There are a lot of stupid reasons to oppose Tony Cornish’s “Stand Your Ground” bill; most of them are outright lies, as with pretty much anything Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom has written on the subject.
You rarely get the one slightly less-dumb question: “is there any real need for this bill?” I’ve had a few earnest and not-unintelligent lefties ask over the years. “Can you name a single case of an otherwise law-abiding shooter that’s in jail strictly because they didn’t retreat enough to satisfy a county attorney?”
There’ve been a few examples in Minnesota over the years – but none quite as dramatic as this perversion of “justice” in Iowa that’s just gotten “resolved”< after a fashion. Jay Lewis – an Afro-American man from West Des Moines – shot a man who attacked him
A former security guard and law enforcement officer, Lewis also is a hunter and gun collector and came to Iowa with a permit to carry a concealed weapon…Ludwick, a former soldier and convicted felon, was driving four people home from a Halloween party. Documents say Ludwick slowed; Lewis passed him. Ludwick sped up, and the cars raced down 11th Street until they came to Regency Woods. They collided when Lewis, in front and on the right, started to turn left.
Lewis said Ludwick and a passenger, Justin Lossner, got out of the Taurus and began punching the Mustang’s windows.
They backed off when Lewis pulled out his .380-caliber pistol. But they came back.
Lewis said he was outside his car, evaluating its damage, when he caught Ludwick and Lossner trying to sneak up on him from two different directions.
There’s one mistake, of course; it behooves one to maintain a zen-like calm when you’re carrying. If the story went as the article says it did, and had it occurred in Minnesota, Lewis might be lucky he didn’t get dinged for being a willing participant.
But that’s irrelevant – as we’ll see in a bit:
The recording of a 911 call made by Lewis begins with Lewis yelling at the two to “just stay where you are. Get back! Get back! I’m going to start shooting!”
There are exchanges of profanities while Lewis explains the situation to a police dispatcher. Then, “Get away from me. Get away from me!” And a bang.
Ludwick was shot, Lewis said, when Ludwick turned away as if to retreat, then spun back and charged. Records say the bullet hit Ludwick in his chest above the right pectoral muscle, then tore through his right bicep.
Now, here’s the important part; a jury backed him up:
Jurors found Lewis’ actions entirely appropriate.
“He gave them fair warning,” jury forewoman Nancy Alberts said. “Normally, anybody that would pull a gun on someone, you would think that they would stop. … That wasn’t the case here. You could clearly hear on the 911 call where he warned Mr. Ludwick.”
Ludwick, who had a blood-alcohol level of 0.189 when tested at the hospital that night, did not return phone calls requesting comment. Court records show his history includes multiple convictions for felony theft.
So here’s the situation so far: after an altercation on the road, two drunk men attacked Lewis. damaging his car (the article didn’t note if the car was driveable). Lewis drew, and when the two perps kept attacking him, fired, wounding the guy.
No, it’s even more ludicrous than that (emphasis added):
West Des Moines police arrested Lewis for failing to back off and avoid the gunplay. He was charged with two counts of intimidation with a dangerous weapon and one of going armed with intent.
And if he’d left, would they have booked him for “leaving the scene?” And how on earth did they show “intent?”
The initial bail asked Lewis to post $225,000 cash.
Lewis, who made $32,359 a year at the IRS, didn’t have the money. So he sat in jail.
In other words, for a shooting that was in every way completely justified except for failing to run away (the article doesn’t tell us if he could have driven – away from the scene of an accident with significant damage, mind you), but in which a pencil-necked county attorney, working in a warm, well-lit office surrounded by deputies and metal detectors, decided that he should have found some way to run away from two attackers.
He lost his apartment (not for failure to pay, but because the case, and the attendant publicity, defamed him with his landlord to the point where he got evicted essentially on a morals clause) and his job. His landlord filed for eviction while he was in jail; the court system, in all its passive-aggressive glory, didn’t notify him of the action until all of his property was sitting out on his curb, where the deputies confiscated his small weapons collection, and his neighbors confiscated the rest of his property.
Which disqualified him from being released early, as a first-time offender with a job and therefore a low flight risk, because – wait for it – he had no place to go!
So for 112 days, he languished in jail – due to a bitchy decision by a bitchy county attorney, the passive-aggression of the county court system and his landlord, and being too poor to post $20,000+ in bail. His life was ruined.
And what happened?
Prosecutors eventually dropped most of the charges. Trial on the sole remaining count, reckless use of a firearm causing injury, began on Feb. 6. and ended late on Feb. 8.
It was over early the following morning.
Let’s reiterate that; prosecutors – working in safe, warm, comfy environments with nobody attacking them – took their sweet time to decide maaaaayabe they didn’t have a case; they lost the one charge they ended up bringing to trial.
Not for shooting, or even injuring, the attacker; that was never in legal question. Merely for failing to run away from the accident scene and his car, being chased by 2-4 angry men.
A man’s freedom, and entire life, have been destroyed over a couple of lawyers’ bobbleheaded passive-aggressive canoodling over an abstruse legalistic quibble over whether he ran away fast enough.
Polk County Attorney John Sarcone said that he accepted the jury’s verdict but that the case deserved to go to trial because Lewis’ actions raised a sufficient number of questions.
“We just don’t allow people to go shoot people,” he said. “Using deadly force is a last resort. It shouldn’t be the first resort.”
Which is not just a strawman, but a stupid one; at no point did anyone suggest it was Lewis’ first action.
What Lewis’ case shows is that current law works, [Polk County Attorney] Sarcone said: “I don’t know why people are afraid of jury trials. I’m not.”
I had to sit back and let my brain try to wrap itself around the arrogance, presumption and stupidity of that question.
Not just in the “of course you’re not afraid, it’s your job” sense of the term. More like “I’ll just bet you’re not, asshole! You have all the taxpayer money in the world to fight your cases; I, citizen, might be lucky to make bail, much less fight against your entire department and all its resources…
…over a case that wasn’t about the rightfulness of the shooting at all – merely about whether I should have run away, and run away fast enough to satisfy you”.
I’m less worried about Mr. Lewis’ gun than I am about prosecutors like Jim Backstrom’s lying demigoguery or Sarcone’s legal onanism.
That’s why we need Rep. Cornish’s bill.
Have you called your Senator yet? Maybe a few of ’em? If not, why not?
(And I know it makes me a bad person, but whenever I hear prosecutors look at cases like this and say “the system worked”, I really really do want to see them go through a perverse miscarriage of justice themselves, just to see how the rest of us live).