Amidst all the turmoil and unfounded opinion regarding the shooting/killing of unarmed black men, let me provide a Maine example that might bring pause for thought.

In the spring of 1971, at a stolen car stop in South Portland, Officer Robert Schwartz shot the driver, Edward Pizzo. The bullet, shot through the driver side window, passed through Pizzo’s neck, killing him. The bullet then struck a passenger as well.

A county grand jury did not indict Schwartz, but the U.S. attorney did bring civil rights charges that the officer did deprive Pizzo of his rights: to wit, his life. A year after the shooting, the case went to trial in federal court, presented by Paul Lawrence, a special prosecutor from the U.S. civil rights division. In the end, the jury decided that negligence at the hospital actually caused Pizzo’s death, and Schwartz was found not guilty.

The case went to trial at the insistence of the U.S. attorney, Peter Mills Sr., a Republican and one of the most principled people I have ever met. The victim, the accused and the jury were all white.

Whatever the U.S. attorney in all these current cases decides to do, expect whining and outrage from the right and remember, there is precedent right here in Maine to bring charges in federal court. Let a jury of all our peers pass judgment on what happened as they did in Portland some 45 years ago.

Stephen Aucoin


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