Defense attorney Mark Geragos on Tuesday argued over the objections of retired NYPD Detective Harry Houck that the shooting of an unarmed South Carolina man was just the latest in an "epidemic" of police officers killing black men.
After video surfaced on Tuesday of North Charleston Officer Michael Slager, who is white, shooting 50-year-old Walter L. Scott in the back as he fled, Van Jones explained to CNN host Anderson Cooper that there would have been no murder charges if the incident had not been recorded by a cell phone.
"We see this over and over again, the police report says, 'This black man is dangerous, 'I was so afraid for my life, oh my God, I had to do something, he was going to kill me,'" Jones noted. "And now we finally have something where nobody can say that the police report was true, and you get this murder charge."
"But what if there had been no video? What if it had just been another situation where another unarmed black man was killed and the police officer said, 'Well, he grabbed me, he had my weapon,' and we would have all gone on as if nothing happened. We have to start dealing with the fact that there are two standards of justice in this country."
Geragos agreed that similar incidents happened "all too frequently."
"The police always come up with the same thing, it's like a standard script that they teach at police university 101: always say that there is a threat, always say that he reached for your gun, and then say he wrestled for your gun," Geragos remarked. "This is an epidemic in the various communities of the U.S. And unless somebody sees it with their own eyes -- this is what's so crazy about it -- they will not believe that this is possible."
Houck, who started a private consulting firm after retiring from the NYPD, admitted that there was no reasonable defense for Officer Slager's actions, but he vehemently denied that black men dying at the hands of law enforcement was a problem in the United States.
"This does not happen all the time," he said. "Alright? These are very few incidents for the millions and millions of police officers that interact with people every day, alright? This is not epidemic proportions... What happened in Ferguson and here in New York, even the U.S. Attorneys office is not going after them for civil rights violations. Those two incidents, those officers were justified in what they did, alright?"
"I understand you're a cop and you've got your position," Geragos shot back. "I could tick off a hundred examples in the last two years. The only reason you've got to fess up at this point is because there's a video tape."
"Let me just tell you something, Harry," he continued. "It happens all the time and it happens in these communities generally where they do not have a voice. And the problem is that unless there's a video tape, nobody wants to believe that it happens."
Geragos said that he had observed a pattern in 30 years of practicing law.
"There's one thing that happens repeatedly, is you hear the same story every time, virtually almost as if it's a script coming out of the cop's mouth whenever there's a shooting," Geragos observed. "It's going to be the usual script that they read from. The fact remains that he was pulled over for a broken tail light."
"You know, my father was a prosecutor for many years [and] used to say, there's more guys in state prison for broken tail lights than any other offense. Broken tail light means go hassle somebody of color. That's what it's code for go pull over -- some B.S. justification."