There is an interesting development in the case of North Augusta (S.C.) officer Justin Craven in the alleged murder of 68-year-old Ernest Satterwhite. Despite public disclosure laws, the police are refusing to release the videotape because they describe it as shocking and disturbing. Some would argue that that is precisely why it should be available to the public.
Craven tried to pull over Satterwhite for suspected DUI and followed him home after Satterwhite refused to pull over. However, the dashboard camera reportedly captured Craven running up to Satterwhite’s car on his driveway and fired several shots through the closed door. While he said that Satterwhite tried to grab his gun, prosecutors concluded otherwise and charged him. However, he was not charged with murder. The grand jury did not return a voluntary manslaughter charges (which would have come with a potential 30 year sentence). He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of misconduct in office and discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle.
SLED Chief Mark Keel said that releasing the video would hamper the officer’s right to a fair trial. Accordingly, freedom of information requests were denied. Yet, agencies are supposed to give specific reasons for withholding videotape like undermining efforts to arrest a suspect. One of those reasons is generally not embarrassing or public reaction.
At the same time, the city reached a $1.2 million settlement with the family but required them to sign an agreement not to disclose it to anyone else.
For his part, Solicitor Donnie Myers says that he will not release the film until after it is used in court because “the premature release of the video to be used at trial … would be harmful, unfairly prejudice the pre-trial opinions of potential jurors, prejudicial to the defendant and not in the interest of justice.”
This could make for an interesting challenge by the media. Any court or prosecutor could refuse virtually any videotape out of concern for its influence on a trial. How would such an exception be measured? In the meantime, as a matter of great public importance, the community would be denied the clearest evidence of the alleged misconduct of its police department.
What do you think?
Source: Big Story