In the case of Mark Domino, justice was not swift but it was served Thursday.
Back in late June, Domino got caught up in a case of mistaken impression. Someone gave the 52-year-old African American’s description in reporting a case of car prowling at Walmart.
Domino was a store employee who did nothing more than enter his own automobile.
But when two Clarkston police officers arrived and demanded his identification, he got indignant and refused.
Where is it written that any American is obliged to hand over his papers? Rather than de-escalate the situation — the officers could have run Domino’s license plate without incident — they reacted. Wrestled to the ground, Domino ended up tased and in handcuffs. Video captured the incident for the social media audience to see.
Clarkston City Attorney Todd Richardson charged Domino with two misdemeanors — resisting arrest and obstructing a law enforcement officer. If convicted, Domino risked being sentenced to almost a year in jail and being fined $5,000.
Domino dug in his heels, too. He challenged the process, demanded a speedy trial and insisted on representing himself.
The plea bargain offer Richardson initially put in front of him wasn’t much of a bargain: Domino had to sign a guilty plea but Richardson would not formally file it with the court as long as Domino avoided any more scrapes with the law. At some point, Richardson would dismiss the entire matter.
That carried risk for Domino. Violate its terms and Domino would bypass a trial. He’d be in front of a sentencing judge.
It had him living on “pins and needles,” so he refused.
How did all of this look to Richardson?
His worst outcome, of course, was to try the case and have a jury return a verdict of acquittal.
Winning a conviction wasn’t much better.
How would it look to have an African American arrested on a questionable tip by white cops, charged by a white prosecutor, presided over by a white judge and convicted by, presumably, a white jury?
For his part, Domino admitted to stress, sleepless nights and countless hours studying law books.
By Thursday, common sense prevailed.
The trial was deferred. Domino and Richardson retreated behind closed doors and talked it over. When they emerged, the two had agreed to a stipulated order of continuance.
It gets the same result as the plea-backed deferred prosecution — if Domino avoids anything more serious than a traffic ticket for the next three months, the case is closed.
But there’s a big difference: Domino retains his presumption of innocence. He’s not required to enter a plea of any kind. If he breaks the agreement, Domino’s trial resumes.
That’s a significant concession on Richardson’s part. Although he maintained the strength of his case, Richardson acknowledged the cops may have been “impatient” in handling a man who, with the exception of this one “little hiccup” had been a “model citizen.”
For his part, Domino waived any threat of a civil lawsuit.
Good for both of them.
And good for Clarkston Police Chief Joel Hastings. When his agency’s internal investigation cleared the officers of violating policy or the law earlier this year, the chief maintained the June 24 incident offered “an opportunity for learning and will be used to enhance and improve the way our officers interact with the public moving forward.”
In that spirit, Domino has volunteered to meet with Hastings’ officers to give his side of the story.
“I had hoped all along this case could be resolved without going to trial,” Hastings told the Tribune’s Kerri Sandaine. “I’m pleased they found a resolution and I support the prosecution’s decision.”
When all sides sit down, let them begin by asking: What is the greater good? Anyone can act like Inspector Javert from “Les Miserables,” who pursued the letter of the law with no regard to its spirit. Community policing requires enforcing the law without losing sight of our common humanity — which in this case clearly would have involved calming the situation with Domino, not inflaming it.
How much time and effort have Hasting’s officers expended these past five months to reach the same meeting of the minds they might have achieved within 90 seconds at the Walmart parking lot? — M.T.