A6 · SUNDAY, MARCH 13, 2016

GUY WATHEN | TRIBUNE-REVIEW

Maria Hamilton’s son, Dontre, was killed in 2014 by Milwaukee police Officer 1

Prosecutors must prove officers
acted ‘willfully’ to deprive civil rights
CIVIL RIGHTS · FROM A1 accountable short of sending
them to prison.
Declining to charge
The U.S. Attorney’s office for “Going hands-on with a pat- Federal prosecutors have declined to charge law enforcement officers with violating someone's civil
Western Pennsylvania opens down that was not justified by rights in more than nine out of 10 cases.
files for even minor accusa- reasonable suspicion resulted
tions that the FBI investigates in the confrontation,” Flynn Cases prosecuted Cases declined Percent declined
against a police officer, said said six months after the shoot-
Steve Kaufman, chief of the 8 416
ing. “The confrontation clearly
office’s criminal division. escalated to a very dramatic, 1995 98.1%
“We don’t hesitate to open violent and dangerous end.” 12 829
a file on a civil rights case, Justice and the U.S. Attor- 1996 98.6%
yet it’s one of the most diffi- ney’s office for Eastern Wiscon-
cult cases to gather sufficient 15 811
sin reviewed the incident after
evidence to prove it beyond Milwaukee’s district attorney 1997 98.2%
a reasonable doubt at trial,” declined to press charges. 28 1,023
Kaufman said. Nearly a year later, in Novem-
“Obviously, then you do have 1998 97.3%
ber 2015, the federal prosecu-
a relatively high percentage tors declined to charge Manney. 22 859
that don’t end up being pros- “Even if there was reliable 1999 97.5%
ecuted.” evidence that indicated that 27 976
Convicting a police officer of Manney’s actions were unrea-
a civil rights violation is one 2000 97.3%
sonable, there is insufficient
of the toughest challenges a evidence to prove beyond a 34 858
prosecutor can face, numerous reasonable doubt that he acted 2001 96.2%
legal and civil rights experts willfully — that is, with a bad
told the Trib. 25 886
purpose to violate the law” as 2002 97.3%
Police Accountability’s established in a 1945 U.S. Su-
Futterman agreed but said preme Court ruling, acting U.S. 27 914
that doesn’t excuse the lack of Attorney Greg Haanstad and a 2003 97.1%
prosecutions. top Justice Department official
“Just because they’re chal- 21 805
said in a letter to the family. A
lenging cases should not mean 2004 97.5%
copy of the letter was obtained
they should not be brought,” by the Trib. 28 584
Futterman said. Manney has appealed to 2005
Another explanation is that 95.4%
Milwaukee County Circuit 31 485
prosecutors are doing their Court to have his firing re-
jobs by rejecting bad evidence, versed. His lawyer, Jonathan 2006 94.0%
said Jim Pasco, executive direc- Cermele, declined to comment 30 499
tor of the national Fraternal but provided a legal brief that
Order of Police. 2007 94.3%
quotes Manney saying he con-
“Maybe they’re not taking ducted the pat-down because he
38 465
the cases because they’re not noticed bulges in Hamilton’s 2008 92.4%
good cases,” Pasco said. “It clothing and suspected he 38 400
could be 96 percent of the time. might have had a weapon.
Do you know how many false 2009 91.3%
“Based on ‘the totality of
complaints are made against the circumstances,’ (Manney) 38 385
police officers?” believed Hamilton ‘posed a 2010 91.0%
Milwaukee mess significant danger to [his] 29 442
safety,’ ” the brief states. 2011
No one disputes that Milwau- 93.8%
Manney did not mention
kee police Officer Christopher seeing the bulges until three 28 274
Manney killed Dontre Ham- months after the incident, 2012 90.7%
ilton with 14 gunshots on an according to a separate city
overcast April afternoon in a 28 318
investigation.
park across from City Hall. Jonathan Safran, a Milwau-
2013 91.9%
But after kee attorney who represents 19 306
the incident, Hamilton’s family, said he had 2014 94.2%
Milwaukee hoped Justice would take the
police Chief 4 168
case based on Manney’s initial
Edward Flynn contact. 2015 97.7%
fired Manney In 2004, Safran represented a
for conducting man who was beaten, slashed
NOTE: FOR RECENT YEARS, MORE CASES DO NOT YET HAVE A CLEAR DISPOSITION, MEANING PROSECUTORS HAVE NOT YET DECIDED
WHETHER TO CHARGE OR DECLINE. THIS DATA EXCLUDES THOSE OPEN-ENDED CASES.
an “incorrect and tortured by off-duty police
Manney and out-of- officers. After a local jury
policy” frisk on
Hamilton without reasonable
acquitted the officers, federal Lack of evidence
prosecutors won four guilty
suspicion. pleas and three convictions. Federal prosecutors most often say they lack enough evidence
Manney told investigators “We always believed the feds to charge law enforcement officers with civil rights violations.
he started frisking Hamilton were a last resort but that they The top reasons they cited are:
from behind, leading the man would come through,” Safran Percentage of
to drop his arms to pin the offi- said. “I’m not feeling that way Reason total citations
cer’s hands. As they struggled, anymore.”
Hamilton struck the officer Weak or insufficicent admissible evidence
5,959 29.2%
with his hand, then grabbed Police on a pedestal?
Manney’s baton and swung at Lack of evidence of criminal intent
Motive is the main legal
him, witnesses said. Manney 5,085 25.0%
stumbling block for prosecu-
drew his weapon and kept fir-
tors in charging law enforce- Declined per instructions from Justice Department
ing until he ran out of bullets.
ment officers with a civil rights 3,310 16.2%
Hamilton, a diagnosed
violation, legal experts said.
schizophrenic, had not received No federal offense evident
A 1945 U.S. Supreme Court
his medication because of an 9.2%
ruling, upholding the ability of 1,865
issue with his insurance, his
federal prosecutors to charge
family said. Insufficient evidence
local police for depriving some- 5.0%
The shooting was in self-de- 1,022
one of their civil rights, said
fense and justified, Flynn said.
that prosecutors must prove NOTE: PROSECUTORS CAN CITE MORE THAN ONE REASON FOR DECLINING A CASE
The frisk was not, the chief
that the police acted “willfully.” Source: Tribune-Review analysis of Department of Justice National Caseload Data, 1995-2015
said, adding that there has to
be a way of holding officers CIVIL RIGHTS · A7 TRIBUNE-REVIEW