Noted Criminal Defense Attorney Responds to My “Prosecutors don’t just rubber-stamp police decisions,” and I Reply
By Ken K. Gourdin
Note: In a letter to the editor to the Salt Lake Tribune’s Public Forum (“Favoring the police,” Salt Lake Tribune February 5, 2011 A11) noted Utah criminal defense attorney Ron Yengich responded to my Op-Ed (“Prosecutors don’t just rubber-stamp police decisions,” Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 2011 A11.) Mr. Yengich wrote that in contrast to a citizen who uses deadly force to defend himself, to defend someone else, or to defend his habitation, there is a “super-presumption” that police officers are innocent as compared to citizens who are armed and who respond “in an identical fashion.” Mr. Yengich wrote that prosecutors “accord police action a greater presumption of legitimacy than [are those of] regular citizens.” I wrote the following letter to the editor (“On deadly force,” Salt Lake Tribune, March 20, 2011 O2). I wrote:
On deadly force
In “Favoring the police” (Forum, Feb. 22), Ron Yengich states that citizens using deadly force are treated differently than police when they react “in an identical fashion.” Just how identical two sets of circumstances are depends on how thinly one slices the salami.
Yengich ignores important differences between officers and citizens: Police are far better trained in the use of deadly force, they have more resources and, most important, they are tasked by the state with initiating the administration of justice to lawbreakers.
I am justified in using deadly force against an armed intruder who breaks into my home obviously intent on harm. Once that intruder flees, the threat and my justification cease. I am not then justified in shooting him regardless of whatever threat he may pose to the general public.
Conversely, if I notify the police who later stop someone matching the description, he must obey officers’ commands to stop, surrender any weapons and submit to further investigation or arrest.
If he does not, officers may use deadly force because they reasonably believe that he, having already threatened someone, poses a continuing danger.
If Yengich does not like that distinction, he’s free to argue to change the law.
Ken K. Gourdin