Jim Backstrom: Still Wrong After All These Years

Dakota County attorney Jim Backstrom has built a long career as a “tough on crime” prosecutor.

Unfortunately, among Second Amendment supporters, he’s built an even bigger rep as a useful tool to the gun grabber lobby.

Of course, the orcs in the gun-grabber lobby love him; he’s one few orcs in politics who can dare speak out without much fear of losing his elected seat (unlike nearly ever anti-gun DFL legislator outside the ultraliberal metro area).  He can say pretty much anything he, and they, want him to.

And as we’ve noted in the past, much of what he says is completely wrong; one must conclude that if he, an attorney, doesn’t know he’s wrong, then he’s an not fit for the job, and if he does he’s using his office to serve as a political tool and to mislead the public (as we first showed almost four years ago).

And he’s at it again, sounding off in the Strib about Tony Cornish’s “Stand Your Ground” bill in a piece which is long on noise and short on fact:

The Minnesota Legislature is considering changes to existing laws concerning the authorized use of deadly force. Supporters see these changes as affording law-abiding citizens the right to stand their ground and protect themselves when confronted by dangerous criminals. In truth, this proposal (HF1467/SF1357) greatly expands the legal boundaries for the use of deadly force and will have significant unintended consequences.

Remember that for later in the piece – his affirmative statement that the law “WILL” have nasty consequences.

We’ll come back to it.

Currently, Minnesota law authorizes the use of deadly force, without an obligation to retreat, when done to prevent the commission of a felony in a person’s home. When not in his or her home, a person can rightfully use deadly force to avert a threat of death or great bodily harm to themselves or another, provided the person first attempts to avoid the danger if reasonably possible. In all situations, Minnesota law properly requires that the response be reasonable and necessary given the gravity of the danger faced.

The proposed changes would eliminate the duty to retreat before exercising the right of self-defense in all locations and permit a person to meet force with superior force, including deadly force, if the individual reasonably believes such force is needed to resist or prevent the imminent infliction of substantial bodily harm, great bodily harm or death.

Which is true – and, the way Backstrom phrases it, sounds almost reasonable.

And from Jim Backstrom’s perspective – a County Attorney, who renders his judgments sitting snug in a warm, well-lit office with metal detectors and Dakota County deputies at all the entrances, drawing on his background in criminal law from the perspective of the prosecutor, with its leisurely fitting of circumstances into laws to try to generate indictments and sentences, like a law-school analytical exercise, no doubt it is.

But for a woman taking groceries out of her car in her garage on a dark evening, when an intruder comes slipping under the door in the dark?  Does she have time to parse the situation – “this is on my property, but not in my house, and that looks like a knife but what if it’s just a wrench?  Does he intend to rape and kill me, or just rape and beat me?  Because a beating might not meet the legal definition of “great bodily harm”…”

Or if you’re a good Samaritan who just saw a thug thump a woman in a parking lot, and you give chase, and the thug confronts you with a gun in a dark alley; do you have time to think “does my “duty to retreat” mean I should stomp on the gas and hope I get away before he shoots me in the head?  Does my car accelerate faster than a 9mm bullet?”

It’s in situations like these that law-abiding citizens make life-or-death decisions in split seconds under mind-warping pressure – and, nationwide, in state after state, do as close to a unanimously good job of it as any sector of society ever does.

But under current law, county attorneys like Jim Backstrom, in their offices surrounded by metal detectors and armed deputies and their walls of law books, get to decide “no, lady in the garage, you should have locked yourself in your car and called 911”, or “yes, good samaritan, it’s your duty to try to outrun the bullet.”

And in both cases, it’d be Jim Backstrom’s option to haul you into court, and face his limitless budget with your life’s savings in a battle where lawyers will parse your intent against the letter of the law as Jim Backstrom or his minions decide to try to present it to a jury, with the prize being your freedom.

All for doing the right thing, but in the wrong county.

Backstrom and the other county attorneys oppose the “Stand Your Ground” bill not because there’s been any statistical evidence it makes life more dangerous – there is none, and it does not – but because it would take away some of the County Attorney’s discretion in otherwise-legal self-defense shooting.

And by “discretion”, we mean “power”.

Not all of it, of course; Backstrom is reciting the same lie that the left’s other useful idiots babble on this case; while it’d modify the “duty to retreat” in Minnesota law under certain reasonable circumstances, it would not touch the other three elements of justifying the use of lethal force; one must still…:

  • not be a willing participant in the incident – no getting into bar fights, and pulling a gun when someone pulls a knife.
  • Have a reasonable fear of nasty consequences – Whatever level of death or harm the law says, it’s still gotta convince a jury.
  • Lethal force must be reasonable – You can’t shoot someone who’s running away, or already been shot and is no longer a threat to you, or cowering on the ground in terror at your display of resolution.  No matter what some leftybloggers say.
All of those factors are the ones that define a wrongful shooting.  “Didn’t retreat far enough and fast enough to satisfy a county attorney” is just the sort of bitchy technicality that, absent a gross transgression on any of the above, makes a mockery of justice in these sorts of cases.

This proposal creates a presumption that deadly force can be used against someone who enters a dwelling by force or stealth, and it expands the definition of dwelling to include decks, porches, fenced-in areas, tents, other structures, and occupied watercraft and motor vehicles.

Backstrom says that like it’s a bad thing.

This proposal inappropriately creates a subjective standard of reasonableness of the actions rather than the objective standard in current law. In other words, the issue becomes what was in the mind of the person using deadly force, rather than how a reasonable person would have reacted under the same circumstances.

And there, Backstrom is truly full of it.  The law doesn’t “create” a “subjective standard”; it merely takes some of the power for defining that “subjective standard” out of his hands – a place where he apparently believes it’s perfectly legitimate.

Such a law would, in essence, allow people to shoot first and ask questions later whenever they believe they are exposed to substantial harm, regardless of how a reasonable person would have responded under the circumstances.

Let’s be perfectly clear here:

County Attorney Backstrom is lying.

The law would not protect people who “shot first and asked questions later”, if they were a) willing participants, or b) they didn’t reasonably fear death or great bodily harm, or c) the force they used was not reasonable under the circumstances.

If this proposal were to be enacted, there would be numerous examples of situations where the law would allow an individual to shoot and kill in self-defense, even though a reasonable person would never have done so.

County Attorney Backstrom is still lying.  These laws exist all over the country.  The scenario County Attorney Backstrom describes has never occurred in any of them. 

Do we really want to allow a driver who believes he is being threatened with substantial harm in a road-rage incident to shoot and kill the other driver, rather than calling 911 or simply driving away?

County Attorney Backstrom is lying.   Let’s look at the law to see why; if the mythical shooter in this situation couldn’t prove that he wasn’t a willing participant and that he reasonably feared death or great bodily harm and that shooting was legitimate, any competent county attorney could prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

And if they couldn’t?  Then perhaps Mr. Backstrom might entertain the notion that the shooting was legitimate.

Do we really want the law to presume that a homeowner has the right to shoot and kill an unarmed person who has entered a garage to steal a bicycle or other personal property, without first calling the police?

County Attorney Backstrom is misleading the audience.   Was the fear of death or significant bodily harm reasonable under the circumstances?  Was lethal force reasonable?  Again – any competent county attorney could prove this.

And if I were one of Mr. Backstrom’s attorneys, I’d wonder how confident he felt about my abilities…

Do we really want to authorize the use of deadly force in response to a push, punch or verbal threat without any inquiry as to whether a reasonable person would have done so under the circumstances?

County Attorney Backstrom is using misleading rhetoric.   Determining what a “reasonable person” would have done is, in part, the job of the justice system.  And if Backstrom’s attorneys can’t prove that a “push, punch or verbal threat” isn’t a “reasonable” grounds for using lethal force, do you think that they’re competent enough to get the perp on “duty to retreat” grounds?

Another problem with this stand-your-ground-and-shoot-first expansion of the right to use deadly force is that it would apply equally to dangerous criminals. With no duty to retreat, anyone can claim they are responding to a threat of serious harm and are therefore justified in escalating the confrontation and killing the other person. And keep in mind that under this proposal it is their judgment, not that of a reasonable person, that is the controlling factor.

County Attorney Backstrom is using misleading, alarmist rhetoric that also presumes the reader is a moron.   “Dangerous criminals” already claim self-defense; the clown who shot Sergeant Vick in Saint Paul a few years ago tried to claim it.  The county attorney made short work of the claim; the perp could satisfy no element of the claim. neitherparticipation nor fear nor reasonableness of force; “duty to retreat” and “on my own property” weren’t even relevant.

Any competent county attorney can separate a reasonable claim of self-defense using the criteria that area already, and will continue to be, part of the law, without touching the areas covered by Cornish’s bill.

No one is more concerned about the safety and protection of Minnesota’s citizens than I am as one of our state’s prosecutors. But current Minnesota law establishing the right of self-defense and the justified use of deadly force adequately protects law-abiding citizens. These proposed changes would unnecessarily expand the law of self-defense and encourage the use of deadly force as a first thought in response to danger.

County Attorney Backstrom is oozing contempt for the law-abiding Minnesotan.  In no case, nationwide, in any of the states that have adopted “Stand Your Ground”, has this happened.  In state after state, the law-abiding American has shown him and herself to be a pretty capable judge of the situations facing them; a law-abiding citizen is about 1/5 as likely to shoot the wrong person in an altercation as a cop is (which isn’t a ding on cops; they arrive on the scene of a crime when things can be exceptionally confusing; a law-abiding citizen usually faces a binary choice; shoot, or die).

Does Mr. Backstrom believe Minnesotans are more depraved than the average American?

The taking of a life should be a last resort. It should not be encouraged as a first response unless the danger is reasonably apparent to us all.

Yeah, it’s a good thing I had a f**king county attorney to tell me that.

Dakota County – why do you keep returning this hamster to office?

20 thoughts on “Jim Backstrom: Still Wrong After All These Years

  1. Besides three of my hunting buddies that happen to be attorneys, I wonder how many others attorneys read this moron’s spew and just cringed that one of their own could exhibit such stupidity? Maybe it’s going to take a few anti gun libturds being victims of violent redistribution of their property via criminal libturds to get them to wake up and smell what the Rock is cookin’!

  2. I have never lost a minute of sleep worrying whether law-abiding, reasonable non-felons have access to a gun. Conversely, liberal prosecutors who believe guns are self-firing and dangerous because of their very presence, ought to scare the hell out of everyone without a rap sheet.

  3. If this thing doesn’t pass, expect Backstrom to settle grudges with the very next case of self-defense involving a CC holder.

  4. Actually Mitch, given your examples it’s you whose lying and misleading. Both the woman in the garage and the gun-toting thug in the alley are covered under the current definition.

  5. Ears,

    You are objectively, empirically wrong. A woman in a non-attached garage is NOT covered by the exemption.

    And I don’t think even you know what you mean by “gun toting thug [is] covered” means. Please explain. This should be entertaining.

    Start by explaining which “definition” you’re referring to. Because I don’t think you know.

    I know the subject, Ears. I suspect you don’t.

  6. This is the same Jim Backstrom who was sanctioned by the Minnesota Bar Association for his tampering with a witness in a felony murder trial. He was forced to pay a large fine for his unprofessional and inappropriate actions. It’s also the same Jim Backstrom who fought in the Minnesota Legislature to maintain his ability to arrest and prosecute women suffering from breast cancer that used marijuana under their doctor’s supervision for pain relief and appetite restoration during chemotherapy. He’s a real piece of work. If he only lied, that would be a big improvement.

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  8. Earsall, I suggest you do a bit more research. First, you might start with Minn. Stat. 609.065, Justifiable Taking of a Life, which limits the privilege to “the actor’s place of abode.” Then you might look at State v. Glowacki (Minn. 2001) to see how the Minnesota Supreme Court has interpreted the common-law duty with respect to the home. Finally, this line from State v. Blom (Minn. App. 2010) might help: “Because appellant cites no authority extending the defense-of-dwelling exception to the duty to retreat beyond the home itself, appellant has failed to establish plain error.”

    I think you’ll find that Blom pled self-defense and LOST because the law doesn’t permit self-defense outside the home itself, instead, the law requires retreat; therefore, Mitch’s examples of the garage and alley are correct.

    A nice note conceding the error would be gracious.

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  18. Regarding the example where a woman fears being raped, doesn’t that qualify as grievous bodily harm? This potential juror thinks so!

    Otherwise, no quibbles, and the thing that’s very interesting is that when Backstrom argues that there is an “objective” standard of reasonableness, he’s not just lying, but he is arguing against the very nature of any standard of reasonableness. It is by definition subjective.

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