Thursday, April 12, 2007

Development in the Kathryn Johnston case

There's news from Atlanta, Georgia, where 88-year-old Kathryn Johnston was shot dead by police during a botched drug raid on her home. The warrant the police used to raid Johnston's home was apparently based on bogus information, raising the possibility of murder charges against the officers involved in the incident.

To escape a murder trial for his role in the raid, former narcotics officer Gregg Junnier has apparently reached a plea deal with federal and state authorities. The deal opens up the intriguing possibility that Junnier could end up testifying against his partners in uniformed crime.

It's rare that prosecutors go after police officers for their misconduct in botched raids. But then, it's rare that police leave behind as their victim a little old lady who can't be construed in any reasonable way as a threat to the public welfare. More often, the body is that of a relatively healthy man who has had a brush or two with the law that leaves wiggle room for officers to claim they feared for their lives.

But reports of such lethal and near-lethal incidents have been piling up as the frequency of paramilitary-style police raids has increased. With some police departments now using SWAT tactics to serve warrants for even minor transgressions, it's inevitable that tragic results will ensue.

So keep an eye on the Kathryn Johnston case. More developments are likely to be forthcoming -- and it may help change the way law-enforcement officers go about their business.



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