In the blog entry below this one, I touched on an incident that occurred in New Mexico which has set a fire in the blogosphere. That entry drew a lot of criticism from folks who want the involved officers, and their little dog too, to be hung out to dry because they took a guy to the hospital for a rectal exam because they thought he had hidden drugs up his butt. The examination found no drugs. The examination went to an extraordinary degree: multiple digital anal probes, multiple enemas, and finally, a colonoscopy, all without the suspect’s consent.
A disproportionate number of the critics were first time posters here, generally an indication that they read somewhere else that I disagreed with them, and just had to fight. No comments on that last blog entry here have been deleted at this writing; I encourage debate here, unlike the anti-gun blogs. I do, however, appreciate it if those with opposing views at least know what they’re talking about.
Let me address some of the issues.
“They didn’t find drugs, so they were wrong. Punish them.” Sorry, folks, that’s not how it works. To make a long story short, “You don’t have to be right, you have to be REASONABLE.” Do a Google search for Graham v. Connor. The suspect, with a long record of drug arrests, was known to one officer to have stuffed drugs up his butt before; the drug-sniffing dog alerted to the driver’s seat where he had been sitting; and, what first alerted the officers to that area of his body, he was visibly clenching his buttocks tight.”
“They based it on an anonymous tip! Punish them!” No. ONE basis of multiple bases was that another officer said the suspect was known to put drugs up his butt. The fact that the officer giving that information was not named in the warrant does not make it an “anonymous tip,” and only someone with a child-like grasp of the criminal justice system would think so. It’s more like “transferred probable cause.”
“He was anally raped by the authorities! Punish them!” Uh, no. Any cop with experience and good training, like any experienced medical professional who works the emergency room, knows of cases where drug suspects have hidden the dope in their body cavities and died from that act. It normally comes from swallowing a baggie of heroin or a balloon full of cocaine, but anally-inserted drugs can act even faster than those taken orally. If these officers AND medicos had failed to investigate this and the man died, the same anti-authoritarians would be calling for all their heads for letting him die untreated and unexamined. The cops followed the protocol: when there’s a medical issue, turn it over to the medical people. No cop held a gun to the head of the physician who ordered the more extensive and invasive testing. When digital examination and X-ray were done, don’t you think there was SOMETHING that made the medical professionals involved continue the testing? Some considerable time elapsed between the arrest and the colonoscopy: by that time, any physician would have to consider the possibility that the drugs had already been absorbed, and might reasonably do the colonoscopy to detect other signs of that having happened.
I have to note that, to my knowledge, none of the bloggers who fueled the flames for outraging the public even considered any of this when they made their initial inflammatory posts.
But one other hospital refused to do it! That’s the way it looks. However, I also know of one hospital whose policy is that if they have reason to believe that the conscious adult patient has swallowed poison and he refuses to be examined and treated, personnel are under orders not to examine or treat. Was that policy in place at the first hospital? I don’t know. I do think that in any hospital with that policy, Risk Management needs to cross-pollinate with the Ethics Committee.
But the warrant was from another jurisdiction, and had timed out. If there is good reason to believe there may be life-threatening substances inside the patient’s body, exigent circumstances (look it up) have kicked in. That triggers the doctrine of competing harms/doctrine of necessity/doctrine of two evils. (Look those up, too.) The importance of the warrant now pales.
We all need to apply common sense. One commentator in the last blog entry noted the striking comparisons of this case to Florida v. Zimmerman. In many respects, I have to concur. Each trope came first from plaintiff’s counsel, unanswered by the defense (and the involved authorities) until much later. In this case, the defense (the police and the medicos) have not yet put their defense forward. We’ve seen their warrant from before the fact of the examination, but not their reasoning for what they did next. Doctors are constantly under siege from bogus malpractice complaints, cops likewise with false excessive force allegations, and lawyers tell their defendant clients “We won’t try the case in the press.” Thus, only one side gets heard.
It’s laughable that the cops did that for the suspect’s safety, according to one critic. And, cops have no responsibility for our safety. BS and more BS. A “special relationship” existed between the officers and the suspect the moment the investigative detention began. Once they came to believe he may have stuffed enough drugs up his butt to kill him, they had both legal and ethical duties to seek further examination. And if, when the docs caught the ball and did the examinations, they didn’t see some reason to continue looking, why on earth would they have done so? Cui bono? What would the docs who did the exams have possibly had to gain at that point, if those medical professionals DIDN’T have reason to think it was necessary?
The medical records and testimony will come out at trial, if not before. Don’t judge based on one side, get outraged at what that one side told you, and then feel a need to defend it so you won’t be embarrassed by being on the wrong side when the truth comes out.
Let’s wait to hear from both sides.