Charlie Quimby may be the Twin Cities’ generally least-insane leftyblogger, but it doesn’t mean he’s not prone to some wishful thinking:
After all, Minneapolis has a ripe current case that provides a provocative example of the ambiguities surrounding self-defense claims.
Now, Charlie’s been debating the proposed changes in Minnesota’s self-defense laws wtih Joel Rosenberg for a few weeks now – but if he thinks this case is “ambiguous” – well, he’s learning. A few more weeks with Joel might help. And so for the second day in a row,I’m gonna go after something he’s written.
Let’s be clear on a few things.
As we’ve talked about on this blog many, many times, there are four criteria that the accused must achieve to the satisfaction of a jury (or, preferably, to prosecutors before any charges are filed) to claim self-defense. I’ve you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know ’em, and may skip ahead. They are:
- You can not be a willing participant in the scuffle
- A jury must believe that you feared death or great bodily harm.
- A jury must believe you made reasonable effort to disengage – whatever that means to the prosecutors, judge and jury (which was one of the points of Tony Cornish’s “Stand Your Ground” bill).
- That jury must believe that lethal force was appropriate.
Oh, and if you use a gun outside your house or place of business, you should have a concealed carry permit (although illegal carry might not be used against you in a self-defense claim).
Finally, if you’ve taken a concealed carry training class (I do endorse my arma mater, Joel Rosenberg’s class), there are, let’s just say, certain standards of behavior you need to follow after using lethal force in self-defense.
Now, let’s remember; the debate is about the rights of law-abiding gun owners who follow the rules; not about the “rights” of people who are too criminal, impaired or stupid to follow the law.
Tyeric Lessley believed it was life or death.
In town to celebrate his fiancée’s birthday, the 22-year-old and his two cousins were leaving a downtown Minneapolis club early March 17 when they crashed into a pickup on Washington Avenue S. Lessley got out and started to walk away, but Darby Claar went after him.
So let’s add up the pros and cons of Mr. Lessley’s case, and his career as poster boy for the law-abiding gun owner who’d benefit from Tony Cornish’s bill – and in so doing, let’s take every element of Quimby’s story at face value. On the one hand, Mr Lessley was apparently not a “willing participant”. On the other, the story doesn’t mention if he’d had anything to drink at “the club” (the legal limit to carry a gun with a permit in Minnesota is .04) – which begs the additional question, did he have a permit? I’d suspect not, or Heather Martens would have held a press conference – but, as it happens, evidence appears later:
Lessley’s family claims racial epithets were shouted and punches thrown. As Lessley stumbled to the ground, he pulled out a .44 caliber Smith and Wesson handgun and fatally shot Claar in the chest. Within minutes, a random twist of fate shattered two families.
So did Lessley “reasonably fear death or great bodily harm” from a guy armed with his fists, and “is lethal force appropriate” in dealing with a guy who evidences no actual weapon (wouldn’t brandishing the gun have worked)? Both of those are questions for trial. But, again, the more interesting question is “was Lessley carrying legally, with a Minnesota permit?”
Evidence to contrary follows:
Lessley planned to turn himself in because he had no doubt the shooting was in self-defense, relatives said. Before he did, a SWAT team arrested him at his aunt’s house. It wasn’t until Lessley saw a news report on a jail television that he realized Claar, 32, was dead.
If you’ve had any of the training that’d qualify one to get a permit (and to legally have a firearm under the circumstances in this story), the following would have been repeatedly beaten into your head, to the point where you repeat it in your sleep:
- If you ever even DRAW your pistol, you call the cops; from the scene if possible, from as close by as is prudent if there is continuing danger. Even if you didn’t fire a shot. Even if all you did was scare someone off with a gun.
- If you did shoot; when the cops arrive, show them any evidence. And then lawyer up. And don’t consent to a search. And say nothing else without your lawyer holding your hand and, preferably, moving your tongue by remote control.
- Do not run to your aunt’s house. Do not assume that it’ll go away. Even if you never fired a shot – to say nothing of pumping a .44 slug at point blank into someone’s chest.
If you learn nothing else in concealed carry training, you learn this.
So I’ll say this without fear of rational contradiction; Mr. Lessley was not a legal carry permit holder. I can’t speak to his motivations for carrying a .44 on a night of clubbing – and either can Charley Quimby – but he was certainly not the law-abiding, honest, trained, competent citizen that the Minnesota Personal Protection Act and the Cornish/Pariseau bill are designed to protect.
Lessley is the father of three children. He recently received an Applebee’s employee of the month award because of his rapport with customers.
I feel for the guy – on many levels (levels which will be revealed in an episode of “Twenty Years Ago Today” in about ten months). It’s a shame one of his customers hadn’t been one of Minnesota’s certified carry permit training instructors. It woulda saved everyone a lifetime of heartache.
He was charged with intentional second-degree murder. Lt. Amelia Huffman, head of the Minneapolis Police Department’s homicide unit, said she’s not surprised he would argue self-defense.
“But in this scenario, we had only one person who was armed with a weapon of any kind,” she said. “There are no other aggravating factors that I believe would lead a reasonable person to feel they were in a situation in which they would be likely to lose their life.”
And while I feel for Mr. Lessley, that might seem to be that. It’s an ugly, stupid situation.
And as an indictment of the behavior of the law-abiding, trained permit-holder (or citizen at home), it’s really a non-sequitur.