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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

If Only There Was a Video Recording ...

As I lament the killing of Trayvon Martin, and the acquittal of his killer in Florida a few days ago, I can't help thinking: if only there was a video recording of the crucial events of that evening.

One thing which everyone agrees upon is no one other than George Zimmerman now can know with 100% certainty what happened that night.   In the absence of eyewitnesses, and, even worse, a video of the events, we are forced to rely on our ever fallible logic and emotions.

Eyewitnesses of course can be mistaken or can lie.  A video can on its own do neither, but can certainly be spliced or pointed in directions which distort the truth.  Still and all, it provides a record of events in general more reliable than eye-witness testimony.

Video recordings have already righted serious wrongs in our society.  A video recording in 1991 brought Rodney King's beaters - Los Angeles police officers - to trial.  And although they were acquitted of assault in state court, two of the officers were found guilty in Federal court of violating King's civil rights, and were imprisoned.  Video recordings brought the cop who killed Oscar Grant in 2009 in San Francisco to at least some justice.  In New York City last year, Alexander Arbuckle was acquitted of bogus charges brought against him by the NYPD during an Occupy Wall Street event.   Fortunately for Arbuckle and the truth, Tim Pool had recorded the event and what preceded it on his smartphone.

Opportunities for video recording are increasing.  Not only does every smart phone come with video recording capability, but developments like Google Glass will make them even easier and less intrusive to use.   We can not go back in time and see what happened to Trayvon Martin.   We can and should fight racism on every level, but we can never rid the world entirely of bad people.   In the difficult course of attempting to bring them to justice, we need all the technological help we can get.

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