02/11/2013 08:34 am ET Updated Apr 13, 2013

You Can't Just Execute Him

"You can't just execute him," said attorney Glen Jonas.

Jonas is representing Emma Hernandez, 71, and Margie Carranza, 47. The two women were delivering newspapers when police officers simply opened fired on their pickup truck.

That same morning, David Perdue was pulled over by police and cleared to go. Shortly after, a police vehicle slammed into his pickup and officers started shooting at him.

In both cases, police justified their actions by claiming mistaken identity. They were looking for Christoper Dorner, a very large, black male, and thought their victims might be him. Well, Perdue is a slight white man driving a pickup of a different brand and color. He is several inches shorter and a hundred pounds lighter.

In the case of Hernandez and Carranza, the confusion is even more baffling. How could someone confuse an elderly Hispanic grandmother with Dorner? In addition, their pickup was a different make, model and color, as well.

Jonas says his clients received, "No command, no instruction, no warning. They just opened fire on them." He says the two women "had no idea what was going on. They're huddling, covering up and praying and hoping they're not going to die." The older woman was shot in the back and is hospitalized in good condition. The younger one was shot in the hand and is still traumatized.

Jonas, however, notes that even if police had reason to think the two women were Dorner, they had no right to shoot. "They still have to give the guy an opportunity to surrender. You can't just execute him."

Isn't that what police were attempting? Simply execute the man on the street? Dorner had threatened cops and the police force was ready to take him out. They were so ready they opened fire on three innocent people, without bothering to check identity first. They didn't run license plate or even bother to check the make and model of the pickup trucks.

What they knew, was that a killer who terrorized police, was driving a pickup. From that point on, the officers made executive decisions as to who was, or wasn't, guilty and handed street justice, with no regard for due process.

Due process of law is meant to prevent injustices such as this. The Founders put it rather clearly in the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment says no person shall "be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."

Due process, however, isn't very popular with government officials today. Los Angeles police don't feel bound by it, and neither does the president. President Obama compiled a "kill list," including American citizens, he has unilaterally deemed worthy of execution. One such citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, was on the list.

The U.S. had tried to murder him several times befpre Awlaki's father took the matter to court trying to bar the president from having his son murdered. The Obama Administration argued that execution decisions are "state secrets," that they would not reveal evidence justifying it, nor the process used to pick targets.

As Glenn Greenwald wrote: "He was simply ordered killed by the President: his judge, jury and executioner."

Obama's action differs little from those of the LAPD shooting at innocent people in the hope of killing a man they considered a terrorist of cops. Obama, however, has one advantage the LAPD lacks. He can simply redefine terrorists so that anyone killed by the drone assassination program is a terrorist -- and that is what he does.

The New York Times exposed how Obama simply redefined terms to allow him to continue the very policies he had claimed he would end -- such as rendition. As for pesky "civilians" killed during Obama's drone attacks, the White House "in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent."

How convenient! Anyone the president has executed is considered guilty unless proven innocent after they are dead. There is no messy due process, no court, only secret evidence; the president personally judges the merits and orders the executions.

The poor LAPD has no such luck. They shot innocent people in a fit of hysteria, but can't redefine them as guilty until proven innocent, nor can they argue that their decision-making process is a "state secret." There will be lawsuits which will either be settled or go to a court of law. Obama's authoritarian executions face no such inconvenient roadblocks. Unlike the LAPD, he can act as wishes, denying due process to citizens -- he just gets away with it.

He will continue to get away with it for reasons easy to understand. First, victims of the LAPD were citizens within the borders of the U.S. Obama kills citizens outside the borders -- in distant places with little media scrutiny. People sympathize more with victims close to them, than those in distant places.

Second, victims of the LAPD are sympathetic. One is a 71-year-old woman, not a sympathizer with Islamist terrorism. Third, actions of the LAPD are open to scrutiny in the legal system, whereas Obama has his own private Star Chamber, subject to no legal scrutiny whatsoever.

The LAPD wasn't elected by devoted followers who see them as messiahs. Obama's voters have proven themselves ready to turn a blind eye to his actions, precisely because they adore him so fervently. Many Obama voters have the sort of dedication, and willingness to ignore certain truths, that normally takes cults years to instill. They have so much invested in his term of office they don't want to admit they were sold a bill of goods.