This paper will look at police brutality and the prosecuting of the officers of the events; from the earlier era in America to the present day. If will also look at how the media can shape the narrative that is presented to the public at large an how that effects how police brutality is viewed as a whole. Then finally look at whether or not America has gotten better or worse when it comes to police brutality.
Society today is a highly connected society through the use of social media and other news sources. Now when events happen they can be shared around the U.S. and the world in the matter of minutes or hours. Due to this there has been a rise of awareness of police brutality, throughout the populace. In the following paper we will look at specific police brutality events and their outcomes. Along with looking at how the media can affect the perception of the event to the populace.
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Police brutality isn’t a new development but a problem that has unfortunately existed since there have been police forces. Looking at an early case of police brutality brought to the Supreme Court can highlight some of the difficulties there were with prosecuting police for their behavior. Screws v. United States is a great example of this. Claud Screws was the sheriff of Baker County in the state of Georgia. He arrested Robert Hall, a Negro, for tire theft. He handcuffed him and then drove him to the police station where he and two other officers beat Hall with their fists and 2 blackjacks. (Robert, 1945) Then dragged him to the jail cell and called an ambulance, where Hall died without gaining consciousness. Screws and the other individuals claimed Hall used offensive language and reached for a gun. (Robert, 1945) The State of Georgia did not prosecute the individuals and the United States Attorney with Department of Justice ended prosecuting them. The individuals were prosecuted under section 52 of title 18 of the United States Code. This is important as it was used to because by killing Hall the Sheriff and his deputies denied Hall his constitutional right to not be deprived of his life without due process of the law. (Roberts, 1945) A trial by jury found the all three defendants guilty and they were fined 1,000 dollars and sentenced to 3 years in prison, the crime was considered a misdemeanor. The defendants appealed to the Fifth circuit court of appeals who affirmed the conviction. (Robert, 1945) However, it then went to the Supreme Court where the end result was a little more complex.
There were four opinions from the court with the majority being a re-trial due to the vagueness of section 52 and its application to this event.
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