Freddie Gray’s death: an “oops”

In America a system can kill and no one can be found accountable


No one has yet been found guilty for the death of Freddie Gray.

Once upon a time, it was generally held that the Nuremberg defense – that you were merely following orders – was inadequate. Today, the question of a system’s failings and how that system’s members can avoid responsibility seems to be answered with Alfred E Neuman defense: “I was oblivious”. Ignorance of the consequences of your actions is apparently sufficient.

The charges were: second-degree depraved-heart murder, second-degree assault, manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and misconduct. I personally thought that the depraved-heart murder charge was never going to fly, but how can reckless endangerment not stick? A man goes into a van under the protective custody of the police and comes out with a severed spine. The particulars of the case are even worse: Gray is loaded into a van without breaking any laws, is injured at some point, and eventually is rendered comatose.

The full decision is here and I’m pretty disappointed: “Seemingly, the State wants this Court to simply
assume that because Mr. Gray was injured, and the
defendant failed to seat belt him after stop 2, allegedly
ran a stop sign, and made a wide right turn, that the
Defendant intentionally gave Mr. Gray a rough ride. As
the trier of fact, the Court cannot simply let things
speak for themselves.” The judge then proceeds to lay out that hey, no one actually checked this guy asking for a hospital well enough to know he was injured and then he ended up dead, and everybody thought it was okay to not have a seat belt on him despite, you know, asking for a hospital after being found on the damn floor of the van, and even if they did check him he went from okay to literally shifting himself, and all of that is okay because no one at any time actually put any effort into checking on Gray.

That’s literally the reasoning: no one did a damn thing to actually figure out if any of this was okay, so it was okay. Ignorance is not just bliss, it’s also apparently a good defense if you’re a police department who arrests an innocent man and kills him while he’s in your custody. No one could’ve known Gray was injured, no one really needed to belt him in, no one could’ve known he was going to die, and nothing proved the rough ride occurred.

Law is not justice. I get that. And the prosecution indeed didn’t prove that it was a rough ride that killed Freddie Gray rather than a freak accident. But the circumstances around Freddie Gray’s death seem, like so many things as of late, to have no one held accountable. We live in an era where “mistakes were made” is more and more an unassailable defense for the privileged. Banks can defraud, but no person is charged. A war can be started, but no one was held to be at fault. A man can die after being rounded up by the cops, and no one is responsible.

Trust of institutions in America are at an all-time low, and this is why. No one is ever at fault, it seems.

Author: S Peter Cordner

I’m an upper-middle class white male with an education and a raft of luck and an inability to keep too many thoughts to myself. I read RSS feeds like they keep me alive and need intellectual stimulation like mice need cheese. Politically I'm progressive conservative; inside America this is probably a confusing phrase, but most of Europe gets it. I'm also a practicing student of zen and consider myself a pantheist though it pretty much never comes up in discussion. :)

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