Botham Shem Jean worked for an accounting firm – Price Waterhouse Coopers – as a risk-assurance associate and was a member of the Dallas West Church of Christ. He was in his own apartment in the South Side Flats in Dallas, when an off-duty police officer, Amber Guyger, mistook his apartment for her own and entered. She then reportedly pulled her gun out on seeing him and shot him in the chest. Shem Jean died in hospital.

There is apparently conflicting testimony about how officer Guyger entered Jean’s apartment, whether she knocked and yelled something about being let in or if she was confused about which apartment it was after finding an open door. At least she’s on trial, but only for manslaughter.

What are you supposed to do when an armed police officer who’s finished a 15-hour shift enters your residence mistakenly and quickly shoots you? And more importantly, what is the justice system supposed to do?

As David French in National Review details, it may very well be that police officers are being awarded advantages in the justice system in such situations when a shooting is investigated, and charges are laid. Advantages which undermine the fundamental right of equal treatment before the law. Here’s David French in National Review:

Aside from the horrific details of the shooting itself, there are already troubling indications that Guyger’s identity as a police officer is providing her with actual, undeserved advantages in the prosecution of this case.

First, police sources are reportedly indicating that Guyger may actually try to raise the fact that Jean didn’t obey her commands as a defense. It’s not a defense. The moment she opened the door to an apartment that wasn’t her own, she wasn’t operating as a police officer clothed with the authority of the law. She was instead a criminal. She was breaking into another person’s home. She was an armed home invader, and the person clothed with the authority of law to defend himself was Botham Shem Jean.

Which brings us to the second troubling element of the story. So far, Guyger is only charged with manslaughter. But all the available evidence indicates that she intentionally shot Jean. This wasn’t a warning shot gone awry. The pistol didn’t discharge during a struggle. She committed a crime by forcing open Jean’s door, deliberately took aim, and killed him.

There is a judicial precedent established by the 11th Circuit that is called ‘qualified immunity’. The case that illustrates this concerns police mistaking a neighbor’s directions, going to the wrong, house and after the door was opened, shooting the man who resided there, Andrew Scott, who was armed and may have been pointing a gun at the officers who had apparently not identified themselves. Here’s French again explaining qualified immunity in another article in National Review:

The court held that the officer was entitled to “qualified immunity” when he fired the fatal shots. Why? Because when he showed up at the wrong door, misunderstood a neighbor’s directions, refused to identify himself as a cop, and then gunned down a man who was entirely lawfully carrying a gun in an entirely lawful circumstance, the officer did not, the court claimed, violate any of Scott’s “clearly established” legal rights.

The qualified-immunity doctrine holds that public employees can’t be held individually liable for violating citizens’ constitutional rights unless those rights have been “clearly established.” It’s a controversial doctrine and typically requires plaintiffs — even plaintiffs who’ve suffered egregious and unjustified harm at the hands of the state — to conduct furious searches for other cases with fact patterns just like theirs, hoping that the right court in the right jurisdiction had already ruled against the state under just the right circumstances.

This is the administrative state – in this case the Judiciary, or at least the 11th Circuit – putting a Teflon cloak around its actions. While one can respect the dangers involved in being a first responder, especially a police officer, the fact that these and other shootings have resulted in acquittal because, at least in part, of the doctrine of qualified immunity sets a horrifying precedent for other areas of the administrative state as well.

Imagine qualified immunity for practitioners in a national healthcare system where doctors cannot be sued. Imagine IRS confiscations of your property with no recourse to sue and recover on the part of the aggrieved citizen.

Yes, I know. We’re already there in many cases.

Perhaps, but qualified immunity is the Judiciary telling you that police officers are not accountable in the same way other citizens are. As the Romans asked: who guards the guards? When the judiciary becomes complicit in the sheltering of police officers from the rigors of a reasonable legal process, then it’s effectively saying: we the Judiciary guard law enforcement against Justice. That’s saying that the police are above the law.

That’s far scarier than any provocative tweet from President Trump.

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