In Update 13.3: What Happened, I wrote about the recent gaffe by Hennepin County District Attorney Mike Freeman. Questioned by Black Lives Matter types at a social sort of event, he made a number of comments that have caused considerable consternation. A gaffe may best be defined as a politician accidentally saying what he actually believes but doesn’t want the public to know, or accidently telling the truth.
Now The Star Tribune has published a brief article wherein Freeman says he didn’t know he was being recorded, and he’s sorry. About what, gentle readers, I’ll let you decide:
I was wrong to discuss the agency’s work on the Justine Damond case in a public setting. On Saturday, I apologized personally to Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman,’ Freeman said in the statement, which was also videotaped and posted online.
Freeman said he made the comments at a union meeting because he felt it was responsibility to respond to constituents.
‘However, in doing so, I was wrong to discuss both the agency’s work and what discussions we are having internally at the county attorney’s office. The other mistake I made is not being aware that they were secretly recording our (conversation), obviously without my permission.
Nonetheless, my comments, under any circumstances, were ill advised and I am sorry.
Freeman also said he’ll be speaking about “the status of his charging decision” next week, presumably after Christmas. Notice Freeman didn’t say he’d announce a decision on charges, merely that he’d talk about the status of that decision, which one suspects will go something like: “we are working diligently on this case and expect to announce a decision sometime or other. This stuff is complex. Really complex. So complex I can’t tell you how complex it is. And complex too. Thank you for coming; no more questions.”
Freeman’s final statement returns him solidly to the firm and ever spreading ground of mendacious politics:
Secondly, I’d like to address the concerns of Justine Damond’s family and citizens everywhere, who may be surprised and unhappy that no charges have yet been filed in this case. Know this: No one cares more about justice in this matter than I do. Investigators and members of the Hennepin County attorney’s office, including me, have been working nonstop to gather all evidence, follow every lead and bring this matter to a resolution. Police cases, however, are very complex. They demand the most thorough and complete investigations possible. While some clamor for swift justice, only careful, detailed work and careful analysis brings us real justice.
Right. Actually, there is substantial evidence a great many people care much more about justice than Freeman does, and he’s in large part responsible for making them feel that way. We can be reasonably certain Justine Damond’s fiancé and her family, for example, are a bit more invested in this matter than Freeman.
I’ve addressed these issues before, but just for the sake of thoroughness, let’s take one more run at them:
“…gather all evidence…” And what evidence might that be? This is a simple case. All evidence was present at the scene, and despite the BCA’s unlawful warrant–to the extent the BCA can be trusted–nothing was found in Damond’s home. There is no question who shot Damond. The police have the gun. Any ballistics/powder residue and related tests have surely been done, though it’s hard to imagine of what evidentiary value they might be. There is no question who shot Damond and with what. The circumstances, positions and distances are known. They have a fellow police officer/witness who has been interviewed, one supposes more than once and in sufficient depth. An autopsy has been done (one hopes). There appears to be no additional evidence of any kind to discover, gather and process, and all evidence already collected must have been analyzed—to whatever degree that was necessary—months ago.
“…follow every lead…” What leads? All witnesses are known. Leads, in this context, refer to clues that might help the police identify the suspect or find some crucial piece of evidence. All the evidence has been found. There are only two known witnesses: the unidentified bicycle rider and Officer Matthew Harrity. Both have been identified and interviewed. There is no known reason for any of them to withhold evidence or lie. One might consider officers that were present at the scene, the involved dispatcher, etc. “leads” or witnesses, but there is no reason—none whatsoever—they would not have been interviewed, and if necessary, re-interviewed as many times as required, months ago. Of course, such people must also file reports on their actions relating to the case, and there is no known reason any of them might withhold evidence or lie. There is no whodunit. The case is solved. It was solved within minutes of Damond’s death.
“Police cases…are very complex.” Some are. This one is not. Complexity, apart from highly technical evidence analysis, is almost entirely in unknown factors, unknown clues and leads, missing witnesses, missing, undiscovered evidence, and even missing victims. None of that applies to this case. Who, what, when, where and how are known, analyzed and considered. Only why, why did Mohamed Noor shoot and kill Justine Damond, remains partially unknown, but more on that shortly.
“…detailed work and careful analysis…” Like what? Freeman has suggested unknown ”investigators” are incompetent and have not done some unknown aspects of their jobs. BCA? The Sheriff’s Department? We don’t know. Experienced investigators have a checklist, mentally or otherwise, wherein they check off every action necessary to complete every case. There is no known reason why the checklist for this case should not have been completed months ago. There are no mysteries.
Why? This is all that remains. But the answer to this question cannot be definitively answered without a complete statement by Mohamed Noor, and even then, if he were something less than completely honest, not even then. It’s a question that will only be answered by a jury, and only if Noor is charged, arrested and tried. There are two primary possibilities: Noor, scared and panicky without cause, fired at the first movement he saw without regard for the safety of his partner, or anyone else in the area. Or Noor, reacting to events, made a tragic mistake and shot and killed Damond.
If it’s the first, Noor must be charged. If it’s the second, Noor may still be charged, unless Freeman is convinced any reasonable police officer in that alley, in that car, that night, would have done exactly what Noor did. If that’s the case, how can Freeman explain Harrity, who even closer than Noor to the supposed danger, did not shoot Damond? If that’s the case, how can Freeman defend the precedent, the lowering of standards for all police officers? If a police officer is scared enough, he can shoot and kill anyone nearby?
We can be certain had Damond been shot by a common citizen, in similar circumstances, he would have been arrested on the spot and arraigned that morning. One must be more careful with police officers for obvious reasons, but if every reasonable, trained and experienced police officer would not have shot Justine Damond, Noor must be charged.
Absent some entirely convincing, currently unknown evidence or mitigating factor, the only thing that can save Noor is the same kind of progressive politics that may well have put him in that car in the first place. It is almost certainly political calculations, rather than criminal justice concerns, driving the delay.