Police Department Refuses To Release Videotape of Police Officer Shooting Man Out Of Concern Over Public Reaction

Dashcam DeniedThere 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

150 thoughts on “Police Department Refuses To Release Videotape of Police Officer Shooting Man Out Of Concern Over Public Reaction”

  1. Jane – thanks. It was a really long post because I’m passionate about issues that affect kids.

    Thanks for the link. The way they handled the Baltimore riots was a cluster. From the article, the arresting officer said, “You want to kill cops?” to the young man arrested. That leads me to believe he wasn’t arrested for filming cops (although Professor Turley has pointed out some precincts who have made that mistake in the past). He was chasing another man, and this guy was there as well and got swept up. If you stand next to people throwing rocks at police, you’ll probably get arrested and have to sort it out later. Same thing with being near looters. And just rounding people up and dumping them in jail without filling out the paperwork makes it sound like they were overwhelmed by the situation or undermanned. The last figure I heard was that 15 cops were wounded during the riots.

    I recall when I was in college, I checked out a protest of the Regents hiking our tuition while giving themselves a large pay raise. Somehow, I ended up in front when I could feel the tension beginning to rise. Students were starting to get really mad. There were police with those plastic shields in front of the building where the Board of Regents were meeting. Once it got angry, I just wanted to go, but I couldn’t get through. The crowd started shoving at the line of cops, and I got pushed and shoved right into them. The cops shoved the crowd back with those shields. I was scared I was going to get in trouble for smashing into the police, or just get hurt between the two sides, but was helpless to stop it. So I made eye contact with one of them and shouted at them (over all the noise) that I was getting pushed and I wanted out. The officer grabbed me and passed me behind him, down the line of officers until I got out the other side. I was lucky I was able to get their attention and communicate what was happening, and that there was still time to get me and other unwilling people out of there.

    In Boston, there was looting and arson and people throwing chunks of concrete at cops’ heads, injuring many of them. It was out of control, and I anticipate that onlookers or those who started out protesting and just wanted to leave when it got violent would get swept up. Hopefully they will be able to sort it all out.

    At least since we’re getting so much practice with riots we should be able to come up with an SOP and Best Practices before long for other areas.

    I do believe that the people of Baltimore are being oppressed. They are being oppressed by the same criminals who burned down a senior center and a youth center, and poked holes in the fire hoses. I cannot imagine what parents must go through trying to keep their kids safe.

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