The beating death of Kelly Thomas at the hands of the Fullerton, CA, police has made national headlines. I am generally skeptical about abuse of force claims made against law enforcement, but I judged that, in this case, the police had overstepped their bounds and murdered this man.
Then I saw a report on the local Los Angeles news about how the dad of one of the policemen charged in the death of Kelly Thomas is fighting for justice for HIS son, just as Kelly Thomas’ dad fights for justice. This struck me: two dads, one on either side, each with something to lose, and each without anything to gain. I believe that the policemen involved should and will be punished; even if they acted wholly within the law, they still contributed to a man’s death. But should the policemen bear 100% of the responsibility simply because of the horrific and irreversible outcome: the death of Kelly Thomas?
Why do people rush to judgement in cases like the above? Is it because of the contrast in the groups of people involved? Kelly Thomas was a mentally disturbed homeless man against professional law enforcement personnel. The fact that there is video of the beating has fueled the mob. People have called for the heads of everyone from the mayor of Fullerton to the policemen involved in this case. But the above report showed that there are two credible sides to this case. Justice will be decided in this case, as in all cases, by the facts, by a jury, and by a judge, and not by the emotional outpouring of a mob.
The death of Trayvon Martin is a similar case because of the contrast in groups of people involved and the rush to judgement by many people. This case pits the light-skinned, Neighborhood Watch Leader George Zimmerman against the black, hoodie-wearing Trayvon Martin; everyone from the president to the district attorney has rushed to judge George Zimmerman as a reckless vigilante. George Zimmerman has given his side of the story in an hour-long interview with Sean Hannity. However, most who have rushed to judgement will continue to believe misleading and inaccurate secondhand reports about the case, rather than Zimmerman’s own words.
If I put my hope in any of this country’s institutions, it is the justice system. I’m comforted by the fact that justice is carried out even-handedly, rather than quickly but punitively and mercilessly.