Emotion is the enemy of reason, and passions run high over both the tragic death of Det. Jarod Shivers and the injustices directed toward Ryan Frederick. Personalities also inject anger and frustration into the process, and lead us down side issues with little real import and distract us from what is really important.
I will admit that smug and arrogant bureaucrats instill in my heart a rage for their destruction and there has been plenty of that here. The leadership of the Chesapeake Police Department has been incredibly arrogant from the beginning, deciding from their positions of authority what we, the citizens who grant them that authority, are, or are not, permitted to ask about what is done in our names. The Special Prosecutors brought in are the most odious lawyers I have ever had occasion to observe. They are the very reason good Christian people find jokes about the gruesome deaths of lawyers funny.
So, it is important as this trial plays out for us to step back from our passions and remember what is really at stake here. The issues, as I, a Libertarian, see them are Self Ownership, Justification for Search and Seizure, Police Militarization and Over-prosecution.
Dealing with each in turn:Self Ownership – The first issue we must consider is whether the police had any real reason to interfere in Ryan Frederick’s life at all. Yes, he was growing marijuana for his own use, and possibly to share with friends. But absent police intervention, there is no likelihood he would ever have brought harm to another human being. So, we must ask ourselves whether it is truly in our best interest to continue fighting the vice of drug use with Prohibition. I cannot see a legitimate public purpose in doing so, but of all the issues in this case, this is the least important to me. I have never used an illegal drug, and have no desire to ever do so, I like my mind clear and sharp. There are other blogs devoted to the legalization of marijuana and, beyond my assertion that economics will inevitably triumph over prohibition anyway, I will leave that debate to them.
Justification for Search and Seizure – Judges will eventually decide whether the warrant for the search of Ryan Fredericks property met the letter of our law or not, but there is no question that the procedures used to obtain the warrant violate the spirit of our Constitution and our Fourth Amendment rights. We must ask whether enforcing our drug laws is worth the inevitable corruption that comes from making allies of our police and criminals.
The word of a criminal confidential informant was the sole justification for the raid on the home of a citizen of good repute and no criminal history, and against whom the the CI had a personal grudge. It is possible that the officers who relied on this informant did not know of the grudge, but it is clear they did not employ the proper degree of skepticism when dealing with a known criminal.
At best, the police were incredibly gullible, and at worst, they are circumventing the Fourth Amendment by permitting criminals to burglarize homes with impunity in return for information. This must be investigated and policy changed to require some substantiation of such claims, beyond the unsupported word of a criminal, before warrants arerequested or issued.
Police Militarization – The police are charged with keeping the peace, not making war on some subset of the population. There are certainly some instances in which it is necessary for police to force entry into a home. The necessity to preserve evidence easily destroyed, hostages in peril, and the taking of armed and dangerous criminals who are reasonably believed to be unwilling to surrender without violence, would be justifications. Further, a suspect who simply will not surrender, or submit to a search, after some reasonable opportunity to comply peaceably, cannot be permitted to defy the law indefinitely.
However, forcing entry when these conditions have not been met has become routine, and that places citizens and police at risk of deadly mistakes. This instance has cost the life of a policeman and ruined the life of a productive citizen.
The police have already tesitified that in the Ryan Frederick case, NONE of these conditions was present. Yet he was given only 25 seconds at most to evaluate a mortally dangerous situation. There would have been no loss of evidence or danger to any person had they waited an hour for him to submit to the search.There were innumerable alternatives for handling the situation safely and ensuring he knew the police were at his door, from the use of a bullhorn or lights and sirens, to simply calling his cell phone, which number they had.
Yet they sneaked up on his house in the night, scared the heck out of him and attacked his home after 25 seconds.
We should demand that our City Council, and our State, place strict warrant requirements on such forced entry searches, detailing on the warrant request the special circumstances making it necessary in advance, or within a limited time, when emergent situations require haste. And every such special circumstance warrant should be in the public record.
Over-Prosecution – The prosecution has presented no evidence of premeditation, yet premeditation is a required element of first degree and capital murder. It is always difficult to prove what is in someone’s mind. So, premeditation, in the absence of a confession, must be proved by demonstrating some overt acts of preparation. But Ryan Frederick did not seek out Det. Shivers or any other policeman or citizen to do him violence. Rather, the police brought violence to his home. So, is there any evidence of a planned ambush?
Frederick owned a firearm, but it was purchased legally, five years ago, and he had only five cartridges for the low powered handgun. He was barefoot and in his pajamas when the raid came. If he was planning an ambush, he wasn’t very good at it.
Yet he is charged with capital murder, which requires proof of premeditation. It is claimed that there will be jailhouse snitches who will allege he confessed to them. Highly unlikely as that is to be credible, even assuming they were true, these alleged confessions would have come months AFTER the unsupported charge was made.
Are we left to assume the prosecutors are either telepaths or precognitive?
No, the prosecutors charged Frederick with premeditated murder knowing they could not support that charge, in order to deny him bail and keep him imprisoned for at least a year even if he is found not guilty. Overcharging to deny bail is a form of extrajudicial punishment, imprisonment without trial.
Having acted outside the law, the prosecutors, and the grand jurors who aided and abetted them, should be held individually responsible for compensating Frederick in the civil courts.When those we entrust with maintining the Rule of Law instead circumvent it, they should be held accountable.