A Further Perspective

I Accuse the Murderers of Miriam Carey

So when did we stop valuing American lives?

By 10.17.13

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Two weeks ago Miriam Carey, with her toddler child in the back seat, was gunned down by police and security officers after a harrowing car chase. We now know more about what happened, and what we’ve learned makes the shooting look wholly unjustified.

It would have been justified to kill Miriam had she tried to kill the president or a police officer. That’s not the story that’s emerging, however. Instead, it’s as reasonable to suppose that she took a wrong turn, had a small accident, and panicked.

According to the Oct. 14 Hartford Courant, the police report describes Miriam’s driving as “erratic.” Rather than stopping at a security checkpoint near the White House, she turned around and left, knocking down a policeman in her confused effort to escape. A car chase ensued, with police firing at her moving car, and when Miriam’s car was finally blocked in so she could not move, the police fired into her car, killing her. She didn’t have a chance.

Was Miriam “a potential assassin or a confused, frightened person suffering from mental illness trying to get herself out of danger,” the Courant asks. It doesn’t answer the question, and the doubt it expresses suggests that it’s open season on people who have small accidents with a barrier near the White House. When in doubt forget the presumption of innocence, shoot to kill.

A similar note of doubt has also begun to creep into the opinions of the intellectuals and experts who had previously been certain that Miriam was a potential killer. In an October 10 Washington Post opinion piece, John Jay professor James Mulvaney suggested that if a suspect doesn’t obey an officer’s command, they should “try a different approach…..Try a request instead of an order. Shouting like an Army drill sergeant can be counterproductive…” And that doesn’t even begin to describe what happened. Instead, there was a wild police chase, with a half dozen policemen shouting at Miriam and waving military grade weapons.

So maybe Miriam wasn’t a “potential assassin.” For the police apologists, maybe she was simply suffering from a mental illness. I wasn’t aware that that was grounds for execution, but then I’m a little out of touch with modern theories of capital punishment. The problem, however, is where is the proof? The press has jumped on this, with the same absolute certainty with which they had previously identified her as a killer, but where’s the evidence? Her doctor hasn’t confirmed that she was unbalanced. Her sisters and friends deny it. Prescriptions for the anti-depressants Risperidone and Lexapro were found in Miriam’s apartment. Big deal. Over half the country must be on one form or other of these medications. And no medications were found by police who searched her apartment and her car. In any event, even assuming that being on anti-depressants is a capital offense, how did the police know about this when they killed her? On the bright side, we’ll have gone a long way to cutting health care costs if cops get to shoot people who are subsequently discovered to be on anti-depressants.

All this misses what’s going on. For those who want to justify the unjustifiable, it’s important to make us think that Miriam was different from us. Otherwise we might think that this could have happened to any one of us who made a wrong turn and panicked. In my husband’s admittedly politically incorrect opinion, “She was just driving like a woman.” (War on women, anyone?)

If she was just like any of us, then it follows that the police might one day try to kill us. Because it’s not so uncommon these days for ordinary police officers to fire at American citizens. And there’s no public outcry. When did the lives of ordinary Americans become disposable?

After World War II, the Soviet army equipped its soldiers with Kalishnikovs. They were cheap, easy to use, operated even when dirty. Only thing was, they had no accuracy and they jammed, so Soviet soldiers stood a good chance of being killed. American soldiers were equipped with high quality rifles, with a high degree of accuracy. They were expensive, but then it was understood by everyone that we valued the lives of our soldiers more than the Soviets valued theirs.

Yet last Sunday we saw police in riot gear eager to take on elderly veterans demonstrating in front of the White House, not a few in wheelchairs.

When did we stop valuing American lives? We support abortion on demand, during any trimester, without even a requirement for parental notification in the case of minor children. We accept partial birth abortion. A video has gone viral recently showing someone stopping people on the street to ask them to sign a petition in favor of post-birth infanticide. Remarkably, people sign, even a mother with a young child in tow, even when it’s explained to her that she should have the right to infanticide up until the child is at least 3 because the choice should be hers.

We support death panels that will condemn certain of our sick and elderly to die, without right of appeal. Last June, Kathleen Sebelius preferred to condemn a 10-year-old child to certain death rather than make an exception to a rule that provided that the cut-off age for the surgery was 12. She was overruled by a judge. More recently, Harry Reid was asked by CNN’s Dana Bash about nixing a proposed bill to fund NIH cancer research during the government shut-down. “But if you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn’t you do it?” asked Bash. “Why would we want to do that?” Harry Reid responded.

The message to take away from the Miriam Carey tragedy is that the respect we used to have for the lives of our citizens is quickly ebbing. But there’s one kind of life that commands the highest degree of respect, and that is the class of rulers who stood up in Congress to cheer the killing of an unarmed woman. If they had any self-respect they’d try to make amends, and might do so with a moment of silence to honor the woman whose death they applauded.

I accuse Miriam Carey’s killers of murder.

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About the Author

Esther Goldberg is a lawyer in Alexandria, Virginia.