The Heather Ellis case that is occurring in Kennett, Missouri started nearly three years ago. Ms. Ellis joined a line at Walmart but was accused of cutting the line. She alleges that she was joining her cousin. You know...we have all done it..."You stay in that line while I stay in this line...if you get to the checkout station first I will join you." This seems pretty simple, but it turned into a racial debate that has divided this small town of 11,000.
Heather Ellis was a college student at the time of the incident and had no criminal history. One side of the story states that many white patrons yelled racial slurs at her when she went into the other line. She claimed that the employees refused to give her back her change and called the police. She states that one officer told her upon arrival that she needs to "Go back to the ghetto" and another roughed her up.
The other side of the story states that she was being unruly, rude, shoving merchandise, kicked one officer in the shin, and split another officer's lip (I saw none of this on the tape).
To make a long story short, she didn't want to plea for a lesser charge with the police so today she is going through a trial facing felony charges and up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
I have my opinions of the case. I feel that there this has been blown way out of proportion and if she were to spend another day in prison justice has not been served. I realize that my opinion does not carry as much weight as those who were actually there because the only way that I know about the case is from what I read about. However, I want to make a much broader point in this case...how do you respond when police officers arrest you?
I am growing weary of hearing stories about people who continue to loudly express their opinion once police officers arrive. Professor Gates continued to express his disgust at the officer once he arrived and now Heather Ellis (from what I saw on the camera footage) was not walking away quietly. BOTH in my opinion should not have been arrested but BOTH in my opinion once the officers arrived needed to "SHUT UP!"
I want you to read these lines very carefully...
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?
My uncle, Chuck Smiley rest his soul, was one of the most fierce defense attorneys ever seen by Dayton, Ohio. He would continuously state that many times cases were lost before he was even called because those who were arrested would feel the need to have diarrhea of the mouth killing any chances of an acquittal well before he arrived to their defense. To those reading this right now, please read the ONLY four things that you are to say if a police officer arrests you:
1. Yes Sir/Madame
2. No Sir/Madame
3. May I please speak with a lawyer?
You do not display an angry attitude, you do not yell at the officer, you do not be incompliant, and you make sure that even if you think that they are in the wrong for arresting you in no way should you resist arrest! I am not justifying or condoning police brutality or police abuse of power...we absolutely need to fight against wrongful arrest and abuse of power...JUST NOT AT THE TIME OF BEING ARRESTED! Fight it with your attorney after the arrest, fight it through the system by lobbying for more regulations and laws to be put in place, picket, protest, and do whatever you need to do; but when the cops say to you that you need to go downtown because you are under arrest SHUT UP, COMPLY, DO AS YOU ARE TOLD, AND ASK FOR AN ATTORNEY!
Gates tried to be a martyr and he was dragged away in cuffs, Ms. Ellis walked away with her finger waiving and now she is facing 15 years. Both were right to be upset, but both were wrong as to how they handled it! This impulse behavior to act without thinking about the repercussions needs to stop and there is not a value that one can place on a sound/rational mind!
I hope the trend of abuse of power by the police comes to an end. I hope that Heather Ellis does not get 15 years in prison and should not serve another day in prison. I also hope that those in the community learn from this moment as to how to act when arrested...think first!