Last week the City of Cleveland announced that its official position is that 12 year old Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed by city police while holding a toy gun in a park, caused his own death through negligence by "failing to avoid injury." Since most of my friends feel the same way about law enforcement and institutionalized racism as I do, I've seen quite a bit of outrage over this response to lawsuits from the Rice family. There are some good reasons for it.

Rice was shot dead by a new Cleveland cop who didn't even wait for the car to stop before firing. It turned out that he had also been fired from a previous job on the suburban Independence, OH police force after some disturbing behavior on a firing range. Given how much a police officer has to do to get fired in this country, we might want to start asking why anyone would hire someone terminated previously for erratic behavior or poor performance (see also: Darren Wilson). But that's another post.

To their credit, the Cuyahoga County sheriff was brought in to do the investigation rather than allowing the Cleveland PD to do an internal whitewashing. And they appear to have done a creditable job. Notably they did not tell either officer involved that there was a video of the incident before taking their statements. Both officers reported that Rice was waving his fake gun around at a large group of people; on the video Rice is alone. So essentially the two CPD officers have already proven themselves to be liars, which kind of works against the city when it defends itself against the lawsuits.

Here is the thing about the outrage, though: it is premature at this point. The City has attorneys representing it and this is what lawyers get paid to do. They are an advocate for their client / employer, even when they are quite obviously balls guilty (legal term). People end up in courtrooms every day watching videos of themselves committing crimes and counting on a lawyer to defend them anyway. True, the city's lawyers probably could have come up with a better defense than "the kid we shot failed to avoid getting shot." Then again, if they were great lawyers I doubt they'd be working for the City of Cleveland.

Regardless of their legal strategy, the point is that the outrage is better reserved for the possibility that a judge and jury might actually buy that horseshit. The legal system is supposed to consider such arguments, use the judgment of all those involved to conclude something along the lines of "Well that's quite ridiculous," and reject them. Of course when the sacred word of the police is involved, juries composed of authoritarian-follower types tend to be, shall we say, less than skeptical.

I'm not saying that the justice system isn't going to screw this kid and his family six ways from Sunday while exonerating the guy that killed him. I am, however, certain that it hasn't happened yet and we might as well reserve our emotional energy for when it inevitably does. Right now all we have is a city that is flat broke (and thus probably has a strong incentive to avoid settling at any cost) mounting the best legal defense it could concoct, which in this case is not a very good one.

28 thoughts on “ADVOCACY”

  • If this passes, it would be the wet dream ruling of all wet dream rulings for victim blamers.
    Raped? You didn't take suitable steps to not be raped.
    Beaten into a coma? You didn't take suitable steps to not be.
    Hit by a drunk driver? You didn't take suitable steps to not be hit.
    Killed or injured at work? You didn't take suitable steps to avoid those.

    The possibilities are endless.

  • Was he injured?


    Therefore, he did not prevent his injury?


    Case closed. The logic is flawless.

  • "…juries composed of authoritarian-follower types…"

    Conservatives. Juries composed of conservatives.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Ok, I'll reserve my anger.

    But if they decide for the CPD…

    Ah, what the hell can I do anymore. I'm to disabled to march, and too poor to drive to Cleveland even if I could.
    I'll so my usual, and fume at home, alone.

  • OliverWendelHolmslice says:

    The grammar police are on their way c u n d gulag. If they shoot you, you will be blamed for not preventing your own death.

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    Imagine the chaos if lawyers on either side of these killer-cop cases just gave up and argued on behalf of the other side.


  • Babe of the Boom says:

    Looking for justice in the USA is sometimes like looking for a black Klan leader under the sheets during a conclave. It just ain't happening.

  • Slightly on topic, slightly off: does one have a reason to be hopeful about anything these days?

    Asking for a friend.

  • Xynzee, here's a couple more of The Oligarchy's faves:

    "Killed or maimed in an industrial explosion? You didn't take faster steps."

    "Can't drink the local water? You didn't take that one step to begin a journey of a thousand miles to somewhere healthier."

  • Ed's right on target. Pleading requirements being what they are, the city's lawyers would be failing at their job to not raise that defense at this point. I routinely raise defenses for my clients that I strongly believe, or even know, are not supported by the facts known to me at the time I Answer. This is because if I fail to raise them, they are waived forever. This is one of the examples of people who don't understand the machinations of the legal system overreacting.

    Also, that cop is a murderer and needs to go away for good. My friends once decided to play guns on the residential streets of Beverly Hills. At night. They got the cops called on them. Guess how many shots were fired? Hint: none of the ones confronted by the cops were anything but white.

  • Skepticalist says:

    In the "good old days" stories like these were kept under the radar.

    Not really very good old days though.

  • Brian is exactly right about this; you should save outrage for the Motion for Sumary Judgment that asserts these claims, because that's when the City is really sticking to that claim. At this stage, it's essentially checking required boxes to fulfill professional obligations. Ed, I've directed you to my lawsplaining post for your reference. Let me congratulate you, though, on not just frothing at the mouth.

  • What Brian and Greg said. As a paralegal working at a plaintiff's medical mal/wrongful death/catastrophic PI firm, I get to see a lot of these boilerplate, insensitive affirmative defenses from defense firms. One of the worst was the claim that a cyclist who had been slammed into by a reckless driver hurtling off the roadway and onto the adjacent bike path had failed to mitigate his damages. He was killed immediately upon impact; kind of hard to mitigate your goddamned damages when you're dead. Also worth noting was that the car came flying off the road behind him. No fucking way possible to mitigate damages.

  • (Um, @Xynzee, about this: "Raped? You didn't take suitable steps to not be raped." You do know that's the modal reaction to women who report rape, right? And not just in some legalisms at the outset.)

    I agree with everyone here. It'd be nice to live in a different and a better world.

  • Ah, the crappy aroma of someone cornered and wanting to get away with something. Sometimes it's useful, even fun, to try and follow their logic: ok, what, exactly could this young boy have done to avoid injury. Disappear. Run fast out of range. Twerk real hard. Hide behind a bullet – proof object. Then let's match that up against standard police training on what to do when the "suspect" does one of those and see if it would work. Good luck with that.
    As offensive as this is, the logic falls apart pretty quickly if you try to use it. That's what flimsy excuses have in common with bad ideas: they don't work.

  • I consider myself to be a member in good standing of the Fuck the Police club. Having said that, when an attorney is facing a civil suit, he must list all of his possible defenses or lose the ability to use that defense. So at this early a point in the process, they might not even know what their specific defense will be, or if they are even going to fight the case or choose to settle instead. My wife has defended many civil suits and she says that the language in the City of Cleveland's response is boiler plate and might have even been required by their insurance or taken straight from the statute. They were not being insensitive, they were doing what they have to do in this type of lawsuit.

  • This is what I get for starting a post hours ago and finishing it just now. Feel free to ignore my post repeating what others have said.

  • Ah. Where to begin….or end.

    The other night I happened to be sitting next to an off duty copy at a local bar here in DC. We got to talking. I like to think that I try to see everyone as a unique individual with distinct viewpoints as distinct as fingerprints. Everyone's got a different take. So, when I started talking to this dude, I was curious as to why he wanted to be a cop. His frank answer was that he liked the rush and as he put it he liked the chance to get in a few legalized beat downs at times. "I aint gonna lie, I'm an adrenaline junky. When I'm too old for this shit, I'm gonna miss the random beat down." Now does that sound like a peace officer to you? Anybody who thinks that massive law enforcement reform is not needed in this country is either not paying attention, a cop, or unconscious….from a beat down. Redneckism is alive and well in these here parts.

  • Quixote: I am fully aware of that. Which was my point. If an argument like this was upheld by a court(s), then it becomes precedence. Then court proceedings would go as Dick Nixon describes.

  • The defense in the Slava Yoynov case is similar in its scummyness. For those who aren't hockey fans, Slava Voynov is a Russian hockey player who plays for the LA Kings. He is accused of using his wife as a punching bag and trying to reposition his TV with her face. The defense? She doesn't speak English very well and she was "confused" when she told the police that he beat her, choked her, etc, that night, and not for the first time. Since she's legitimately afraid of her husband, and of getting deported if he is found guilty, she is no longer cooperating with the police, and so the defense is trying to get all of her statements to the police thrown out. I understand it's what lawyers do, but I still want to take a shower with bleach after reading it.

  • Do you know many policemen? I have known many throughout my life.

    Generally speaking, they dont trust black folks much. They spend much of thier time chasing, wrestling with and locking away minority males 17-35. We understand the political, economic and social factors at work here, how this population has few choices and narrower margin for error. But this doesn't matter on a day-to-day basis–cops have to to deal with our social sins. They get cynical, hardened and ultimately it begins to show up in their job performance.

    This is not to say they they are racist in the classic sense–just burned out and prone to (survival) stereotyping.

  • To all apologists who defend human ignorance and the inhuman consequences thereof, please step up vociferous dissent rather than taking the "good" stance, the voice of "reason" approach. Doesn't work in an irrational world. You, too Ed. Not that I'm presenting an alternative or sticking a finger in the dike. Guess that means I have nothing constructive to offer. Just tagging another take onto the discussion. The last in line. A day late and a dollar short per usual.

  • Dick, part of the problem (IMNSHO) is that police officers, in the normal course of their work, routinely encounter people at their very worst. Everyone is either a perpetrator or a victim, sometimes both. Turning your back on a 'civilian' becomes something to avoid. Nobody is ever happy to see you arrive, even if they were the ones to call you.

    The fact that most people spend most of their lives neither committing nor being the victim of crimes no longer registers. Plus, you can beat up bad guys and get away with it.

  • "Dick, part of the problem (IMNSHO) is that police officers, in the normal course of their work, routinely encounter people at their very worst. "

    There have been a large number of (white, right-wing) open carry demonstrations, and many, many cases of individual white, right-wingers openly carrying guns in unlikely circumstances.

    I haven't heard of *any* of them getting shot down.

  • So I do know one guy who's a cop (My chiropractor picks up shifts on the weekends. Interesting guy). One day I walk in, he's fucking glowing. "So, how was the weekend?" I ask, because we have nice chats while he explains to my neck how it is supposed to function.

    "This guy was waving a knife around, and my partner and I managed to talk him down, and then we got him restrained without anyone getting hurt."

    He was thrilled because he had faced a difficult professional challenge and resolved it with a minimum of harm. There are good cops out there.

    They're just working part-time in Sedona, I guess.

Comments are closed.