Breonna Taylor: A Nation of Laws, Not Justice

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By JAMES FORTIN

The following article is based on a report given to the Socialist Action at-large branch meeting on Sept. 28, 2020.

As socialists we know that the laws of a capitalist nation are written to support and defend the institutions of the economic system, and the interests of the class in power.

Laws are touted by the supporters of the capitalist order as de facto evidence of the system’s superiority to all other challengers.  We are a nation of laws, you know. The problem is however that while the U.S. may be a nation of laws, it is not a nation of justice.

In the murder of Breonna Taylor, Louisville cops peppered her body with six deadly rounds, while she was in bed after midnight, in her home, and had committed no crime.  Battering down her apartment door after their no -knock warrant had been invalidated, the cops were fired upon by Taylor’s boyfriend in apparent self-defense, thinking this was a home invasion.  The cops responded with hails of gun fire claiming that because they were fired upon, their attack was legally justified.

After review by the Kentucky Attorney General, no charges were brought against the police for her killing.  Only 1 of the officers faces a charge — wanton endangerment — for having his bullets crash through a neighbor’s home. Feeling the obvious injustice here of the killing and the legal absolution of the cops, tens of thousands around the country have poured into the streets in protest to yet another cop extermination of a Black human being.

That millions of people may think the actions of the cops are murderous matters not. That the Chief of Police has been fired because of the event is secondary.  That the City of Louisville has already agreed to a $12 million wrongful death settlement with Taylor’s family is inconsequential. The legal system has sprung to the defense of the uniformed killers in blue. Attempting to divert attention away from the crime that the cops perpetrated, the Attorney General of Kentucky called the protesters a mob.

He stated: “If we simply act on emotion or outrage, there is no justice. Mob justice is not justice.”

The real mobs at work in Kentucky and in most of the country, however, are not the victims and are not the demonstrators in the streets protesting Breonna’s murder. It’s the police, who kill with impunity and with no remorse.

The reality in America today is that very few police officers are ever charged with the killings that occur on their working shifts. And of those very few who are charged, even fewer are convicted. This is due to a system that is geared to supporting the police through friendly laws, pro-cop District Attorneys and judges,  and by the behavior of the cops themselves.

Investigations are drawn out, giving police ample opportunity to get their stories and alibis together. Once in court, the police know what to say: that they were in fear for their lives and the killing was justifiable. If witnesses are brought into the courtroom, they simply are not given the same credence from judges and prosecutors as the testimony from a cop. Police, on the other hand, are usually taken at their word.

Although there were witnesses to the night of Breonna Taylor’s murder that say the cops never identified themselves before forcing their way into the apartment, the District Attorney believed the cops, who said they did give notice.  In any event, according to the prosecutors, Breonna’s boyfriend fired first, even if he thought he was defending himself, and that settles the matter – the cops could kill.

In a statement from the Movement for Black Lives, it was pointed out that “Grand Juries indict 99.9 percent of the time, meaning prosecutors have tremendous power in what they choose to present. When Grand Juries do not indict, it is often because of a lack of will on the part of the state,” and that appears to be the case here, where the Attorney General is a protégée of Mitch McConnell and a rising star of the right wing.

Phillip Stinson, a criminal justice professor from Ohio, has documented about 1,000 police killings a year in the U.S. Over the past 15 years, a mere 121 officers have been arrested for murder stemming from on-duty killings. Of the 85 cases concluded to date, only 44 have been convictions, more often than not on a lesser charge.

Powerful police unions with friends in Congress and state legislatures, and tens of millions of dollars paid in settlements over police killings of Black, Latinx and Indigenous people, keep a lid on doing anything serious about police misrule. We should not expect Joe Biden, if elected, to push for any meaningful curtailment of police gangsterism, while Donald Trump openly encourages it.

After the election, all the reformists will no longer have a solution to the problem as they see it, i.e., the election of Joe Biden and Democrats. Whether they win or lose, the murders will continue. What only will stay the hands of the cops is continued, growing public outrage, led by mass actions in the streets against the brutality, ultimately leading to the formation of class-based organizations of the oppressed and their allies in the working class as a whole who are awakened and act on the need for systemic change. To assist in this historic class responsibility is our mission as a revolutionary socialist Party.

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