Recently Fox News judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano, a strong civil libertarian and not a down the line conservative, asserted that a jury will find now-former Atlanta Police Department Officer Garrett Rolfe innocent of murder charges, if the case comes to trial. The judge, a harsh critic of the president, made his claims on an appearance on Fox & Friends.
“Look, if there’s a jury trial, here’s what the judge is going to say to the jurors before they start deliberating. If that police officer reasonably believed that Mr. Brooks was using or was about to use deadly force on him, the police officer, then the police officer is permitted to use deadly force to protect himself,” the judge explained. “Secondly, the determination of what was in the police officer’s mind is not what a reasonable civilian would do, but what a reasonable police officer would do.” With that seemingly airtight logic it should be difficult to convict Rolfe of murder. But the case will not just be about facts, it will be much more about politics.
The GBI is releasing surveillance video showing the exchange between Atlanta Police Officers and Rayshard Brooks from Wendy’s restaurant – Atlanta OIS 6.12.20 https://t.co/dNlBDpXsRp
— GA Bureau of Investigation (@GBI_GA) June 13, 2020
“[Do] you know what’s going to happen?” asked Napolitano. “[Rolfe] is going to be found not guilty, and that’s going to produce a tremendous uproar amongst the people of Atlanta. They should have charged some far more reasonable charge rather than one that exposes him to the death penalty. It’s just not going to work.”
Napolitano thinks, however, there could be another reason Rolfe was charged with murder. “There is one legitimate legal reason for overcharging. That’s to get him to plead guilty to a lesser charge. But, I don’t know if this D.A. would accept such a guilty plea because he is determined to make a clear example out of this guy. This is not the right way to make an example.”
District Attorney Paul Howard has already boxed himself into a political corner by playing the race card in this case. Thus a lesser charge would be seen by many on the Left (Howard’s constituency) as an unacceptable compromise. The judge commented on the issue of the weapon in question. “Listen, if this was a standard-issue Taser, and I have no reason to believe it was anything other than that, it produces 50,000 volts of electricity. That’s enough to stop an elephant and it’s enough to kill a human being.
“But, the test is not, ‘is the Taser a deadly weapon?’ The test is: ‘did the police officer reasonably believe that a deadly weapon was being aimed at him?’ It could have been an elastic band and paper clip. But if he reasonably believed it was a deadly weapon, then he was authorized to use deadly force… Without that law, the cops can’t do their jobs.”
The judge, who has an independent streak a mile wide, is saying what is becoming close to a wide view amongst the public and certainly with law enforcement: This and the George Floyd killing are two very different cases.