Letters: The Kelly Thomas verdict
Re “Ex-officers acquitted in beating,” Jan. 14
Ironically, the Kelly Thomas verdict comes almost one year to the day after the senseless homicide of Ethan Saylor, a 26-year-old man with Down syndrome who died at the hands of sheriff’s deputies trying to remove him from the Maryland movie theater he entered without a ticket.
While Thomas’ attackers were acquitted, Taylor’s were not even indicted. In both cases, justice was not just evaded, it was denied.
Cases like Taylor’s and Thomas’ are significant events, particularly for the disability community. They illustrate the desperate need to improve the training and oversight of law enforcement and other first responders who encounter people with disabilities. How many more deaths must we endure before action is taken?
The writer is a disability rights attorney.
What a travesty of justice. I cannot believe that the jurors could come up with this verdict after seeing the graphic video in which two rogue cops beat a helpless mentally ill man unconscious.
I am the mother of a son with schizoaffective disorder, a physician and a lecturer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. We know that mentally ill people may be difficult to “control” and that their behaviors may be “trying” to law enforcement, but that does not give police a free hand to beat them so severely.
If the police have no other way to subdue people like Thomas, then we should all be very afraid and outraged.
Deborah R. Ishida
Tears welled in my eyes as I began to respond to the acquittals of the ex-officers in the beating of a mentally ill homeless man.
That being said, as an African American, I can sympathize with Kelly’s grieving parents and the protesters, as this tragic verdict reminds me of the time that four Los Angeles cops were acquitted in 1992 after having severely beaten Rodney King.
Defense attorney John Barnett is quoted in The Times as saying that the officers did “what they were trained to do.”
What kind of training says that it is OK for police officers to brutally beat an unarmed, mentally ill homeless man?
The jury’s decision emphasizes how important it is for people with serious mental illness to get medical treatment so they don’t have to wander the streets in a psychotic state.
In California, we have Laura’s Law, which could prevent the next Kelly Thomas tragedy. It allows for the forced treatment of people with serious mental illness. However, counties can decided whether to implement Laura’s Law.
On the federal level, another action promises better treatment. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) has proposed HR 3717, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. This bill would fund Laura’s Law pilot programs and provide for more police training on how to handle the mentally ill.
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