Two Georgia men are asking the Georgia Supreme Court to prevent prosecutors from seeking the death penalty against them. Two years ago, the two fired on police as they conducted a 1 am no-knock drug raid on the group house where the men lived. They say they thought they were being robbed, perhaps by rival drug dealers.
There's no question there was drug activity going on in the home. But other witnesses present for the raid say they had no idea the raiding officers were police. There also seem to be some problems with the warrant, which relied on two confidential informants, one of whom was later deemed unreliable by a state judge. In the months after the raid, the prosecutor initially tried to charge everyone in the house with murder, including one man who lived at the house but wasn't present at the time of the raid.
These guys obviously aren't poster children for the problems with no-knock raids. Let's put aside the question of whether or not they deserve the death penalty. The case also illustrates the point that these raids make things less safe for police, too. It's hard to believe even most drug dealers would knowingly take on a team of raiding police, unless they have a death wish. Drug penalties are severe, but knowingly killing a police officer is almost certain death, either at the scene or once the criminal justice system is through with you. Deadly force to prevent a rival dealer from stealing your supply? I can see that. Deadly force against a raiding police force? Seems far less likely.
Dep. Joseph Whitehead may well still be alive today had he and his fellow officers found a less volatile and confrontational way of serving their warrant.
The outcome certainly couldn't have been much worse.