Massachusetts Supreme Court’s Strange Use of Legal Precedent

judge-cartoon-graphic-280x165I’ve written about the simple facts of this case here and here. Boston Police Officer Anjos was looking for three black men who broke into a house. He saw two men who fit the description walking along and they were the only people out on the street this cold December evening. Like two of the three people who broke into the house they were black: one was wearing dark colored clothing and the other a black hoodie.

The judge who wrote the opinion for the all the justices on the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) said the officer had no reason to suspect these people  because the description was not specific enough and the suspects could have been in places other than where these two men were.

The judge then wrote about how the men fled when approached by the police officers on two occasions. She said flight was relevent to support suspicion but there were two cautionary notes to add. First, under the law a person has “freedom to speak or not to speak to a police officer.” Therefore because a person has that right then “flight to avoid that contact should be given little, in any, weight as a factor probative of reasonable suspicion.” 

That’s a big, big  change in the law. Suppose a police officer hears a window being smashed around the corner. He turns the corner and sees three people standing there. They turn to look at him. One begins to run away. The police officer has to let him go since his running is not “a factor probative of reasonable suspicion.”  

If you think that is big change in the law, suppose the man who fled from the police officer investigating the window breaking were a black man. Then there is even more reason for the officer not to be suspicious of him. The SJC writes about the disproportionate amount of stops of black males by police compared to other males. Strangely nothing is said about the disproportionate amount of crime committed by black males as compared to other males.

Her information comes from a Boston police study which she neglects to tell us said: “This comparison does not consider any contextual information such as neighborhoods, crime hot spot locations, or offending populations,.’’ Nor did the judge want to mention that in “2010, almost 80 percent of the homicide victims were black while they represented only 24 percent of the total population.

Why do all the judges in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial court ignore that more crimes happen in black neighborhoods than other ones? Why is it all the judges on Massachusetts highest court seem unwilling to protect people living in those neighborhood by recognizing that police officers doing their job will be stopping more people in those neighborhoods where there is more crime?

Ignoring that stops relate to crimes the judge writes for the SJC that because more black males are stopped than other races: “we do not eliminate flight as a factor in the reasonable suspicion analysis whenever a black male is the subject of an investigatory  stop. However, in such circumstances, flight is not necessary probative of a suspect’s state of mind or consciousness of guilt. Rather [it] . . . suggests a reason for flight totally unrelated to consciousness of guilt. [A black male] . . . might be just as easily be motivated by the desire to avoid the recurring indignity of being racially profiled as by the desire to hide criminal activity.”

In other words if a white man runs you may infer consciousness of guilt but if a black man runs you have to think maybe he’s tired of the recurring indignity of being racially profiled and it has nothing to do with consciousness of guilt. Is the same supposition to be made if a police officer tries to stop a car for speeding and the driver doesn’t stop? Must the police officer think that if it is a black driver he did not want to stop because he was motivated by a desire not to be harassed by the police? Does that mean the trooper on the highway cannot chase after a car driven by a black man? Is that now a defense to failing to stop for a police officer?

What are we to make of the highest court in a state exempting black men from being treated like white men? One must think how at one time in this country  the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to our Constitution were ratified to protect the rights of blacks to be treated equally. The 14th ended with the words: ” nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

When one race is carved out greater rights than another then things are not equal. One then must think the legal precedent the Massachusetts Supreme Court is following is a paraphrase of Napoleon’s statement to Snowball: “all American are equal but some American are more equal than others.” 

What is worse is that every judge on the Massachusetts agrees with that precedent. Is that what we can soon expect from the United States Supreme Court when Hillary gets elected? You probably never knew that equal had relative degrees with some people being less equal and others more equal. Too bad the framers of the 14th Amendment had not read Orwell’s 1984.

6 thoughts on “Massachusetts Supreme Court’s Strange Use of Legal Precedent

  1. This decision is total nonsense. Are all the judges on the SJC racists? Isn’t the definition of a racist treating one race differently than another? This is as dumb and illegal as the St. Pats parade case decision which was overturned by the U S Supreme Court in a 9-0 ruling. The High Court said that the SJC acted without any lawful authority in the parade case and they have done it again here. Where do we get these morons? 2. The claim of racial profiling is a smear on the Boston Police. Where are the Police supposed to operate? Should they be assigned to nursing homes in Brighton and West Roxbury or to where the crimes are being committed? The Police Union should sue the SJC for defamation. 3. A remedy to this nonsense would be for Congress to pass a law comparable to the Soloman Amendment which prevented any Federal funds going to colleges that kicked ROTC off campus. The law could say that any states that treat the races differently in the area of law enforcement shall be denied all Federal funds. Your view on this is correct.

  2. The Court engages in doublespeak:
    You are correct, Matt, George Orwell would be proud.
    Follow the illogic:
    “We do not eliminate flight as a factor in reasonable suspicion analysis when a black male is involved ” BUT ” flight . .. .should be given little, if any, weight as a factor probative of reasonable suspicion.”
    So, “We do not eliminate flight as a factor . . . but flight should be given little” or zero weight.
    The Court effectively eliminates flight as a factor.
    Translation: A black male may flee police with impunity.

    As Orwell wrote at the end of his egalitarian utopia “Animal Farm”: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

    The SJC has found a novel way to reduce high crime rates in some neighborhoods: stop pursuing suspects.

  3. some of us know why the black men were fleeing
    some of us don’t

    wink nod know what I mean?

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/calif-cops-run-mentally-ill-homeless-man-article-1.2813934

    Two California cops who fatally shot a mentally ill homeless man tried to run him over with their police cruiser just seconds before opening fire, new dashcam video shows.

    “F–k this guy,” one of the officers said as the Sacramento partners sped toward Joseph Mann. “I’m going to hit him.”

    Officers Randy Lozoya and John Tennis were placed on modified duty after

  4. “Too bad the framers of the 14th Amendment had not read Orwell’s 1984.”

    Could that be because the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, while George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” was written in 1943-1944 and published in 1945?

    Perhaps if we really want to deal with temporal anomalies, Phillip K.Dick’s 1956 short story “The Minority Report” may be more appropriate?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precrime

    1. Ed:

      Perhaps I shoud have written: “if only Orwell had written “Animal Farm” prior to the Civil War” or even better if I wrote, “Orwell, had he written “1884” would have written “Animal Farm” to prevent the mistakes of the framers of teh 14th Amendment.”

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