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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Winning the War on Drugs

posted by on May 20 at 17:20 PM

This just in.

A jury convicted an Atlanta police officer Tuesday of lying to investigators after a botched drug raid in which a 92-year-old woman was killed, but cleared him of two more serious charges.

After deliberating for parts of four days, the jury convicted Arthur Tesler of making false statements. He was acquitted of charges that he violated his oath of a public officer and false imprisonment under color of legal process. Tesler, who is on leave from the police force, faces up to five years in prison.

Plainclothes narcotics officers used a special “no-knock” warrant to raid Kathryn Johnston’s home on Nov. 21, 2006. Police fired 39 bullets, hitting Johnston five or six times, prosecutors said.

An informant had described buying drugs from a dealer there, police said. Since the raid, authorities have said the warrant was based on false information. When the officers burst in without warning, Johnston fired at them, and they fired back, killing her.

Hooray, briefly. The jury decided the cop had been a schmuck and he should do time. Good. But, surprisingly, the offense under consideration wasn’t bursting into an innocent 92-year-old woman’s house and shooting her five times. Which seems pretty offensive. We’re told that these strong-arm tactics are necessary to stamp out drugs. Of course, stopping drug use is impossible, and these raids are a cure worse than the disease. As long as cops are encouraged to break down people’s doors and charge in with guns for routine drug enforcement, homeowners will continue to pull guns and get shot in their hallways. How long until “no knock” raids go on trial?

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Anyone remember the pole contraption used by Whoopi Goldberg's character to prevent this kind of forced entry in "Burglar"?

Posted by amazonmidwife | May 20, 2008 5:45 PM

I'm investing in Bear Trap companies ....

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 20, 2008 5:49 PM

I can't believe a 92 year old was spry enough to pull and fire a gun that fast.

Posted by El Seven | May 20, 2008 6:00 PM

I am surprised these kinds of raids don't routinely get overturned on fourth amendment grounds, but I'm not a lawyer.

Posted by Greg | May 20, 2008 6:03 PM

The victim in this case wasn't, oh, black by chance, was she?

[a few minutes Googling]

I am Jack's Complete Lack Of Surprise.

Get a few middle-class white women shot under these circumstances and the constitutionality of the no-knock may come under some scrutiny. Until then, it's the War On Drugs, ya know? The biggest threat after Terrorism? Right.

Posted by Tiktok | May 20, 2008 6:54 PM

sadly, i think tiktok is right on target with that observation. crimes against african americans go largely un or under-reported, and thus the public outrage which fuels legislative or legal changes is missing.

Posted by ellarosa | May 20, 2008 7:31 PM

I seem to remember a similar incident happening in Boston about 10-15 years ago. An elderly man suffered a heart attack when police barged in on his apartment looking for drug dealers who, as it turned out, lived in the place next door. And now that @5 and @6 mention it, I think the man was African-American. The whole war on drugs is a perfect example of the cure being worse than the disease.

Posted by RainMan | May 20, 2008 10:27 PM

I was in Atlanta when this happened a few years ago. The poor woman lived alone and had a gun in her house to stop any local thugs that tried to break in. When the police kicked in her door without a) warning or b) announcing themselves, she rightly assumed the worst. She did everything right in this situation. Which is, of course, why these types of warrants shouldn't be issued, least of all to the WRONG ADDRESS.

Posted by MK | May 20, 2008 10:27 PM


The frightening thing about this story is that, as I understand it, the address wasn't wrong. The police coerced an informant to give up an address of a dealer and that's the address the informant gave.

During the trial it came out that the drug task forces in Atlanta were under quota pressures and if they didn't perform at least x number of busts a month they could face disciplinary action. So they were encouraged to use some questionable and downright illegal means to get warrants.

They busted into the house they meant to bust into, and to cover their own asses when they figured out how badly they fucked up, they handcuffed that woman as she bled to death so they could plant some drugs while an officer stood outside and acted as a lookout.

This is a shining example of a color of law abuse and it's surprising that they're all facing such light sentences for it... and yes, it should also be an example of why the current approach to this "war on drugs" needs to be rethought.

It truly is a frightening story.

Posted by Unwelcomed | May 20, 2008 11:30 PM

How long until “no knock” raids go on trial?

Uh, I'd say about 1000 years.

Also, @ 5: I thought the biggest threat was Fagness, then terr-rism, then blacks. Opps, I mean drugs.

Posted by Mike in MO | May 21, 2008 5:25 AM

If Osama B.L. is very clever, he's going to start sending gay terrorists who sell drugs. And kidnap little blonde, blue eyed white girls.

Posted by CP | May 21, 2008 4:23 PM

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