There is a significant amount of controversy stewing around when it comes to police officers and their authority to use their weapons when they feel their life is in danger. In many recent cases involving police shootings, it seems there is an increased number of individuals who are being shot in unjustified circumstances leaving them dead and their family in mourning. Criminal defense attorneys find themselves representing many of these cases and sadly, majority of these individuals just happen to be black.
While this is a huge concern as many lives continue to be taken, some of whom are innocent, and others who never had a chance to defend themselves and the crime they allegedly committed, the issue continues on. But in recent news, the tables have turned as two black officers, Derrick Stafford and Norris Greenhouse Jr. have been convicted and faced with prison time, and a lot of it. Stafford was recently sentenced to 40-years in prison for shooting an unarmed white man and his son. Time.com didn’t leave out that fact out and one of Stafford’s Louisiana criminal defense attorneys “questions whether investigators would have acted more deliberately if the officers had been white.”
That brings us to this next question.
Was a 40-year sentence fair?
When any individual engages in an act that takes another person’s life, they are to be held accountable for their actions and face the consequences that fit the crime. However, when a police officer feels their only option to protect themselves is through a use of force or by firing their weapon, they must be subjected to scrutiny to ensure their behavior was legal and necessary. And once that is determined, there should be a fair ground they are charged on in the event they took a life without truly needing to.
Unfortunately, it still seems race is an issue, even for those who serve as officers. While many unarmed black men are shot and killed throughout the U.S., black officers are faced with what may be conceived as racial bias. While every case involving a police shooting is going to be different, let’s compare one with that of Stafford’s to see how fair this sentence truly is.
What happened in former officer Stafford’s case?
According to NBC News, Stafford, 33, and another deputy city marshal, Greenhouse, 25, shot at Christopher Few’s vehicle with his six-year-old autistic son inside the car. The officers were on a high-speed chase with the vehicle prior to shots being fired. Few claims he stuck his hands out of the window to surrender but the bullets kept coming. Stafford worried Few would back up into Greenhouse, which prompted him to shoot. Stafford stated that he did not know a child was inside the vehicle and that he would have called the chase off had he been aware. While Few suffered from an injury, Jeremy, his 6-year-old son, was shot five times in the head and chest. He did not survive.
Now let’s compare Stafford’s case to that involving New Orleans police officers
Back in 2007, five officers opened fire on unarmed citizens during the days following Hurricane Katrina. The men faced criminal charges, however the verdicts were later thrown out according to the New York Times. Fortunately for the family of the victims, the case didn’t close and the men were faced yet again with possible convictions. They plead guilty and the charges ranged from three to twelve years in prison. Some of the officers were guilty of wounding some of the involved individuals while two others were shot and killed.
Both cases involve officers who shot and killed unarmed individuals, yet the verdicts vary drastically. Although there is plenty of room for questioning why Stafford fired shots during a car chase without knowing who was present in the vehicle, cases like these with similar circumstances have people wondering why there was such a jump in time for Stafford and not for the other officers from the New Orleans case.
Perhaps that is why anyone facing any sort of criminal charge should hire one of the top Louisianan criminal defense lawyers in hopes of obtaining a verdict that is fair and just.