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Police violence rampant in many places

While the shooting and killing of 17-year-old unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, a "neighborhood watch" volunteer, sparked nationwide media attention, many similar shootings and beatings of innocent people or those committing minor infractions by police often escape media scrutiny. Criminal defense attorneys and many familiar with the operations of municipal police departments believe that these actions are far more common than many believe.

In one recent incident, New York City police in March shot and killed an 18-year-old teenager who was completely unarmed and whose only possible offense was having a small amount of marijuana. Whether he was even actually guilty of the minor drug infraction remains unclear, as his killing means he will never get his day in court. While there were news articles and a small local protest demonstration, the incident quickly faded from public awareness.

In another March incident, police responded to a 911 call about a supposedly stolen backpack by shooting and killing an unarmed 19-year-old African-American. The 911 caller apparently concocted a lie, telling the police that the backpack had been taken at gunpoint.

The truth is that police violence and killing of innocent people, especially of young African-Americans and Latinos, is so common in many areas that it takes an incident of unmistakable outrageous excess to even gain any media attention at all. An example is a 1999 incident in which a Guinean immigrant, unarmed but holding up a wallet that was mistaken for a gun, was killed by police firing 41 shots at him. The police in that incident were acquitted of any wrongdoing, as were police who shot and killed an African American man with 50 bullets the night before his wedding.

But it doesn't take a killing to be a victim of brutality or excessive force by law enforcement officers. If you feel you've been unfairly charged with offenses such as resisting arrest or assault on an officer, you may be able to have some criminal charges dismissed if you and your defense attorney can make the case that you were mistreated by police.

Source: The Atlantic Cities, "The Elusiveness of Police Brutality," Daniel Denvir, April 2, 2012

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