Radley Balko reports with some astonishment that a grand jury in Burleson County, Texas has refused to indict a man who shot and killed a police officer who was conducting a SWAT-style raid on his home:
Last December 19th, nine of the 10 members of the Burleson County Sheriff’s Department staged a raid on the rural home of Henry Magee. […]
By the time the raid was over, Deputy Adam Sowder was dead. Magee shot him as Sowder and his fellow deputies attempted to force their way into Magee’s home. Magee was arrested and charged with capital murder — the knowing and intentional killing of a police officer.
Earlier this month, District Attorney Julie Renken presented the case against Magee to a grand jury. “I made a very thorough presentation on Texas law on cap murder and Texas self defense law,” Renken told me in a phone interview. “There were over three hours of testimony. I did not make a recommendation either way. I just wanted to present the law and evidence very fairly.”
Remarkably, this week the grand jury returned a “no-bill” on the murder charge. That is, they found that Henry Magee had acted in self-defense.
As Radley notes, this is a remarkable ruling:
“I don’t know of any other case where someone shot and killed a police officer in the course of a drug raid has been no-billed by a grand jury,” [Magee’s defense lawyer Dick] DeGuerrin says. “At least in Texas.” Over the course of about eight years of covering these raids, I don’t know of one outside of Texas either.
Scott Greenfield notes how remarkable it is, but he’s worried that the wrong people will get the wrong message:
Yet, this scares me to the core. How many fans of the John Bad Elk decision, incapable of grasping that it is not good law, have been chomping at the bit for a “no bill” like this? There will be armed men and women in tin foil hats with their fingers tightly grasping their weapons praying for someone to walk through that front door so they can put them down.
To the nutjobs, this story proves what they have been thinking, saying, all along. This proves they have the right to kill cops. This proves they can defend their home from the thugs with shields. This proves it.
I agree. We surely don’t want crackpots getting the message that it’s now okay to kill cops.
But…I wouldn’t mind if some cops got that message. That is to say, I think it would be a good thing if more cops realized that it is possible to cross the line — that in the course of their job, there are acts they could engage in that are so hazardous to citizens, and so lacking in justification, that a grand jury would conclude that they were no longer entitled to the protection of the law, because they were no longer the good guys.
I just want to send that message without any more people getting killed.