Justine Damond: Post mortem

BY TONY BOUZA

The Damond case is a one-in-several-decades of events. Bound to be pored over, examined, analyzed and judged. I admit to rapt fascination with its facets.
Frequently overlooked—and to my regret, by me—is the origin of it all.
Justine Damond was coming to the rescue of a human being she believed to be a victim of assault. Ms. Damond deserves a medal and I’d have awarded her one posthumously.
The case is a potpourri of failures—notwithstanding a settlement that at least tried to make partial amends.
From the beginning the shooter should’ve been recognized as having committed a murder. Instead, the victim is deprived of her personhood by being called “the threat.” The driver was an accomplice, who not only walked but stonewalled the inquiry and supported the killer.
In order to justify such a shooting there must be a real danger of deadly injury. So the cops manufactured one, demonized it by calling it “the threat” and cast a heroine under the bus. The jury did not buy it.
The press—America’s foremost institution—was suppressed. Jefferson would have winced in horror.
The murder charge required “a depraved mind,” but the jury was in the dark. The phrase infers a reckless disregard for the consequences, and the result is evil. Throwing a safe out of the window over a busy sidewalk might be an apt example.
And there is the settlement. Ah, yes—and I was wrong. The actual amount was double what I feared would be an outrage. It proved a double outrage. And guess who pays? You.
Curiously, most of the cops will be exempt. They don’t live in Minneapolis.
Respondent Superior is a legal concept meaning that superiors are responsible for the work of their servants—up to a point. A steward has general responsibilities for outcomes—but not for all. Only for those s/he should have known about—and done something to mitigate. An insurer is responsible for each separate act. A subtle, but huge, difference.
Why didn’t the city disavow employees committing criminal acts? I asked the City Council this question in 1980 when they opted to pay for an officer’s acts when I had disciplined him and disavowed the action. He was not my agent when he broke the law. A very simple legal concept. The Council voted to pay.
Every citizen of Minneapolis—even Enso Benyo—should be outraged and insulted over having their pockets picked.
The case is muddied by the reversal of racial roles, but what is forgotten here is that the cop is blue—neither white nor black. I will, however, hasten to add that, had he been white and the victim black the courtroom would’ve been stuffed with cops in uniform, offering solidarity. The union supported the cops, but not with their usual passion.
That, I sincerely hope, is my final word on a case that is far from over. The appeal will be interesting for what is bound to be said about instructions to jurors.
No one will say this, but, in the end, these cases evolve into two issues—money and retribution. One of the unspoken tragedies resides in the intra-family squabbles frequently inspired by thinly concealed pecuniary motives.
Stay tuned.

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