Ground Stood

Citizen in Alabama shoots, kills man who was herding customers in a dollar store into a back room at gunpoint. 

It seems like a no-brainer, right? Man with a gun is herding innocent third parties into a back room like a bunch of cattle.

Well, in Alabama it is.  Alabama has a “stand your ground” law, which says a law-abiding citizen has no “duty to retreat” when facing a lethal threat. 

Minnesota, of course, has no such law.  If the same episode happened in Minnesota, what would happen? 

That would depend entirely on the vicissitudes of the county attorney.  In Pennington County, the county attorney would likely buy the citizen a drink.  In Dakota County, Jim Backstrom – who has a long history of lying about law-abiding citizens and their right to self defense – would likely find any excuse he could to file charges. 

What does it say about our legal system when a persons’ freedom, life, liberty and exercise of their Constitutional rights is governed entirely by the whims, prejudices and bigotries of partisan hacks living in sinecures?

Dakota County: Can You Do Better?

We’ve been writing for years about Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom.

Mostly in the context of his pattern of lying about the law – in this case, about Stand Your Ground law proposals.  He’s repeatedly written op-eds about the law which completely misrepresent current and proposed law – making me wonder out loud how it is that a county attorney can be allowed to actively mislead the population about the law, like we’re a bunch of suspects under interrogation.

So with that context in mind, I suppose it’s good, if disturbing, to know that Backstrom does the same thing to other government employees.  Backstrom’s strong-arming of a Medical Examiner was behind the throwing out of the conviction of Nicole Beecroft, who was convicted of stabbing her baby to death in 2007.  I’ve added some emphasis:

However, medical examiners disagreed on whether the baby was already dead at the time of the stabbing. Beecroft’s attorneys struggled to convince the dissenting medical examiners to participate in the defense, in part because the medical examiners feared they would be fired, the Supreme Court found.

The Court’s opinion, written by Justice Paul Anderson, cited emails sent by Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom to Dakota County Medical Examiner Lindsey Thomas in which Backstrom argued that it would be a conflict of interest for Dakota County medical examiners to work with defense attorneys. “If you wish to be a defense expert, you should not be a public official representing Dakota County as our coroner,” Backstrom wrote in a Nov. 5, 2008 email.

And just like Stand Your Ground – Backstrom is either ignorant of the law, or counting on his subjects constituents co-workers being ignorant about it:

State law says medical examiners are independent and can testify for either the prosecution or the defense. Most of the state’s roughly two dozen forensic pathologists work for local counties. If medical examiners could not testify for the defense, the Supreme Court opinion noted, defendants would have to request expensive help from medical examiners in other states.

So think about this, voters of Dakota County.

You’re smart people.  You have a pretty successful county.

Can’t you do better than this?

Just saying, any of you attorneys out there who might be thinking about running against Backstrom next chance you get; let me know how I can help.

The Public Fraud

The First Amendment protects free speech (as well as the press, assembly, and worship provided that the subject isn’t contraception).

But it has limits.

Fraud is not free speech.  You need to speak to commit fraud – “Hey, you have money in Nigeria, and we need $1,000 in legal fees to get it for you!”, right?  But it’s illegal.

It’s not illegal, in most cases, to lie.  There is the odd exception – the Stolen Valor Act which, by the way, makes me uncomfortable; I’d rather have a group of Green Berets set an impersonator straight than some federal prosecutor.    In most other cases, it’s not illegal.

Indeed, in some cases it’s encouraged, even among public servants.  The Supreme Court has said it’s OK for cops and prosecutors to lie to suspects to get information out of them.  That’s acceptable, generally, although it’s led to the odd miscarriage of justice.

But I think there should be a great, shining exception to “freedom of speech”.  Officers of the court should not be able to lie about the law, to their constituents.

There are only two explanations for Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom so grossly misstated the potential effects of the “Stand Your Ground” bill, vetoed yesterday by Governor Dayton.

He Doesn’t Know Any Better And, Like The Strib “Editorial Board”, Just Wrote What He Was Told.  If he’s that ignorant of the laws he’s supposed to enforce, he should not be a County Attorney.


He Actively Misrepresented The Law To An Audience Including His Constituents. With the goal of influencing public policy (the bill was then in committee), Backstrom wrote an op-ed (not for the first time, mind you) that actively and knowingly tried to mislead the public by lying about the consequences of a law.

I don’t know the legal definition of fraud – and I don’t have to, to still be able to say “this sort of behavior on the part of a court official defrauds and actively disinforms the public, toward a political end”.

And while there never will be, there oughtta be a law.


Crimes And Misdemeanors Against Fact

Yesterday, I tackled a Strib op-ed by Jim Backstrom.  Backstrom, the Dakota County Attorney, wrote the latest in a long string of fact-challenged diatribes against the rights of the rigorously-law-abiding gun owner.

Now, Backstrom – who is not just an elected public official, but one in charge of enforcing the law by prosecuting accused criminals in Dakota County – has been misrepresenting facts  when it comes to the law-abiding gun owner for years.

Of course, we do have a First Amendment.  Freedom of Speech means freedom to lie like a sack of crap.  And as a general rule, I support the idea that the best way to respond to bad, stupid, misleading, lying speech is by responding with the truth, and more of it.  And I’m not changing that.

But I do have two questions:

Professionalism:  If a doctor were to go in the Star/Tribune and not just declare that, research notwithstanding, smoking cigarettes is in fact good for you, what would happen?  Would she be castigated?  Shunned by her fellow physicians?  Accused of professional malfeasance?  Have her records gone over by dogs trained to sniff out whackdoodelry?

Have her professionalism questioned for giving advice to the public that is directly counter to fact?

So why is it that Jim Backstrom – the chief prosecutor of one of Minnesota’s larger counties – is allowed, as a matter of professional integrity, to misrepresent Minnesota criminal law?  Because as I pointed out yesterday, that’s exactly what he did in yesterday’s op-ed, and in many before it.

Is there no requirement, legal or professional, that lawyers, especially lawyers who are public officials and officers of the court, refrain from actively and blatantly misrepresenting the laws they are charged with enforcing?

(Of course there is no legal requirement; I’d suspect that the same court decisions that allow cops to lie to suspects to trick them into giving information applies to county attorneys lying in the newspaper to the sheeple they’re responsible for herding).

Shouldn’t there be?

I mean, other than the next Dakota County attorney’s election?  Although as a point of principle, DakCo residents should take umbrage at a county attorney who lies about the law.  Even you liberals; if he misrepresents laws about self-defense, who’s to say the next one won’t be, I dunno, Voter ID?

The Same Old Song To The Same Old Beat: And yet again, the Strib prints without question or serious comment the opinion of someone who is simply empirically wrong about the subject.  On subject after subject, it’s been the Strib’s op-ed stock in trade for decades – and on none more than on the law-abiding citizens’ right to defend themselves.

The Strib continues to print the fact-less ravings of Heather Martens, Wes Skoglund, David Lillehaug, and of course Backstrom, without fact-check, without “gatekeeping”, without question, apparently for no other reason than (save Martens) they are big important (liberal) public officials.

Now, does anyone think the Strib would continue to publish, without question, op-eds from the doctor that claimed smoking was good for you?  Or would the circular-file his submissions after a while?

If that doctor were a powerful DFLer, apparently not.

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?

All The Untruthiness That’s Fit To Manufacture

The Minnesota Monitor – the local George Soros joint – continues its spiral from “amateur left-leaning news blog” down to “irredeemable propaganda mill”.

Last week, I busted Andy Birkey uncritically passing on talking points from Citizens for a Supine “Safer” Minnesota (not to mention Jim Backstrom’s out-and-out lies).

While neither Andy Birkey nor the MNMon have respnded to my methodical destruction of the article, they have added a new layer of critical excellence to the story.  

A bill to expand the self-defense definition that lets gun owners use deadly force failed a House committee vote yesterday. Rep. Tony “Stand Your Ground” Cornish, R-Good Thunder, says he still might try inserting the legislation as an amendment into another bill. Among other things, it would eliminate the requirement to retreat before firing on someone threatening.

As I noted in my earlier piece, there is no such requirement. Indeed, Minnesota law might be clearer if there were; what we have is a rather nebulous, open-to-interpretation requirement to make “reasonable” efforts to avoid using lethal force. Whether Dan Haugen’s lack of understanding is willful, or indeed irrelevant under the circumstances (if all you’re doing is passing on propaganda, really, a trained monkey can do the writing), their continued failure to understand the proposal they’re criticizing bespeaks a yawning credibilty gap.

But the job of the journalist (or “Citizen Journalist Fellow”) isn’t necessarily to know everything; it’s to explain things well – if necessary, by using “sources”, people whom the reader can reasonably expect to know something the journalist doesn’t.

And Dan Haugen does exactly that!

It could be worse. A lot worse. Last night the Colbert Report introduced us to a state senator from Tennessee who wants to legalize guns in bars.


Er…yeah. So – Fake news from a fake pundit, as a spinoff from a fake story using false statements from (mostly) phony authorities.

Now that’s meta!

Does Dan Haugen know that guns are “legal in bars” in Minnesota, already?  That if the bar isn’t posted for “no guns”, and the legal carry permit holder’s blood alcohol level is below .04 (the legal limit to carry a firearm – which is half of the limit for driving), it’s perfectly kosher?  (And that in four years there has been not one single problem with a legal permittee and his/her gun in a Minnesota bar?)

Has Dan Haugen , ace “Citizen Journalist”, done even that much research into this issue, or just gotten it all from the Colbert Report and Citizens for a Supine “Safer” Minnesota?

I’m guessing “b”.

Why Is Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom Lying?

There are people you expect to lie through their teeth about Second Amendment issues.

Heather Martens, the president-for-life of Citizens for a Supine “Safer” Minnesota?  You know she’s lying about Second Amendment issues when her lips are moving.  It’s her job.  No surprises there.

Wes Skoglund – the former Rep from South Minneapolis who famously claimed on the floor of the House that reforming the state’s concealed carry laws would result in legally-armed gang-bangers and permittees talking Wes Skoglund through Minneapolis?  The guy’s practically deranged about the issue – “lying” is the least of his issues.  (Dissociative behavior might be closer).

But Jim Backstrom, the tough-on-crime County Attorney from Dakota County (the southeast metro)?  A poster-boy for good, conscientious county prosecution?  A county attorney for whom I’ve expressly proclaimed admiration?  One would not expect him to write something chock-full of misleading claims and just plain hysterical buncombe more worthy of Wes  Skoglund than one of Minnesota’s most respected county attorneys.

Which is why it’s hard to explain Backstrom’s op-ed in the Strib last week, which has launched a lot of ill-informed but vigorous head-nodding in the local Sorosphere.  If I didn’t know better, I’d suspect it was ghostwritten by Heather Martens.

Or at least, if I were a gun owner in Dakota County, I’d hope it were.  Sorta.

Let’s take a look:

The Legislature is considering a significant expansion of our law regarding the authorized use of deadly force. Not only is this expansion unnecessary, it would be harmful to efforts to prosecute dangerous criminals who commit violent crimes.

When talking about “the bill”, it will be handy for the curious reader to be able to refer to the bill.  Read it here; I’ll also paste it below the fold.

The proposed law would allow the use of deadly force to resist or prevent any reasonably perceived threat of substantial or great bodily harm or death in any location and when responding to a reasonably perceived felony or attempted felony in a person’s dwelling or occupied vehicle.

Right, pretty much.  Backstrom doesn’t bother telling the reader that “resonably perceived” means “would convince a jury”, of course, but we’ll let that slide for now.  

It eliminates the duty to retreat, authorizes meeting force with superior force, creates a presumption that the response is “reasonably perceived” whenever someone enters a dwelling or occupied vehicle by force or stealth, and expands the definition of “dwelling” to include decks, porches, fenced-in areas and tents.

Backstrom is, at the very least, being misleading here. 

Once again – under Minnesota law, claiming self-defense requires that…:

  1. You’re not a willing participant in the altercation
  2. You have a reasonable fear of death or “great bodily harm”. 
  3. You make a reasonable effort to disengage
  4. The force used is reasonable

“Reasonable” and “Great Bodily Harm” are both legal terms, meaning “would convince a jury” and loss of limbs/eyesight/bodily functions/becoming crippled for life, respectively. 

There is no “duty to retreat” – merely to make “reasonable” efforts to get away from the threat (criterion 3, above).  What is “reasonable”?

Whatever your attorney can convince the jury.  And “unreasonable” is “whatever the prosecutor can convince the jury isn’t reasonable”. 

Someone beats your door down.  You come out of your bedroom with a gun.  You’re standing in the hallway by your kitchen as you see someone charge with a knife.  Do you shoot?  Or do you try to run through your kitchen and out your back door, with someone chasing you with a knife? 

You have one second to make that decision; run, or shoot? 

The county prosecutor – Jim Backstrom in this case – has weeks, even months, to decide whether you “should” have retreated, and whether or not to file charges.  He or she can judge your actions while sitting in their cozy office in Minneapolis or Hastings, while having lunch at the Oceanaire, wherever.  The county prosecutor can contruct their argument to try to sway the jury as to the “reasonable”-ness of your claim over the course of weeks or months, at taxpayer expense.  Along the way, he or she can (and will) try to influence the jury any way he or she can; race, gender, previous associations, all are fair game. 

Your attorney will try to argue, of course – at immense expense to you.

The jury – in a nice, cozy jury room, with bathroom breaks and armed guards keeping them safe – gets to take all the time they want to decide on the “reasonableness” of a life or death decision that you had exactly one second to make.

The Cornish bill merely gives the law-abiding home owner who meets all four criteria of legal self defense the legal cover, by taking away the prosecutor’s discretion to say “the defendant should have run away!”. 

As to “opposing force with greater force” – again, that takes away the prosecutor’s discretion to say “the attacker only had a knife; shooting him with a .45 automatic was not reasonable”. 

Supporters see these changes as merely affording law-abiding citizens the right to stand their ground and protect themselves when confronted by dangerous criminals. In truth, this proposal greatly alters the standards associated with the legal authority to use deadly force and will have some significant unintended consequences.

This proposal creates a subjective standard of reasonableness rather than the objective standard in current law.

What on earth  is Backstrom talking about?

There is no “objective standard of reasonableness” under current law!  It’s all up to a jury! 

 The issue becomes what was in the mind of the person using deadly force, rather than how a reasonable person would react under the same circumstances.

This is pure doubletalk.  The four criteria involved in a claim for legal self-defense, whether modified by Rep. Cornish’s bill or not, are all about the shooter’s perceptions – “what was in the mind” of the person – and whether the action was “reasonable” (in the mind of a jury). 

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

This is more double-talk.  The Cornish bill does not change the citizen’s responsibility to follow the four criteria above.  It merely modifies the criteria, slightly, to give the genuinely law-abiding citizen a stronger legal standing, and more-clearly define the prosecutor’s options in trying to undercut a claim of self-defense.

It wouldn’t be a Heather Martens piece without a “Wild West” reference…

We’d be returning to the days of the Wild West, when two gunmen could face off in the street and the winner could walk away without fear of consequences, under a claim of self-defense. Such lawless frontier days should remain in our past.

…but this isn’t Heather Martens.  This is an ostensibly-responsible county attorney. 

This is irresponsible hysteria-mongering of the most contemptible order.  Nothing about the Cornish bill changes the citizen’s legal obligation to act responsibly – to act reasonably.  The Cornish bill merely codifies more clearly what is considered “responsible” – or, more accurately, what it enjoins prosecutors from trying to persuade juries is “irresponsible” in an otherwise legal case of self-defense.

Do we really want cases of road rage to result in a shooting death, when the surviving party could have stepped on the gas and driven away?

This is misleading, and – again – hysterical.  See the first and third criteria of a self-defense case; one must not participate in a fight (say, a “road rage” incident), and one must step on the gas to try to get away, under current law.  Nothing about Rep. Cornish’s bill changes this – merely that if someone comes into your car swinging, you’re allowed to presume that he’s not there to discuss things like a grownup.

This expansion of the right to use deadly force would apply equally to criminals as to law-abiding citizens. It would create viable self-defense claims in situations like bar fights.

This is worse than callow hysteria-mongering.  This is an outright lie.  Nothing about the Cornish bill would change the injunction against being a willing participant – which scuppers the whole “criminals in bar fights” argument.   

 It could allow rival gangs to shoot at one another with impunity.

Again, this is a lie.  No jury would find a shooting in furtherance of a crime – gang activity, blasting away at their rivals in public – either “Being an unwilling participant” (criterion 1),  or a “Reasonable use of force” (criterion 3).  If any gang-banger walks because of the Cornish bill, it’d be purely because they drew an incompetent prosecutor. 

With no duty to retreat, anyone could claim they were responding to a threat of serious harm and were therefore justified in killing a person.

“Anyone” can already “say” anything they want.  A jury has to believe it.  It would seem that Jim Backstrom wants the citizen to believe the police and the state’s prosectutors (and jurors!) are helpless to tell the difference between legitimate use of force and criminal thuggery!

Current Minnesota law concerning the right of self-defense and the justified use of deadly force adequately protects our law-abiding citizens. 

Where “adequate” means “subject to the caprice of county attorneys to play word-games with juries over the citizen’s decision to shoot rather than run away from an otherwise-reasonably-deadly threat” – or “subject to the semantic difference between “substantial” and “great” bodily harm, which is adequately clear for a lawyer writing an op-ed in a cozy suburban office, but not so much for someone reacting to someone charging at her in the dark”.  And where the price of “inadequacy” might be jail for an honest person.

Do you feel like banking your freedom on that? 

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.

There is nothing about the Cornish bill that would make shooting a “first response”; it merely makes an otherwise law-abiding shooting easier to justify.   

We should not return to the days when shootouts were commonplace and few or no questions were asked of the last man standing.

Either County Attorney Backstrom has very little faith in this state’s cops and prosecutors, or even less in the law-abiding Minnesotan. 

I’ll take votes. 

James C. Backstrom is the Dakota County attorney and president of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association.

And in that capacity, I’ll be soliciting his comments on this piece, via email or – preferably – on the NARN this weekend.

The show’s in Eagan.  Deep in the heart of Dakota County.  It shouldn’t be out of his way.

I’ll keep you posted.

UPDATE:  I’ve requested an interview with Mr. Backstrom:

This is a media request.

I’m Mitch Berg.  I’m a talk show host with the “Northern Alliance Radio Network”, at AM1280 the Patriot.  I’m also a blogger, at “Shot in the Dark” and “True North”.

I have taken serious issue with County Attorney Backstrom over his op-ed in the Star-Tribune last week:

I am requesting the opportunity to interview Mr. Backstrom about what I consider to be *seriously misleading claims* in his article. 

I would like to offer Mr. Backstrom the chance to appear on my radio show during the 2PM hour this coming Saturday, March 13, to discuss his op-ed and my questions about it. 

If he’s not available for this interview, I’d like to request an interview, either by phone or email, regarding some of the claims he makes in the Star-Tribune.

I’ll eagerly await Mr. Backstrom’s response.


Mitch Berg
Northern Alliance Radio Network
AM1280 The Patriot

Shot In The Dark (
True North (

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