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. Trooperyork – thanks for the link. Blackwell is a reminder that police put their lives on the line routinely to protect the public safety.

    I don’t mind Professor Turley shining a spotlight on police abuse, or following cases such as these, but I wish there was more balance.

    It’s like when you go overseas and tell people you’re from California. They either think you’re living like Baywatch or you dodge gang gunfights on your way to work everyday. Their entire impression is based on the media.

    It is also very troubling how mob rule seems to be condoned if the person in question is a cop. Investigate all violence and discharge of weapons, and if a crime has occurred, charge them and let the case proceed through the court system. And with all the cops on the force across the nation, there are bad apples, so we need to ensure the system to address that is working. But there is this knee jerk reaction that every time a cop wounds or kills someone while on duty, he is automatically guilty without going through the bother of an investigation or trial. Like when Daniele Watts falsely accused her arresting officer of racial profiling. He had to break his own department policy and release the tape himself to save his neck/the city because the mob was gathering a head of steam. Taraji Henson (whom I like as an actress) did the same thing, falsely accusing police of racially profiling her son, so it seems like actresses are on a roll. Sure, they both had to apologize, so it’s all OK, right?

    This violence and trial by media that breaks out upon every accusation instead of rationally waiting for an investigation and then a trial has got to stop. There is a difference between following a case and stating suppositions about what happened and “Burn the B&*(& down!”

  2. First, I agree with Darren that they should simply follow their disclosure law.

    I thought most evidence was released to the public after a trial.


    “There’s plenty of attention on cop behavior, but very little on ghetto-thug behavior.

    In fact, we’re supposed to pretend it’s not happening at all, that even thinking about it is racist or (depending on the perp) Islamophobic (e.g., the word ‘thug’ is a ‘dog whistle’).”

    I agree.

    Of course we should shine the light of public scrutiny on any wrongdoing by anyone in a position of authority. No one is above the law, and that includes the police. We need to have confidence that the officers on our streets obey the law themselves, or suffer the same consequences we do.

    But the flip side to the problem is the high crime rate, and racism when the perpetrators are African American. Here in SoCal, there is rampant racism between Mexicans and South Americans, and African American against Caucasian, Asian, and Latino. Racism is not just a “white problem.” My husband is Caucasian. Years ago he went to a job in either Compton. The woman was very nice, but told him he’d have to leave quickly before it got dark, because it was not safe for whites in that neighborhood. Sure enough, young men threw rocks at his work truck and yelled racial slurs before he got to the freeway, just because he was a white guy driving a work truck. No riots. Just a normal day in Compton. So he crossed that neighborhood off of his service area, like many mobile businesses do. It’s frankly unsafe.

    It is the actions of the residents themselves that contribute to the problems of their neighborhood. Women too young to be moms have multiple children, which mean they don’t finish their education. That combined with one parent instead of two making ends meet, correlates with a high poverty rate. Their is a high risk for the kids to grow up without supervision. And what is the highest risk against them? Is it the cops patrolling the neighborhood? No. It’s their neighborhood drug dealers and gangs that are the highest direct threat to their future chances. As the crime rate increases, property values decrease. Business owners lose enthusiasm for setting up shop in a bad neighborhood. Job opportunities dry up. Outside mobile services lose interest in servicing the area because it is unsafe. It becomes harder to get good teachers to want to live and work in an unsafe neighborhood. Those single mothers with kids get stuck and they can’t get out. Drug abuse and crime soars along with the high school dropout rate. As the percentage of criminals in the population increases, the relationship between police and citizen becomes more adversarial. Finally, the anger and unhappiness boils over, and young men who’ve been raised by the street burn their own city down “in protest”, when they really just like the rule of the club. Heck, they’ve been burning down their own neighborhood for years, but it’s just been a slow burn over hot coals before the riot fanned the flames.

    We spend millions of dollars trying to help the poor, but we’re not getting results. What we get are people on the streets looking into a camera, talking about the failure of public programs, the need for more funding, racism (but they only mean one kind) and police brutality, while people in the background loot and riot and throw hunks of concrete at the cops.

    The best way out of the bad neighborhoods is for a child to stay in school, stay away from drugs, gangs, and breaking the law, get a scholarship to a good college far, far away, intern during breaks, launch his or her career, never move back, and eventually move his mom out.

    If we invest money in a high crime neighborhood, we should:

    1. End teacher tenure. Bad teachers should be fired if they don’t respond to intervention.
    2. Allow different education models, and judge their success or failure based on tangibles like graduation rate, testing, and going on to college. If a school fails, close it down and let another organization run it. Stop sentencing kids to languish in failing schools.
    3. Invest in after school programs like Harlem Children’s Zone. Emulate what works in other programs and discard what does not. Build a bullet proof youth center with a metal detector and drug sniffing dogs, patrolled by vets or off duty cops if you have to, to give the kids a safe option.
    4. Break the gangs

    In my humble opinion, the biggest problem in high crime neighborhoods is the threat to the kids from the inside, by the other people living there. It’s the drug dealers, the gangs, the criminals, and the perception that you have to be a dangerous thug to be respected or at least left alone that destroys these kids’ futures and sentences them to repeat that vicious cycle.

    People there can complain all day long that there are no jobs, but with a high crime rate, business owners are not going to want to open up shop there, more so after a riot. What business owner is going to watch a dozen businesses burn in Baltimore and think to himself, what a great place to open up a new location? Instead of waiting for other people to fix the problems in the neighborhood, the community should collectively roll up its sleeves and do what they can do.

  3. Darren, Just saw the Brian Moore link. Thanks for serving this blog w/ honor and hard work. I know these are tough times for you. I think it’s somehow healthy, always looking on the bright side. This drumbeat causes the haters to come out from cover and show their hate. It turns into a cop hating Klan rally w/ a high wind blowing off all the sheets and no one being anonymous.

  4. steve, Here’s the dirty secret. I know MANY well educated, good hearted men who have been turned into mean nasty racists working in combat day in and out in the depraved inner cities. It is combat. It is like being in Afghanistan FOR DECADES if you work as a cop until you retire. It is the same dynamic as soldiers coming to hate the country and people they fight.

  5. My dad was a cop in Berkeley, Calif., in the late ’50s and early ’60s. He had a degree in criminology from Cal (now known as UC-Berkeley) prior to becoming an officer, and someone related to me recently that Berkeley cops in that era had to have a college degree (though I’ve never asked my dad whether that was true or not).

    Even if it means departmental downsizing in the interim, I’m of the opinion that being a police officer in this extremely complex social environment should require a four-year college degree, if only for the contemplative time in achieving it. (And, no, I’m not advocating for private undergraduate schools.) Though I can have no knowledge of all the facts of this case, my sense is that overwhelmingly the harm done by overly-zealous (I’m being polite here) cops is caused by those identifiable as mental midgets on steroids.

  6. Jane writes with feigned authority: Human Rights Watch notes that taxpayers actually pay three times for officers who repeatedly commit abuses: …

    We’re going to pay several times for Detritus Blackwell: First, the welfare payments to his mother growing up; second, the fractional salaries of the LEO and legal authorities he used up as a teen as well as his appointed public defender; third, the room and board, care and feeding and coddling he received in prison his first time around. Now that he’s been charged with a capital crime, the whole thing is rinse and repeat but at a higher level. The best deal for us if he’s found guilty would be the death penalty. But that’s not feasible. Instead, if found guilty, he’ll enjoy years as a freeloader in jail; he’ll probably get offers of marriage from clueless young women eager to reform him.

  7. don’t get down lady jane. I am showing you the way. that pig won’t be arresting any more brothers. you got to commit to the cause.

  8. Ah, Demtrius,
    .(Or should that be spelled Demetrius? As in the Demetrius Blackwell who shot and killed NYPD officer Brian Moore?)
    See what I mean? I am demoralized by people like you .

  9. Jane, good advice. I’m glad that more people are aware of just how far this has gone and hopefully it can be reined back in to reflect the democracy we are, or were…

  10. dear jane,

    you should follow my lead if the opportunity arises.

  11. I, Annie,
    Re: What will it take to make reform happen. Well, first walking through life with eyes wide open. This is happening now as the problem is getting more coverage as it is now affecting the lives of so many.
    What to do? Personally, I try to, and this may sound trite and too simplistic, be the opposite of what I detest in these officers in my everyday interactions with others, (as we are able:-) I make an effort to treat with dignity those thought to be the least in our culture. To not jump to conclusions, in a nutshell, to stay calm and carry on. ???
    Frankly, I am at a loss on what to do on a grander scale. I am demoralized at this point as to my capacity to ignite outrage and change. So I simple do what I can in my small sphere of daily influence.
    But if the opportunity arises to do more…I like to think I would jump at the chance… shy of setting myself on fire.

  12. I do not think they taught Animal Farm at Sacred Heart. Not when I went there.

  13. Jane,
    Scary stuff, what will it take to make reform happen, I wonder? Nation wide protests as I said wayyyyy upstream? New laws? Every time anyone reveals just how bad things really are in our police departments, we get the kind of pushback we see on this thread. It’s going to take a lot of Americans standing strong against this police overreach of power.

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