The Fulton County DA’s decision to charge officer Garrett Rolfe with murder struck me as highly dubious. It strikes Andy McCarthy as outrageous. Having read his article, I’m with Andy.
The murder charge is “felony murder.” This is an effort to get around the difficulty of proving that Rolfe intended to kill Rayshard Brooks. As McCarthy explains, “the homicide theory of felony murder is that, while the offender does not specifically intend to cause death, he does intentionally commit a felony from which death results.”
There still needs to be a felony, though. In this case, the alleged felony is aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
However, says McCarthy, this underlying allegation “is ludicrous.” When a suspect forcibly resists arrest and steals an arresting officer’s taser, shooting back at the suspect is not aggravated assault.
Nor will it do for the prosecution to argue that, when Brooks shot at Rolfe with a taser, he wasn’t using deadly force. As McCarthy points out, the DA, Paul Howard, Jr., recently deemed a taser a deadly weapon under Georgia State law.
Howard made this statement when it was a police officer’s use of a taser that was in question. But, if anything, a taser is more deadly in the hands of a non-policeman. At least police officers are trained to use tasers safely.
Howard’s charging of Rolfe isn’t just unfounded, it is transparently political — an attempt to appease a mob. Why else would he bring the charges so quickly, before the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has completed its investigation?
Howard’s charge is probably also political in the direct, electoral sense. He’s seeking reelection, and trailing his opponent in the polls, while contending with sexual-harassment accusations by two women who worked in his office. Furthermore, according to McCarthy, there are allegations that Howard violated campaign-finance laws. The state ethics commission is looking into those.
Howard likely sees throwing the book at Rolfe as his last best hope for pulling out the election. What a guy!
No wonder so many Atlanta police officers wouldn’t work last night. As this prosecution proceeds, don’t be surprised if a significant number of them look for new jobs or take early retirement. It happened in Baltimore, even though the charges against six police officers for the killing of Freddy Gray ultimately resulted in zero convictions.