Cross posted from the Frederick Leatherman Law Blog

Friday, October 10, 2014

Good afternoon:

For the following reasons, I do not believe the official police version of the shooting death of Vonderrit Myers.

A police officer cannot stop someone he suspects of committing a crime, unless his suspicion is reasonable. That is, a mere hunch is not sufficient unless it is based on an articulable set of objective facts and circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to suspect that a crime is being committed, was committed or is about to be committed. See: Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).

Race does not qualify as a reasonable suspicion. An investigative stop based on race alone is racial profiling, a Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment civil rights violation.

An arrest must be supported by probable cause or reasonable grounds to believe that a person committed a crime.

I have yet to hear any justification by the St.Louis Police Department for the officer’s attempt to stop and question Vonderrit Myers and two others other than they were ‘acting suspiciously.’

Acting suspiciously is an opinion, not an articulable objective fact or circumstance.

Therefore, I see a police officer violating the civil rights of Vonderrit Myers and two others that ended when he shot and killed him.

St.Louis Today is reporting,

A shot to the head killed an 18-year-old teenager shot to death Wednesday during an encounter with an off-duty police officer, the medical examiner said Thursday.

Preliminary autopsy results showed that Vonderrit Myers Jr. was shot from six to seven times in the lower extremities, said Dr. Michael Graham. The fatal shot entered the right cheek and was recovered in the body, Graham said.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed had suggested at a press conference earlier Thursday that the teen had been shot in the back of the head, but the autopsy did not find any gunshots to the back of Myers’ head.

I also have a difficult time believing that the officer waited for Myers to fire three shots, attempt to unjam his gun and fire more shots before he drew his own gun and squeezed off 17 shots.

That sounds like a movie script, not a real-life event.

As I stated in my post yesterday,

Many cops carry difficult-to-trace firearms acquired under questionable circumstances for the sole purpose of throwing them down on people they arrest or kill.

I have yet to hear whether any gunshot residue was found on Meyer’s hands and clothing.

I do not believe the official police version of this shooting, given the attempted unlawful stop, the absence of evidence that any gunshot residue was found on Myers’s hands and clothes, and information from witnesses that Myers was armed with only a sandwich, including the shopkeeper from whom he purchased it a few minutes before the encounter.

Frederick Leatherman

Frederick Leatherman

I am a former law professor and felony criminal defense lawyer who practiced in state and federal courts for 30 years specializing in death penalty cases, forensics, and drug cases.

I taught criminal law, criminal procedure, law and forensics, and trial advocacy for three years after retiring from my law practice.

I also co-founded Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW) at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle and recruited 40 lawyers who agreed to work pro bono, assisted by law students, representing 17 innocent men and women wrongfully convicted of sexually abusing their children in the notorious Wenatchee Sex Ring witch-hunt prosecutions during the mid 90s. All 17 were freed from imprisonment.