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William Melendez’s dashcamera beating of an African-American man is another reason to strengthen the right to tape police

Strengthen people's right to videotape police activity

Feb 03, 2016 William Melendez’s dashcamera beating of an African-American man is another reason to strengthen the right to tape police

In January 2015, police pulled over Floyd Dent’s car, unpaid auxillary police officer John Zieleniewski threw Dent to the ground, and highly experienced and decorated and misconduct-lawsuit-vilified over the years Inkster police officer William Melendez pummeled his fists repeatedly into Dent’s head, to say the least. Another cop appears to tase him during the ordeal

The beating was caught on a police dash camera, and showed no justification for the beating.

Melendez got prosecuted, jury-convicted last November 2015 of felony assault and misconduct in office (and acquitted of strangulation), and on February 2, 2016, sentenced to a range of thirteen months to ten years in prison

I was about to say how much former officer Melendez’s brutality against Floyd Dent —  compounded by the other numerous assembled cops acting as a casual united front with Melendez rather than stepping up against his brutality — shows how so much in this world is still f*cked up. Fortunately, my teacher Jun Yasuda comes to the rescue, reminding us that “All humans are beautiful. Somehow society is upside down.”

Society has been upside down for much too long, for about the same length of time as human history itself.

What would have happened if that camera was not rolling when Melendez beat Dent? What, indeed. Surveillance cameras are too prevalent on street corners, in retail stores and beyond to the point that one cannot even pick one’s nose in public in confidence that it won’t be caught on one of those cameras. However, police dashcameras are too few, and too many are laws and police brute approaches against public photography of their actions.

William Melendez’s dashcamera beating of an African-American man is another reason to strengthen the right to tape police.

William Melendez was presumed innocent until he was found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He was as entitled to an effective defense in court as any other criminal defendant, and I do not avoid defending people accused of such depraved acts even if I am convinced they perpetrated the alleged acts. For starters, as Terence reminda us: “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto,”/ “I am a man, I consider nothing that is human alien to me.”

Hopefully Melendez at times respected the right of his arrestees to a robust criminal defense when he was a cop, because too many cops and prosecutors belittle criminal defendants and snicker at criminal defense lawyers’ role and hold that role in contempt.

Melendez has the right to appeal. Only having reviewed small parts of his case, I see that one appellate issue is the trial judge’s admission of inflammatory racist texting about beating n*ggers, between Zieleniewski and another cop other than Melendez, in the prosecutor’s effort to show Zieleniewski’s racial bias.

I disagree with Judge Vonda Evans’s requiring the return of Melendez’s wife to the courtroom (minute 13:45), and all the more so disagree with the judge’s heavy-handed tone of voice starting and following from there — after the verdict was entered and after the judge told the audience that they would need to leave the courtroom if they otherwise were going to applaud or cry or make other “inappropriate” noise and berating. It sounds like his wife may have been doing just what the judge advised earlier, which was to leave if they got too emotional over the verdict.

Melendez did little if anything to impress the judge at sentencing (see sentencing at 3 hours 55 minutes). I disagree with Judge Evans’s urging Melendez’s lawyer to keep his sentencing arguments very short over such a serious case as this (see sentencing at 3 hours 43 minutes). She is hardly alone among judges in trying to overcontrol the courtroom rather than smoothly administering the courtroom through earning and maintaining respect. The judge was justified personally to be outraged over  Melendez’s crime, but that did not justify any deviation from what I have said above about the right way for a judge to act in court

Melendez’s story at sentencing seems to have been a tale of two cities, of a man who on one hand rushed into a burning building without safety gear to save people inside, but with those same saving hands pummelling Floyd Dent’s head.

Floyd Dent’s ordeal underlines why so many people tense up and leave or run when they see the police. At elementary school assemblies with police officers (no assemblies had criminal defense or civil liberties lawyers), our principal underlined that police are our friends. Friendship and respect get earned on an individual basis. Those acting like bad apples in any profession or walk of life make work all the harder for those doing good all the time.

We will continue seeing police brutality until we shrink the police state that has dominated American society for too long, and the criminal justice system that feeds the police state, starting with legalizing marijuana, prostitution and gambling; eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing and the death penalty; and eliminating per se guilty rules in drinking and driving cases.

 

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