When unexplained deaths happen, borrow from the British?

The coroner’s inquest, familiar to readers of Agatha Christie, might be worth importing to the U.S. to look into police-caused deaths [Josh Voorhees, Slate, on ideas of Paul MacMahon]

Related: “The Grand Jury System Is Broken” [John Steele Gordon, Commentary, written post-Ferguson, pre-Garner]; New York Times “Room for Debate“; New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asks for authority to take over prosecutorial authority in police shootings [WGRZ (auto-plays), New York Observer, Paul Cassell]; Harvey Silverglate via Todd Zywicki (don’t gut grand jury protections). And from Michael Bell, “What I Did After Police Killed My Son,” Politico: “In 129 years since police and fire commissions were created in the state of Wisconsin, we could not find a single ruling by a police department, an inquest or a police commission that a shooting was unjustified. …As a military pilot, I knew that if law professionals investigated police-related deaths like, say, the way that the National Transportation Safety Board investigated aviation mishaps, police-related deaths would be at an all time low.” (& Wisconsin aftermath)


  • The reference to the 129 years of null rulings in Wisconsin exemplifies weak analysis. Generally a killer has some animus against the victim. Almost all Police Interaction are like purchases from grocery stores. The cop is to help, or investigate, or arrest. Often it is to write a traffic ticket. It would be a rare situatio0n where a police officer would know a victim well enough to want to harm him, much less kill him. The myth that police are seeking an excuse to blow away black guys is a myth that is passed on by every pundit on CNN, including AG Holder. The black community believed that the Los Angeles Police Department were more devoted to framing their guy, OJ Simpson, than to solving the brutal deaths of two people. How can anyone take seriously our President’s claim that the black communities feeling against the police are justified.

  • William, there have been no statistics offered as to how many policemen have killed how many people and how often they are found guilty of manslaughter. Nonetheless, I find it difficult to believe that the screening, training and management process is perfect, so that not police officer has ever killed under unwarranted circumstances or failed in their custodial duties. Certainly, the young man in Queens who was sodomized with (if I remember it correctly) a plunger would disagree.


  • An inqury into the chokehold used on Garner would be a good thing. That hold is supposed to be verboten, de jure, but was still used, de facto, and not stopped by the sergeant present. Is it tacitly accepted?

  • It was only a few years ago that our coroner’s courts were able to bring in verdicts of murder and in exceptional cases actually named the suspect.
    That was removed from their available verdicts.
    Also, as the article notes, all cases of sudden or unexplained death are subject to a coroner’s inquest. It has helped highlight a number of problem areas, ranging from emergency services call takers through to child safety seats.