An Alabama police officer recently body slammed a grandfather from India named Sureshbhai Patel, and video of the assault helped shine an international spotlight on law-enforcement abuse in the Deep South. The spotlight became even brighter last week when a South Carolina officer fatally shot a fleeing Walter Scott in the back, over a non-operating brake light on Scott's vehicle--and then lied that he was being threatened at the time of the shooting.
How bad can some rogue officers be in the South, especially in the state I know best--Alabama? How deep is their disregard for the law? To help answer those questions, we can turn to my own arrest on October 23, 2013, which led to five months in jail. What was my crime? As with the Walter Scott case, there weren't even allegations of a crime; I was arrested for blogging--and I'm not making that up.
How absurd did it get? Courtroom evidence suggests that Alabama deputies arrested me without a warrant, making the arrest "unauthorized and illegal" under the law. If that was the case, the deputies likely ran afoul of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that generally prohibits warrantless entry into a private home to make an arrest.
Payton v. New York, 455 U.S 573 (1980) specifically forbids such entry in most cases involving felony arrest. My arrest was for civil contempt in a defamation lawsuit and did not involve a crime at all.
Shelby County deputy Chris Blevins entered my home on October 23, 2013, walking into our basement garage to knock me down three times and Mace me before telling me that I was under arrest. It's all caught on a videotape that later was played in open court.
At no point, in a video taken from his police cruiser, does Blevins show an arrest warrant. When the prosecution was told to turn over copies of any warrants at my resisting-arrest trial in January, prosecutor Tonya Willingham replied that she did not have any warrants.
All of that suggests there was no warrant for my arrest, and that raises the issue of Payton v. New York. Here is the key finding in that case:
The Fourth Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, prohibits the police from making a warrantless and nonconsensual entry into a suspect's home in order to make a routine felony arrest.
I can be heard on the video telling Blevins to get out of my house, so his entry was nonconsensual. What are some of the primary legal points in Payton and how might they apply to the Legal Schnauzer case? We will take a look at those questions in upcoming posts.
Those questions become particularly compelling in the aftermath of the assault on Suresehbhai Patel--not to mention the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, and the Eric Garner chokehold death in New York City and the Walter Scott shooting in South Carolina . . . and the list seems to grow by the day.
Meanwhile. we've already shown that Officer Blevins violated Alabama statutory law by entering our house to make an arrest without stating his purpose for being there. And he violated federal law by unlawfully using pepper spray, constituting excessive force.
Is our nation turning into a police state that is spinning out of control? A growing body of evidence suggests the answer is yes.
How disturbing is this? Well, we learned yesterday via The New York Daily News that Officer Michael Slager laughed to a coworker about "pumping adrenaline" after shooting Walter Scott to death.
We have some disturbed individuals wearing law-enforcement uniforms right now. I saw that firsthand when Chris Blevins committed an assault and battery against me--inside my own home.
How bad was it? The video below features an interview with my wife Carol just a few days after I had essentially been kidnapped, and the footage shows the havoc that Blevins wreaked in our garage--all apparently without the benefit of having a warrant. (Hat tip for the video to Matt Osborne, editor of Breitbart Unmasked.)
(To be continued)