Thursday, October 04, 2007

In The Line of Duty

by Joyce Tremel

This week I've been following the murder trial of Leslie Mollett, who is accused of murdering Pennsylvania State Trooper Joseph Pokorny on December 12, 2005. Nine minutes after pulling a car over for speeding, Cpl. Pokorny was shot and killed execution style with his own weapon.

According to the prosecution, the defendant was stopped with two other passengers by Cpl. Pokorny. A scuffle between the officer and the defendant ensued, and when Cpl. Pokorny used his OC spray, the defendant grabbed the trooper's arm and directed the spray back at him. The defendant then took Cpl. Pokorny's gun and shot him. The first shot went through his side (missing his vest) and through both lungs. Cpl. Pokorny then dropped to his knees and put his hands in the air. The defendant then shot him in the back of the head.

Witnesses who were in the vehicle with the defendant took off when the scuffle began, but heard the shots fired. One witness stated that the defendant then called him on his cell phone stating the officer "got three to the head."

One of the things that makes my skin crawl(other than the murder itself), is the defendant's lawyer playing the race card. He seems to think that since the victim was white and the defendant is black, it makes everything okay. It doesn't matter that there's a ton of physical evidence, DNA, etc. He doesn't want people getting "caught up in the undercurrent of emotion." Right.

For more details on the case, including the Affidavit of Probable Cause see this link to the Post-Gazette coverage. If you have the stomach for it, listen to Cpl. Pokorny's last radio transmission.

Cpl. Pokorny was a seasoned state trooper with 22 years of service. He was well aware and well versed in the dangers involved in what most people would call a routine traffic stop.

There is no such thing as a routine traffic stop, or routine anything in police work. According the the National Law Enforcement Memorial website, "A total of 1,649 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty during the past 10 years, an average of one death every 53 hours or 165 per year. There were 145 law enforcement officers killed in 2006."

I know that not every police officer is a candidate for sainthood, but most of them are not in it for the glory, and certainly not for the money. Most of them really do want to protect and serve.

12 comments:

Tory said...

What an awful story!

And yes, playing the race card makes it even uglier. Still, I guess that's what lawyers are paid for: to use whatever they have to win their case. It sounds like, other than that, it's pretty open and shut.

mike said...

Joyce--all good points worth repeating, so thanks.

Did you see on the news that two "spectators" who had warrants against them for various charges were arrested at the trial? What in god's name were they thinking? That there would be no police there? That they wouldn't be recognized? Proves the old saying that some/most criminals really are stupid.

Joyce said...

I know, Mike. I cracked up when I saw that! Fortunately for law enforcement, a lot of criminals really are stupid.

Tory, I know everyone is entitled to a defense, but some of these lawyers need to draw an ethical line. This particular lawyer and his partner are always all over the news any time there's a big case like this. As soon as I see either one of them, I know their clients are guilty.

ramona said...

Joyce, in the bit of research on police I've done for writing, the one sentence I think I have read more than any other is "There is no such thing as a routine traffic stop." Your post today defintely proves that.

Maybe I am just more aware now, but violence against police seems to be in the news every day. Very sad, and scary.

Kristine said...

Joyce, this is a news story that brings about all sorts of emotions--sadness, fear, anger, etc. It just goes to prove how dangerous police work has become.

Gina said...

And yet I saw the accused's mother on the news insisting that he's a nice guy . . .

This reminds of something I heard right after the abuses at Abu Graib became known. I can't remember who was was being interviewed, but he was asked whether better training would have made a difference. He responded, "What kind of training makes someone a decent human being?"

Here, the defense lawyers will probably focus on things like the killer's background and society's problems, but the core question goes back to basic human decency, and the question is what kind of person shoots someone who is already disarmed and wounded?

Joyce said...

Gina, those are excellent points!

Joyce said...

Check out this article. It is not for the squeamish, though.

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/
cityregion/s_530797.html

Lee Lofland said...

I'm a little late with my two cents, but here goes:

Police work has always been dangerous. One differnce today is that media coverage is much more extensive; therefore, we're able to see more of the incidents. Private video footage has also added to that coverage.

The amount of violence toward police officers has increased with the availablity of higher powered weapons and weapons that are capable of firing multiple rounds of ammunition.

The list of reasons that violence toward police officers could go on and on. Dare I mention that the rights of offenders come before those of the officers? How about the fact that there is no rehabilitation in our prisons which often results in the prisoners coming out in worse shape than when they went in.

Oh don't get me started...

Joyce said...

Lee! I was wondering where you were.

Go ahead, tell us what you really think...

Kristine said...

I agree, Gina.

Lee, one of the things that really stuck out for me in your book is when you write about "routine" traffic stops and all the precautions cops have to take (mentally and physically) because they just never know what's awaiting them. That really hit it home for me.

Lee Lofland said...

It's a shame that police officers always have to assume the worst. But it's either that or risk not going home.