A Yolo County DA is determined to convict two brothers, Ernesto and Fermin Galvan, of resisting arrest and battery. The DA’s attempts have resulted in three hung juries; but Yolo county is going to try again. The charges are the result of a June, 2005 incident in West Sacramento.
According to the official accounts, the two brothers were on the street at 3:00 A.M. when they were approached by an officer, Donald Schlie.
Schlie used one of the more popular superficial reasons to accost the brothers: one of them was sweating and seemed to be on something. This rich nugget of pretense is a side benefit to cops of the “war on drugs”.
At this point, to this editor, there can only be a few things the brothers were guilty of: walking on the street in early morning; sweating, and being Hispanic.
Apparently the combination was enough for the cop to make demands.
In one version, he decided to search Ernesto, was turning him around when Ernesto swung and hit him. That version gave way to a version that Schlie was trying to get Ernesto to take his hands from his pockets. In an early version, Ernesto was putting his hands in and out of his pockets. It appears he insisted Ernesto take his hands from his pockets, and when he refused, the cop laid his hands on the brother who then punched the cop.
Ernesto and the cop fought for a few minutes and then Schlie’s partner, who was sitting nearby in a “unit” joined the fight. Other officers swiftly appeared and when the fray was over, Ernesto was beaten into a coma that would last a month, and it would be two years before he could drag his misshapen head and battered face to court. Fermin, also, was hit with batons, knocked unconscious and loosing teeth, though it isn’t clear that he actually hit any cops.
The injuries on Ernesto were adjudged those typical with direct blows to the head, and his hands and arms suffered only minor sprains while his head shows the scars and dents of at least seven baton blows. The officers testified they aimed at his arms, as procedures require. We must conclude their accuracy is terrible, since they missed the rather large target of his arms and repeatedly hit the smaller, probably ducking target of his head.
The officers suffered cuts and bruises and “feared for their safety” according to the prosecutor, Carolyn Polumbo. She told the jury in a previous trial Ernesto Galvan was lucky to be alive, that the cops didn’t shoot him and they could have.
It should be noted that the brothers had no illegal weapons or evidence of drugs.
Is that how we should look at the situation? Citizens have the right to live their lives without being routinely accosted by cops.
Citizens are, indeed, allowed to use reasonable force to protect themselves from cops when the cops are not acting lawfully. If you grab someone on the street by the wrist, you’d be committing assault, and they’d be allowed to punch you; if you continued to fight, they’d be lawfully allowed to continue to fight. A cop, acting outside the protection of law, is no different.
Even if the officer were within the law to grab Ernesto, were the police within the law to use deadly force against an unarmed person who believes themselves (nearly correctly) to be fighting for their life?
Could a rational cop have de-escalated the situation without the need to beat someone beyond senseless?
The Yolo County DA has a powerful motive for convicting the brothers Galvan, and it isn’t justice, it’s the $12 million dollar civil lawsuit the brothers have against Yolo County. If the DA can just get them convicted (prosecution has already tried removing Hispanic jurers) it will take the wind out of that lawsuit. Otherwise, Yolo law enforcement might have to be careful when beating up someone suspected of sweating.
Ernesto’s “mistake” was to refuse to be intimidated by a cop. It is the failure of American law enforcement that cops feel they have to personally dominate citizens to be effective. It’s the logic of the brute.
It needs to be said, from this editor’s perspective, the Galvans were unlucky in the cop that stopped them. There were no doubt dozens of other West Sacramento cops on duty that night who would have handled the situation correctly, and the incident would have been a footnote in everyone’s lives. Instead, they got a cop that had to dominate, had to have everything his way.
Law enforcement today act as though they are free to take command of a situation, and from that perspective, mete civil rights back to the citizen. You come to their attention, they take command, if you satisfy them, your civil rights are restored to you.
Justice simply isn’t accomplished that way.
It’s astonishing the Galvan brothers have done so well against the system. Citizens do occasionally triumph in such cases, but typically, jurors want to believe law enforcement. After all, we’ve given our safety over to cops, we rely on them. We’ve seen them doing good almost nightly on TV crime dramas, we read in the newspaper all the time how law enforcement did this or that great thing. We need to believe they don’t represent a danger to us, just to bad people. It’s hard for us to believe (unless you’ve experienced it in some way) that cops would beat someone nearly to death not because they’d actually committed a crime, but because they literally refused to fall on the ground.
Further, the brothers aren’t wealthy, and the three previous trials have dried up their resources and that of their supporters, leaving them broke, and at the mercy of a justice system that awards justice to those who can afford it. The brothers will be left to the resources of “public defenders” and will likely be denied public funds for expert witnesses, which are often key to the outcome of a trial.
How should cops subdue criminals? Social psychologists have identified key points in every confrontation in which the interchange might be likely to escalate, or not. It’s very often a matter of urging the exchange toward “not”.
Currently, in the Land of the Free, law enforcement tends to escalate the exchange until domination is reached. It is unthinkable for a cop to have a citizen resist, and not continue the exchange until the citizen is dominated, unconscious or dead.
A good example in today’s news is that a man, sitting on a front porch, was shot by officers he didn’t even know were there because he was holding a hose nozzle. They were concealed, he was pointing the hose nozzle at things, he pointed it at them, they shot him with a pistol and a shotgun and handcuffed him as he died, or rather, was dominated. Read the account yourself HERE
. The dead man was drunk which fits the “high on something” criteria to be killed in America.
There is increasing evidence that escalating the aggressiveness and violence of law enforcement leads to increased violence in the underclass both toward cops and towards each other.
If a cop accosts you, just give in, or risk dismemberment or death?