Virginia prosecutor Tom McKenna and I never seem to agree on anything (except maybe guns) and my previous post in response to a police officer’s complaint about the verdict in the Ryan Frederick case is no exception:
A blogging police officer complains of a manslaughter conviction for a dope dealer who killed a police officer attempting to serve a search warrant at his Chesapeake, Virginia house. (lots of the backstory here).
“Dope dealer” is kind of a stretchy term. Since drugs are illegal, there aren’t any approved stores or mailorder suppliers. Everybody who has drugs is usually willing to sell to some to their friends. Technically, that makes them drug dealers. But in reality, there’s a big difference between someone who sells to his friends, and someone who sells drugs as his job.
Since Frederick got up every morning for his job driving a delivery truck, I’m guessing he wasn’t exactly raking in the cash from his tiny grow operation.
Now, this pot head, Ryan Frederick, has been written up cloyingly in Reason and has become somewhat of a poster child for the 420-loving crowd, who see this drug bust gone awry as more evidence of the failure of the drug war and the evils of the supposedly gestapo-like tactics used by police to persecute these peace-loving pot smokers.
That’s because it is more evidence of the failure of the drug war and the evils of the methods used by police to persecute peaceful drug users. Obviously, Tom doesn’t see it that way, and I’m not going to convince him.
Example: Windypundit in turn getting upset with the blogging officer, says this:
Alright Scott, here’s something for you to think about: All this happened because Ryan Frederick was suspected of growing marijuana, a crime which has no victims. The next time you or your police buddies decide to do an armed home invasion because you think there might be evil plants inside, remember that there are hundreds of thousands of potential jurors out here who won’t mind too much if you get your ass killed. Maybe that will make you stop and think about what you’re doing.
Right. So on one side we have an angry officer, upset that a jury in Chesapeake, Va. (a very conservative community) did not find Frederick guilty of murder. On the other side, we have the dope heads and their ideological friends trying to make a Joan of Arc out of this Tidewater Toker.
Alright, I have to admit that the part where he quotes me sounds a bit harsh. On the other hand, I was responding in kind to the blogging officer’s vaguely threatening suggestion that the jurors should stop and think about what would happen next time they called the police if the responding officers knew they had voted to acquit. I wanted him—or people who agree with him—to understand what it sounds like coming back at them.
While it appears that the police might have been more cautious about using the particular informant in this case, there was evidence presented that Frederick, despite denials, knew the police were coming to his house, and indeed had been operating a grow room in the preceding weeks (not to mention the trivial fact that police knocked and yelled “Chesapeake police–search warrant” five times before having to force entry).
If I remember right, the evidence that Frederick knew the cops were coming was from informants of questionable reliability. In fact, among the parade of jailhouse snitches was one who was such a notorious liar that a prosecutor from a neighboring county felt obligated to speak up about it in the middle of the trial.
Whether the police yelled anything loudly enough for Frederick to hear is also disputed. The police say they did, but the prosecutor couldn’t find any neighbors who heard them yelling, and the defense found seven who said they didn’t.
(The situation was confusing and happening fast, so maybe the neighbors weren’t very alert and all seven of them missed the police yelling, but even if the police announced the warrant properly, that’s not the important issue. What matters is whether Frederick knew they were police. So if all seven neighbors missed the yelling, maybe he did too.)
At one point, the prosecutor even tried to imply that Frederick’s prison weight-gain showed he was unremorseful for killing a cop. I’m no lawyer, but it sounds like he was really reaching to try to prove his murder case.
And the bottom line is that the jury clearly rejected his claim that he was acting in self-defense from an unknown intruder– self-defense is an absolute defense, if believed, to the offense they convicted him of manslaughter. By the same token, the jury apparently was hesitant to condone the way the police investigated this case and chose to execute the search warrant.
I think the jury also clearly rejected the claim that Frederick was intentionally trying to kill someone he knew to be a cop. He did something reckless that got a cop killed, but it’s not like he was trying to do that. It’s kind of like he drove too fast through an intersection and accidentally struck a cop directing traffic. He probably wouldn’t get a murder conviction for that either.
A modest suggestion: if the police work in the case was less than optimal, it can hardly excuse the Tidewater Toker, who had no justification to fire a shotgun at a Chesapeake police officer.
Yes, but one of the things both Tom and the blogging cop are both glossing over is that Ryan Frederick did not get a walk on the shooting. He’s been sentenced to 10 years in prison on the manslaughter conviction. He’s going to pay for the death of officer Shivers. He’s just not going to pay with his life.
That neither “side” is entirely happy probably means the jury got it just about right.
Could be. Press accounts of the details of shootings are always sketchy, but it sounds like Frederick shot at someone without identifying his target properly as a threat. If so, the resulting verdict sounds reasonable.
By the way, the fascist Nazi drug cop who “got his ass killed” was Jerrod Shivers, a Navy vet and a decorated police officer with a wife and three children.
Hey Tom, I think calling Officer Shivers a “fascist Nazi” is uncalled for, and you should apologize. At least, I assume that you think he’s a “fascist Nazi” since I sure as hell didn’t call him that.
Officer Shivers is yet another casualty of our stupid war on drugs, and although he was part of the police operation that initiated this violent mess, it’s unfair to hold him responsible. He was just doing his job. If the Chesapeake police department hadn’t gotten it into their head to conduct an armed home invasion to nab a guy growing a few pot plants, none of this would have happened. Ryan Frederick wouldn’t be in jail, and officer Jerrod Shivers would still be alive and taking care of his family.
May he rest in peace.
On this we agree.