the whole stop, start to finish, it could have changed the entire dynamic of whether the officer’s action was reasonable. But all we have is dash cam video where you can’t see into the car. So it comes down to the officer claiming he made a move for the weapon, which the prosecution would have to disprove, or raise doubt about in the minds of jurors. To get a conviction, the jury has to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. So the prosecution must disprove the claim of self-defense. In practice, juries tend to give a lot of leeway to police. More than they should? Often yes. But they do.

      2. “The only way to make NRA change is by internal pressure from members.”

        How do we implement that pressure short of dropping our paying memberships, and letting them know why? And, we Life Members have forfeited even that option.

        Then there are those clubs that require us to be NRA members. Want a place to shoot? Stay in the NRA!

        So, why should the NRA care what we think?

        We can send back the solicitations for donations, with our message, but most such donation processing centers are manned by trained monkeys who throw everything that isn’t a check straight into the trash. Your heart-felt opinion will never reach anyone who gives a crap.

        Write a letter? One of my fondest memories — dating myself — is writing a polite but firm letter on some issue of then-current interest to Warren Cassidy, and getting it sent back to me with his hand-scrawled message to the effect that I could GFM.

        The NRA may care about someone’s opinion, but I guarantee that someone isn’t you or me.

  2. “The reason for NRA’s silence is that a not insignificant number of NRA’s membership are police officers

    Yup. And that’s the problem. This ruling is a travesty of justice, but the NRA’s priorities are doing a calculation on how many membership dues are in play before making a decision.

    Terrible and validates my main criticism of the NRA–their first priority is financial. They made that strategic decision years ago.

    This is the same group that has no problem giving Sarah Palin gold plated rifles, and just shrugs their shoulders when Ted Nugent goes on a racist tirade.

    1. Any organization’s first priority is going to be financial. Why do the anti-gun groups focus so much attention on mass shootings, even though it represents a minuscule portion of overall violent crime? Because it scares donors into opening their pocketbook and keeps them engaged.

      1. “Any organization’s first priority is going to be financial.”

        And not their God-endorsed issue?

        The hell you say!

      2. Around 2008 the NRA made a concerted effort to court the Tea Party to boost its numbers. (which had been stagnant). The tea party lens has been applied ever since to policy issues. They got the tea party, and alienated democrats and non-whites. (well, many). That is just the repercussion of that strategy. They apparently are fine with it.

      3. “Any organization’s first priority is going to be financial.”

        Hmmm…didn’t see that on their mission statement.

        1. Organizations that don’t worry bout finances tend to bankrupt themselves. Even if you care about The Mission, the Mission costs money.

          1. ” Even if you care about The Mission, the Mission costs money.”

            Have we no “fiscal conservatism” among all that social conservatism? ;-)

            It’s been decades since I last read it, but I seem to recall that in the novel “Catch-22,” economic obligations to the Germans eventually obligated the Americans to bomb their own base.

  3. Oh and about Harry Reid, that was a mistake too. Chris Cox didn’t want to withdraw support from them, but after they saw the money they were getting from Tea Partiers, they shifted their strategy.

      1. It would be nice if the membership could be changed so that the tea partiers and those like them have less of a voice. Pandering to this group is causing the individual right movement to become exclusively “conservative” (whatever that means at this point). And that gets you results like the broad ignoring of the Castile verdict, which is stupid.

        1. NRA is more democratic than a lot of other interest groups, and despite the fact that it often drives me nuts, I’d prefer to keep it that way. In fact, it’s not nearly as democratic as I would ideally like, because there’s a lot of mechanisms NRA exercises to keep a lit on how much control membership can exert. I get the reason staff tends to want to do that, but I don’t always agree with it.

          But democracy means having to work with and through people whose opinions I don’t otherwise agree with. They get to have a say.

          1. How does the “nominating committee” work? Can’t they just say we are not going to nominate anyone who does not reflect our values?

            1. Sure they could. But that presumes the Board doesn’t reflect the membership that elects them in the first place. Maybe a bit wealthier, and with more free time, but I’m willing to bet the Board isn’t all that different from the views of the membership.

          2. A lot of the restrictions like no voting until you have been a member for 5 years came about years ago when the antis hatched a plan to join and take the organization over.

            1. Conspiracy theories never make for good decision making. Even if there were such a plan, there physically aren’t enough people that would join to make a difference. I suspect this was done for other reasons, with the conspiracy theory being the justification.

            2. I’ve never heard that. There have been op’eds over the years suggesting things like that, but never from anyone that was serious about it, or understood NRA enough to pull it off.

              I always figured the five year requirement was more to prevent internal factions from causing trouble. Remember that The Wayne faction battled with the hard liners for years before things calmed down to the current state.

              The 1977 revolters did things any smart revolutionary does: make it impossible for someone to do to you what you just did to the people you vanquished.

                1. (Do you have a reference? There’s gotta be a news story about it. Tried to find one but wasn’t successful.)

      2. “what the membership demanded, the membership got.”

        But for another example, I don’t remember being polled regarding the Trump endorsement, and they endorsed him almost as soon as his nomination was secured, as I recall.

        I want to make clear that my focus is on endorsement, not on relative ratings like A,B,D, or F. There was no requirement to endorse one mere “lesser of two very evils.” But there was clearly something at work there that had almost nothing to do with gun rights, and I haven’t liked the smell of what that is.

        1. I had definite misgivings about the Trump endorsement also given his history re gun control. However, the evidence to date indicates that I was wrong and the NRA was right. Non-gun issues didn’t and shouldn’t play in the NRA endorsement.

          1. Are they right given the silence over the Castile shooting and the obvious pandering to the police/tea party constituency? I’ll say again a right is not a right if not defended in the breach.

            The NRA still doesn’t have an official position, though I would guess a lot of individual members are bothered by this case. This was perceptive, from an NRA-TV host on his personal Facebook page:


            1. P.S. Sebastian, the above FB post is the kind of thing that I think is worth promoting on blogs like yours.

  4. My theory is that a contributing factor is, jurors are rightly afraid of crossing the cops, while having no confidence that The System will defend their identity, and a guilty verdict means everyone on the jury voted to convict.

    I recently encountered the statistic stated — which I have not verified, but it sounds plausible — that one in thirteen gun deaths in the United States results from being shot by a cop.

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