I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…
Next to Clarence Darrow, Gerry Spence may be the best known criminal defense lawyer in the history of the Republic. He’s written a new book — how he did it, I don’t know; he’s old enough to have been dead ten years already — and I wish I’d never seen it.
It’s called “Police State,” and it scares the hell out of me. I’ve written here about cops who’ve murdered children and unarmed men and women, but mostly, I’ve always wanted to believe, out of incompetence, lousy training, or fear of being hurt.
No one wants to believe the men and women who serve and protect us are killers on the loose, as Spence forcefully and convincingly depicts them. In my own hometown, police have drawn their guns on students suspected of drinking at a party, and recently shot dead a tripping and naked university scholar armed with a hammer they figured he might use. He would have had to jump from a balcony and contrive a perfect landing without breaking a leg to use it. Good shooting, our elected district attorney called it — not even close. Stupid shooting, I call it, preventable by taking a step backwards and letting the kid hit the pavement and see what happens next before you empty your gun in him.
Killing frightening or unlikable people is just the worst of it. Spence says he’s never represented a person charged with a crime in which the police themselves hadn’t committed a crime. I’m guessing that’s the experience of most criminal defense lawyers.
In my parents’ time, maybe even as recently as ten years ago, most people would find that hard to believe. Most people, I should say, whose only contact with the police had been at an accident scene or while asking directions. But cell phone videos of killer cops, coming faster and faster apace, are making believers of all of us.