The Show Trial

Josef Stalin called.

He wants his theatrical version of a “justice” system back.

President Obama’s Justice Department was involved in organizing protests around the Martin/Zimmerman trial, and according to Sanford’s police chief, hijacked what should have been a local investigation:

Bill Lee, who testified Monday in Zimmerman’s second-degree murder trial, told CNN’s George Howell in an exclusive interview that he felt pressure from city officials to arrest Zimmerman to placate the public rather than as a matter of justice.

“It was (relayed) to me that they just wanted an arrest. They didn’t care if it got dismissed later,” he said. “You don’t do that.”

When Sanford police arrived on the scene on February 26, 2012, after Zimmerman fatally shot unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, they conducted a “sound” investigation, and the evidence provided no probable cause to arrest Zimmerman at the scene, he said.

It had nothing to do with Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, he said; from an investigative standpoint, it was purely a matter of self-defense.

The part that annoys me the most about this trial? 

Not just that everyone has picked their sides, based purely on political grounds – even though that’s supposed to be the jury’s job.

No – it’s that our federal government is doing to this trial what they tried to do with “Fast and Furious”; use it to general political benefit for the Administration.  In this case, using a dead 17 year old – whatever the circumstances – as a stage prop to whip up an electoral response in time for the election.  And they’ll try to do the same for the next round of elections, too. 

I use the term “show trial” advisedly; that’s exactly what the Administration is trying to turn it into.

The trial is, in a sense, the least of the problems coming out of this sorry episode.  Our Federal government has added “using the system” to “using their proxies in the media” to affect the “justice” system toward political ends. 

They can do it to anyone.

There’s an old saying: “when the people fear the government, you have dictatorship.  When the people fear the government, you have freedom.”

The government is surely afraid of us; they call half of us “terrorists”.  But I wouldn’t call what we have now “freedom”.

Ted Nugent: “This Case Is Irresponsible And Unethical”

Rock and roller, talk show host and Second Amendment activist Ted Nugent spoke out about the Martin / Zimmerman case yesterday on MSNBC’s “Hardball”.

The quotes were pretty damning: Nugent noted that the affidavit of probable cause was “so thin it’ll get thrown out by a judge”, and predicted Zimmerman’s acquittal.

God, Guns and Gibson made America great.

The Motor City Madman called the prosecutor’s announcement “a campaign speech”, and called the entire indictment “irresponsible and unethical”…

…oh, I can’t keep a straight face anymore.

It wasn’t Ted Nugent.   It was Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz.

Oh, everything else was real:

“Everything in the affidavit (of probable cause) is consistent with a claim of self-defense!”

We shall see.

It Took About Six Weeks Of Investigation…

…for the prosecutor in Florida to charge George Zimmerman with Second Degree Murder.

Corey also had a message for those who have been rushing to judgment on the case.

“You cannot know what it’s like to launch this type of investigation and come to this conclusion,” State Attorney Angela Corey said during the press conference.

“We don’t prosecute by public pressure or petition. We prosecute cases on the relevant facts of each case and on the laws of the state of Florida.”

The worst thing about how the left has treated this case – as a stage prop for Obama’s re-election campaign – is that it causes doubts in the justice system, among both those who are inclined to support it or not.

Naturally, the Obama administration and the media who push his narrative had every reason to portray the local prosecutors and police as racist peckerwoods who didn’t care that a black kid was dead.  And the claque that has been benefitting from that perception for decades now – Al Sharpton and the various race-war pimps – benefit handsomely from that perception.,

Which is, of course, not to say that the local cops and prosecutors did do a good job – in fact, we don’t know.  But prosecutor Corey is right – these ambiguous shooting cases frequently do take a long time to work out.  A great example – of both the time it takes to work out an ambiguous shooting and of a justice system horribly skewed by official tush-covering – is the Treptow case, from five years ago in Coon Rapids.

So there is much we don’t know about this case.

But one thing that any rational person – and by “rational person” I mean “one who rationally assesses the facts as they know them = does know is that this case is no indictment of “Stand Your Ground”.

Let’s compare and contrast the genesis (so far) of this case, and war-game out its resolution under Florida law (with its Stand Your Ground provisions) and Minnesota law (which still has a vague, ambiguous “duty to retreat”).

Assumptions:  We’ll assume that the episode went like this: Martin was walking (we won’t ascribe motives to him yet).  Zimmerman, being a diligent (maybe over-diligent) neighborhood watch guy, followed Martin in his car, then got out and confronted Martin.  The encounter went south – accounts vary – and either Zimmerman ended up attacking Martin, or Martin attacked Zimmerman (you can believe whichever you want, because only the jury’s perception really matters at this point).  At some point, and with whatever motive, Zimmerman shoots Martin, who dies.   The police arrive.  Zimmerman claims self-defense.

Under Current Minnesota Law, if the case were being tried under Minnesota law, the prosecution would have to prove to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman, while not planning to kill Martin, did in fact intentionally kill Martin without justification.  Zimmerman and his attorneys, claiming self-defense, would have to prove to the jury that…:

  • Zimmerman reasonably feared death or great bodily harm – they’d have to convince the jury that Zimmerman’s fear of Martin beating him to death was reasonable.  Of course, people get beaten to death, strangled, clubbed to death with bottles all the time – there’ve been three “one-punch kills” in Minnesota so far in 2012.  I’m no lawyer, but I’m going to say this will likely mean having to prove that Martin really attacked him, injured him, and didn’t appear likely to stop at the time.   Is that enough to convince a jury?  We’ll see.
  • He was a reluctant participant - No, the fact that he followed Martin, and disregarded the 911 operator’s instructions, don’t count.  Zimmerman had a right to be on the street, whether he was following Martin or not.  And 911 operators don’t give legal orders.  It might not look good for Zimmerman – but in fact he needs to prove that he didn’t willingly dive into the actual physical scuffle that led to the shooting.
  • The force he used was reasonable  - in other words, he’d need to prove that the force he used was only enough to end the lethal threat.  If there’s evidence Zimmerman shot Martin while he was lying on the ground, then the case is over.
  • He made a reasonable effort to disengage - If he convinces the jury that he was jumped and tackled before he had a chance to try to run away, or that he did in fact try to back away while under attack, then that’s what he’d have to do.  The prosecutor, of course, can try to convince the jury that Zimmerman should have tried to escape until he slipped into a coma with brain damage; an anti-gun judge could instruct the jury to keep to the strictest possible definition of “duty to retreat”.  Zimmerman, or any self-defense shooter under Minnesota law, could have been impeccable on the other three points, and still go to jail based purely on the discretion of the prosecutor, the prejudice of the judge, and the whim of the jury.  That’s why Minnesota needs a Stand Your Ground law.  But that’s a matter for the next legislature.

If Zimmerman failed to convince the jury that he’d met all four of those criteria, then his self-defense claim fails.

Under Current Florida Law - But the case is being tried in Florida.  Florida has a “Stand your Ground” law.  That means that the prosecutor must prove to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • Zimmerman met all the elements of Second Degree Murder under Florida law - that he did in fact intentionally kill Martin without justification.
  • Zimmerman did not reasonably fear death or great bodily harm - they’d have to convince the jury that Zimmerman’s fear of Martin beating him to death was unreasonable.  Of course, the defense will show the jury that people get beaten to death, strangled, clubbed to death with bottles all the time – I’m going to guess if there’ve been three  ”one-punch kills” in Minnesota so far in 2012 that there’ve been more than that in Gainesville alone. The prosecutor, I’ll guess, will have to debunk the notion that Martin attacked Zimmerman, or build a case that Zimmerman really did attack Martin.  We’ll see.
  • Zimmerman was not a reluctant participant - The fact that Zimmerman followed Martin, and disregarded the 911 operator’s instructions, may have been a bad idea – I know that after taking carry permit training twice, it’s the last thing I’d do.  But the defense will point out that Zimmerman had a right to be on the street, and convince the jury that he didn’t willingly dive into the actual physical scuffle that led to the shooting.
  • The force he used was not reasonable  - in other words, the prosecutor will need to prove that the force Zimmerman used was beyond what was needed to end the threat.  If there’s evidence Zimmerman shot Martin while he was lying on the ground, then the case is over.  Othewise?  Not so much.
  • He made a reasonable effort to disengage - Does not apply in “Stand your Ground” states.  Not so that people can “shoot first”, but because this is a provision that is abused by prosecutors; can anyone else see the absurdity of saying “yes, your life was being legitimately threatened – but you should have tried harder to run away before defending yourself?”

If the prosecution proves all the elements of second-degree murder, and disproves any of the three pillars of his self-defense claim, the jury will likely find ZImmerman guilty.  If the jury accepts all three of the pillars of Zimmerman’s claim (or reasonable doubts exist about them), then they will (assuming a rational jury) find him innocent.

The only difference is on whom the burden of proving the legitimacy of the self-defense claim rests.  That is all.

Sharpton and the race-war pimps will keep trying to fan this into a racial incident – because it benefits them to do so.  White liberals will try – and fail – to turn this into an indictment of “Stand your Ground” laws.

And before too long, the Obama administration will need to find itself another stage prop; the mainstream media, his Praetorian Guard, will dutifully move on, and the  case, provided you trust the local justice system, will reach the resolution it would have reached without all the national attention.

Chanting Points Memo: “How Is A Bowling Ball The Same As A Spoon?”

It’s a scenario that’s launched a thousand “miscarriage of military justice” stories and more than a few movies during and after three wars, now; soldier gets into difficult, ambiguous situation; soldier, believing himself to be threatened, shoots.  Judge Advocate General jacks the soldier up over an arcane technicality in the “rules of engagement”, adjudicated by a bunch of officers and lawyers sitting in a secure base camp, an office or the Pentagon.  And the soldier(s), having followed the rules in all but the one, most arcane, most-technical sense of the term, and having acted otherwise blamelessly, get sent to prison.

Some of the dimmer bulbs on the Twin Cities’ Sorosphere’s intellectual Festivus pole were grunting and argling yesterday about this piece here, from “Think” Progess, by one Jon Soltz, claiming that Florida’s (and by extension, Minnesota’s proposed and vetoed) “Stand Your Ground” laws “gives George Zimmerman more protection than soldiers overseas”.   It’s written by one Jon Soltz, listed as founder and chairman of VoteVets.org

 

Soltz:

The Trayvon Martin case has gripped the nation, and forced the country to re-examine our gun laws. But the horrible affair has struck me in another way, because of my two tours in Iraq. One fact stands out in my mind: The “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida, which may let George Zimmerman off the hook for the killing of Martin, gives more leeway to shooters than our own military gives to soldiers in war.

That sounds serious.  And it is.  Seriously misleading, anyway.

We’ll come back to that.

VoteVets.org has more than 105,000 members who take a wide array of views on gun control and the 2nd Amendment,

…although the group itself is a left-leaning “veterans” group affiliated with the whacko-left “Center for American Progress”, “Moveon.org”, and which is supported by the Soros-affiliated “Democracy Alliance”.

But this is less about the organization than about the spreading of chanting points in which Soltz is participating.

but the Trayvon Martin case is less about the right to bear arms than it is the “use of force.” It’s impossible to ignore the legal protection George Zimmerman enjoys in suburban Florida vs. the Rules of Engagement that outline when one of our troops can shoot while in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Soltz is half right…

…well, no.  He’s half on topic.  There is something that’s impossible to ignore.

But comparing rules for self-defense among civilians out and about in a civil society is nothing like the rules of engagement for the military in a combat zone.

The U.S. military issues Rules of Engagement (ROE) for every conflict to guide servicemembers’ ability to protect themselves from deadly threats…

…which Soltz goes on to describe in great detail and, I’ll presume, accurately (although I’d love to have some of combat veterans who read this blog go over his version of the ROE just to make sure), he misses a key point.  And by “key”, I mean, “so vital that his entire point makes absolutely no sense if you get it wrong”.

Soltz:

key component of the ROE used during the height of violence in Iraq in 2007 was the requirement to use “Graduated Force” when time and circumstances permit. Section 3.G.(1) states that if an individual “commit[s] a hostile act or demonstrat[es] hostile intent” — meaning he or she attacks U.S. or designated allied forces, nationals, or property, or threatens the imminent use of force against any of them — U.S. Force “may use force, up to and including deadly force, to eliminate the threat.”

Right.

A soldier (or sailor, airman or Marine) in a combat has a lot of firepower at hand; a selective-fire assault rifle (sometimes with a grenade launcher), a machine gun (anything from a squad automatic weapon to an M2 .50 caliber or a fully-automatic grenade launcher on top of their Hummer), or more; antitank rockets, grenades, and more.  They can be supported by tanks with cannon with cannon that can pick your nose from a mile away with a depleted-uranium dart that flies at a mile every second and a half and that can go through a foot of armor steel.  They’re a radio call away from calling in artillery – 40-to-100 pound shells in barrages of dozens of shells that can level a city block faster than a  bunch of drunk Detroit Pistons fans – or air support, in the form of Apaches with rockets and automatic cannon, A10s and F16s flying close support,  dropping 2000 GPS-guided bombs that can fly down your toilet more accurately than the Roto-Rooter guy, or even a B52 that can drop thirty or forty of them, if you really need to dig out of a jam.

The rules of engagement are there to make sure that the 19 year old kid with the aweseome responsibility of being at the business end of all that firepower knows how to use it to advance, rather than degrade, America’s interests in the area.

On the other hand, the law regarding civilian self-defense is there to judge whether homicide is justified or not.  In every state, the questions are  ”is the citizen’s fear of death, rape, maiming or other injury reasonable enough to justify using lethal force”, “was the citizen a reluctant participant”, “was the force they used reasonable” and in some states, “did the citizen make a reasonable effort to retreat”.  In some states, the citizens have to prove all of the above; in others – Florida – the state has to prove they didn’t.

We’ll come back to that.

Soltz gives an example of how Rules of Engagement caused a problem for one soldier:

 


In fact, Richard Allen Smith, the vice chairman of VoteVets.org, recently told me a story he had heard during his time in Afghanistan, which illustrates this point.

The Scout Platoon leader for Richard’s Battalion was in a situation in 2007 where they detained someone, but he managed to get out of their truck and flee. While he was running away, the Platoon Leader fired at him and caught him in the thigh. They called for a medevac, but he bled out before the bird could get there.

Under military law and rules of engagement, the Platoon Leader was clearly in the wrong: he pursued an unarmed guy who wasn’t posing a threat to U.S. Forces and shot him to death. He was charged (although he was never tried because he was injured a few days later when his truck was hit by an IED and he was deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial).

I’m not sure why Soltz brings this up: does he think a citizen would skate on shooting a fleeing attacker?  As a rule, they would not.

But Soltz is slowly cutting to the chase, here.  He starts out with an honest admission:

Of course, comparing the Trayvon Martin case to a war situation is neither fair nor clean, and we still don’t know all of the facts surrounding Trayvon’s death.

But the facts end there:

But insofar as what I’ve read about the case, it sounds to me that if Trayvon had been an Iraqi soldier, and George Zimmerman had been a U.S. Soldier, there would have been an immediate investigation, and most likely a manslaughter charge, and victim’s family financially compensated for wrongful death.

And that goes to show you the risks in going by “what you’ve read” when, as a lefty (and I’ll be charitable and assume that Soltz isn’t purely reciting the party line, which, given his groiup’s funding, is probably more charitable than warranted, but I’m a uniter, not a divider), the stuff you read is produced  by groups that are trying to use the Martin case to fan racial tension to boost the President’s fortunes – or lefty-vetted “Experts” who are, in fact, not.

If Zimmerman was attacked, then under either military law (as Soltz recited it) or under criminal law, he was arguably justified in shooting.  I say “arguably” because these things do need to be investigated.

Was it?  Do we know the facts?  As Soltz himself allowed, we do not.

Which doesn’t justify just making up facts to fill in in place.  LIke this:

But Zimmerman is a civilian in Florida where, as the country now knows, a shooter is often immune from criminal prosecution and civil liability if he believed he had been threatened with deadly force.

But only if the investigation shows that the evidence warrants that conclusion.  After – y’know – due process, according to the law passed by the relevant legislature.  Same as in the military!

Yes, I did say “making stuff up”:

One of the striking components of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law — or, more appropriately, “Shoot First” law — is that it eliminated the “duty to retreat” embedded in centuries of common law about self-defense. Traditionally, a person had the duty to retreat from dangerous situations if they could, and the use of deadly force was justifiable self-defense only if a person could not have otherwise safely gotten away.

Except that’s both not true – it’s not “embedded in centuries of tradition”.  It’s a feature of some self-defense laws.  Not others.  They vary.  And simply saying “it was part of common law” isn’t a carte-blanche guarantee of validity; slavery was a part of “common law”, until it wasn’t anymore.

“Duty to Retreat” is not a feature, it’s a bug; it means that the citizen is supposed to make a “reasonable” effort to disengage (which, when you’re a civilian with a carry permit, is always a good idea even if it’s not a legal requirement).  Reasonable according to whom?  If you have a bad knee and your attacker is 18 and faster than you?  If you are outnumbered?  If you are in a stopped car and someone points a gun at you?  What is the “reasonable” course?  The answer – under the law in half of the states – is ambiguous, and entirely at the discretion of a county attorney.  It’s ambiguous.

And ambiguity makes bad law – just as it makes for lousy orders for soldiers. Which is why Rules of Engagement are so detailed.

Soltz claims that “Stand Your Ground” gives citizens more protection than it gives soldiers in the field.  Leaving aside the apples-and-axles non-sequitur of trying to compare the situations, he’s 180 degrees wrong; “Stand Your Ground” removes ambiguity from the citizen’s case, giving them a similar standard (not “the same” – combat and self-defense are not the same) as the soldier has.

It’s another entry in the library of chanting points the left is trying to use to keep the Martin case alive as a wedge issue.

Read Soltz.  Judge for yourself.

NBC: “Curing Root Rot By Trimming Leaves”

NBC identified and whacked a fall guy for the fraudulent, narrative-based editing of the George Zimmerman 911 call we talked about last week.

NBC News has fired the producer it deemed most responsible for the airing of a selectively edited 911 call placed by George Zimmerman the night he killed Trayvon Martin.

Sources at NBC who asked not to be identified confirmed a New York Times story saying that a Miami-based producer was fired Thursday, though the sources refused to identify the former employee.

In the original 911 call, Zimmerman is heard describing Martin as such: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.”

The dispatcher then asks: “OK, and this guy – is he white, black or Hispanic?”

“He looks black,” Zimmerman responds.

The version NBC ran, though, was much shorter and did not include the question posed by the 911 operator.

“This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black,”

In other words, the producer who let the narrativizing of the news slip out too clumsily was sacked.  The executives whose policy “narrative-based news) actually is are still being chauffeured around New York.

Chanting Points Memo: With “Experts” Like This, Who Needs Enemas?

Long before the Trayvon Martin shooting started dominating the headlines, gun law reform was in the news in Minnesota, and had already spawned a smaller, more “Barney-Fife”-y version of the disinformation mill that has been sweeping the nation these past few weeks.

I and the rest of the Minnesota Second Amendment community have been playing whack-a-mole for months now, as one dishonest public official or in-the-bag cop or another misinformed/disinforming editorial board excrescence essentially spreads the same vacuous chanting points.

Usually, whether the issue passes (like concealed carry) or not, it dies down between the final passages/vetos and the next session – because none of the people who write for the other side really know much about the issue other than what they’re told.

The Martin shooting has extended the disinformation season even here in Minnesota, though, as the DFL and media try to find a wedge issue to get their base frothed up and to try to peel off the uninformed, not-very-curious ones part of the swing set – the ones voted for Mark Dayton in 2010.

Which brings us to a piece from over the weekend at the MinnPost, by one Thomas Weyandt, a former St. Paul City Attorney’s-office prosecutor who’s  joined the cottage industry of instant pundits with opinions on gun laws:

With the national uproar over the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida, it’s a good time to take another look at the expanded Castle Doctrine bill that almost became law in Minnesota. Ours would have been even worse than Florida’s “Shoot First” law.

It’s an inflammatory statement.  Let’s see if he packs the factual gear to follow it up:

But first, my qualifications before I explain why. I was an assistant city attorney for St. Paul for 34 years. In about 1996, I became interested in the lack of knowledge of gun laws by police, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges. I did a study of the results of 676 cases my office had prosecuted and then wrote a manual on how to do it correctly.

His auto-bio speaks of 30-odd years in workmen’s compensation law for the City of Saint Paul – but a “special interest in gun crimes”, leading to a book on the subject, “Investigating and Charging Weapons and Gun Cases“.  Book?  Manual?

Whichever.  He’s setting himself up as an expert..

I have taught police, prosecutors and defense attorneys at a number of classes. I also was involved in the prosecution of hundreds of gun crimes during the last 10 years of my work with the city. Since retiring, I have been a consultant to a group that deals with gun laws at the Legislature.

Odd that he doesn’t favor the reader with the name of the “group” with which he “consults”.  I’m tempted to wonder if it’s “Protect Minnesota”, whose leader, Heather Martens, may be among the most discredited lobbyists on the hill – because she so habitually lies.  If so, that might be why Weyandt doesn’t give us the name of the group.  I’ll check up on that.

(UPDATE:  It’s “Protect Minnesota“, all right – check down in the “2009 Background Check Bill” section.  They’re hawking his “book”, in CD form.  Weyandt felt the need to buttress his credibility by proclaiming himself a “consultant” on the issue, but not to tell you he “consulted” with a group that’s been fighting a bit of an “Aboslutely No Credibility” issue for the past decade or two).

He also doesn’t say how he, a work-comp attorney, was “involved” in that prosecution.

There are two things to keep in mind as we proceed through Weyandt’s article:

  1. To A Lawyer, It’s As Much About The Information The Jury Doesn’t Get As What They Do:  A good trial lawyer never asks a witness a question whose answer he doesn’t know in advance.  They can also spend as much time arguing about the instructions the jury get about the law relating to the case as they do about the case itself – to make sure the jury doesn’t get the information that doesn’t help their case.  In this case, the “jury” is “the MinnPost’s audience”, and he’s already left out one key bit of information, the “group” with which he “consults”.  What else has he left out?  Oh, we’ll get to that.
  2. There Isn’t Just One Law:  Law really exists at three levels in this country; the Constitution puts down the basics.  ”Statutory” laws passed by Congress, legislatures, county commissions and city councils fill in the implementation details.  And then “case law” – the stuff that makes lawyers rich – covers all the nuances that law develops over time and application to real-world situations.   We’ll come back to this.  Oh, yes, we will.

Back to Weyandt, the “expert” on gun law (and workmen’s comp!): he’s gotten his first key fact wrong.

So what’s wrong with Minnesota’s proposed Castle Doctrine bill?

Most important is the fact that there is no duty to retreat in a person’s home if someone enters illegally. That has been the major factor expressed by many in support of the proposal — “Come into my house and you’re toast.”

Pretty scary, huh?

Sounds like a pretty damning indictment of “Stand Your Ground”, doesn’t it?  The idea that Minnesotans would lose the “Duty to Retreat”, while in their homes?

Except that it seems to have escaped the “expert” Mr. Weyandt, Esq. that Minnesotans have not had a duty to retreat when in their homes – between the front and back doors – for almost thirteen years. .

It’s not in the state statute.  It’s in case law:

Case: State v. Carothers
Issue: Defense of dwelling, duty to retreat
Court: Minnesota Supreme Court
Cite: C8-98-86
Date: June 17, 1999
Link: http://www.lawlibrary.state.mn.us/archive/supct/9906/c89886.htm
Decision: A duty to retreat does not attach to defense
of dwelling claims.

So why does Weyandt, the “expert”, not relate this fact?

There are really two reasons this could happen:

  • He doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and he’s letting it show.
  • He’s trying to shape a reality in his audience’s mind’s eye that furthers his goal, which isn’t the same as telling the truth.  LIke a prosecutor trying to make sure his “Jury” – the MinnPost audience – hears only the bits of information that he wants them to see, and none of the inconvenient facts that lead them away from his desired conclusion, he’s counting on his audience’s ignorance to make his case for him.

He’s not done.  Not by a long shot:

The proposal — sponsored by Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, and Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas — would have allowed for the use of deadly force without a duty to retreat in a great many places other than a person’s home.

Why doesn’t Weyandt specify what the “Great Many” are?

Either because he’s incompetent, or he doesn’t want to “pollute” the argument with the fact that  ”the person’s property, outbuildings, vehicle or business” just aren’t and will never be a “great many” places; it’s small list indeed.

Which reason – incompetence, or a considered desire to mislead the public about the law – do you think Weyandt is exhibiting?

It also allowed a person to use deadly force if they reasonably feared harm. The proposal contained a provision that creates a presumption that the fear is reasonable. Current law requires the use of the reasonable-man standard and leaves the question up to the jury.

This paragraph is a dog’s breakfast of nonsense.

There’s an omission – from incompetence or via deception, again, and we have no idea – that presumes the fear of death or great bodily harm is reasonable “in the case of a person entering a dwelling or occupied vehicle by stealth or force”.  That’s a rather more limited set of circumstances than Mr. Weyandt seems to want you to think, now, isn’t it?

Beyond that, and speaking to the lack of integrity in Mr. Weyandt’s piece?  The law today allows a person to claim a homicide is justifiable if they “reasonably” fear death or great bodily harm.  Here’s the law, as it is today.  See the word?  It’s right there!

The difference – the only difference – is that under the circumstances covered in the proposal, in the home or vehicle or property or business, which is being entered by force or stealth, the county prosecutor will have to prove that the fear of death or harm was unreasonable, rather than the shooter having to prove it (at their own expense, with a lengthy jail term hanging over their head should they not prove themselves innocent after an admission of “guilt with an explanation”).

That’s it!

Whether someone’s fear is reasonable is something a jury can understand.

And there’s the point of view of the professional attorney speaking.

A jury – sitting in a nice, warm, well-lit room, protected by sheriff’s deputies, with coffee breaks and donuts and bathroom time, can certainly determine that.  But the jury also has to operate on information shaped by the way two lawyers – one of them a county prosector, working the case full time on the taxpayers dime, sitting in another nice, warm, safe, well-lit office, without, say, rapists beating down his door.  He’ll have the luxury of time to try to persuade the jury, not that a woman’s fear of death or disfigurement wasn’t legitimate, but that she didn’t try hard enough to retreat from that threat to satisfy his picayune reading of the law.  And if her attorney, charging her $250, can’t convince the county’s full-time attorney that that undefined “duty to retreat” was met, then she’s going to jail, even with her legitimate fear of death.

And that is the status quo that Weyandt – and Jim Backstrom, and at the end of the day Mark Dayton – are defending; the idea that a law-abiding citizen’s freedom hangs on a technicality to be decided by a bunch of lawyers.

Like Mr. Weyandt.

Cornish’s bill wasn’t a “shoot first” law.  It was a “prosecutors have to earn their pay, or at least playing rhetorically-onanistic and politically-motivated games with peoples’ lives, when the shooting is so obviously law-abiding that even a lawyer other than Mr. Weyandt could see it”.

Lamentably, that doesn’t roll off the tongue quiet as fast.

Proving beyond a reasonable doubt that it was not reasonable, as the proposed law would have required, would seem to be nearly impossible.

This is pure fantasy.

Walk through this list of cases – mostly fictional, all plausible.  They’ll show the “near impossibility” of a reasonably intelligent cop and prosecutor telling the difference between legitimate self-defense and murder, with or without the Cornish proposal.

Will some cases be more complicated than my examples?  Sure; the Martin case is one of them (at least in terms of information available to the public. There may be cases – few, indeed – where the circumstances force prosecutors to work to get their precious conviction.

There might be a reason for that; it just might be that the shooting was perfectly legitimate.

So far, I’m guessing “reading Weyandt’s book” would be a bigger handicap to prosecutors than Cornish’s proposal.

The Cornish/Hoffman proposal allowed the use of deadly force if someone is threatened with substantial bodily harm (SBH). The law defines that as including a temporary disfigurement. That means a punch to the face and a black eye would allow the use of deadly force.

This is unvarnished bullshit, and Minnesota law says so.

Substantial bodily harm is “bodily injury which involves a temporary but substantial disfigurement, or which causes a temporary but substantial loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ․

Go have a look for yourself.  It’s not exactly beach reading – but it’ll show you that under Minnesota law, Weyandt is talking nonsense.   A moderately-thorough scour through the cases didn’t find a single black eye among ‘em.

Let me know how you do.

There are a couple of other especially troubling provisions:

• The expanded Castle Doctrine proposal would have granted total immunity from criminal prosecution.

They’re granted “total” immunity provided that the shooting was fully legal!  Read the law yourself (jump down to line 6.16)

• The proposal did not allow the arrest of the suspect until police have fully considered any claim of self-defense.

I’ve often wondered about people who object to this provision, which basically says “if the shooting was of someone who was entering a house/vehicle/property by force, and there was reasonable fear of death or substantial harm, and the force was reasonable, and every other part of the law was upheld, feel free not to arrest the shooter”.  That’s it.

Mr Weyandt’s desire to put people in handcuffs even if they are so obviously within the law that it’s transparently obvious to the cops borders on the unseemly.

So, if the police can’t arrest a suspect and bring him or her in for questioning, they have very little to no ability to determine if the person was acting in self-defense or not.  If the police can’t develop evidence that the claim of self-defense is false, there can be no prosecution.

Wait – is Mr Weyandt saying that, even in cases where the facts aren’t relatively obvious, that the best or only source of information is an interrogation after arrest?

If there is a prosecution, the proposal would presume the belief that the fear of harm was reasonable…

if the circumstances of the shooting were those covered in the law!  If the shooter reasonably feared death or sufficient harm, and were on their property/in their car or business, and if the “victim” was entering one of those places via force or stealth to commit a crime!

It’s just not that difficult – provided the cops and prosecutors are modestly competent.

Despite all my criticisms, I am not among those who think such a law would create an increased danger to police. Nor do I believe that it would result in shootings all over the place.

What I do know, though, is that this proposal virtually would have negated the ability to prosecute anyone who applies deadly force under virtually any circumstance.

Provided they were utterly incompetent.

And on, and on, and on.

The entire piece relies on two things, really:

  • Studiously misstating the context and effects of Cornish’s proposal
  • Ignoring Minnesota case law.

As such, it stands alongside the rest of of the long-debunked “Protect Minnesota” propaganda that this blog has been shredding for a decade.

Here’s a special invitation to my lawyer friends to pick apart Mr. Weyandt’s argument.  Use all the comment space you want.  Hell, email me; I’ll print it as a post.

Because humiliating this brand of partisan disinformation from the front page of the Minnesota Media would be a wondrous public service.

Chanting Points Memo: The Law And The Leftyblog Fantasy World

Hypothetically, here:  Let’s say that a Neo-Nazi – let’s call him “Tim Stevenson” – gives a rabble-rousing speech at a tiny meeting of neo-nazis.  He rouses the skinheads and flat-earthers present to a fever pitch of hatred against “N****rs, Kikes, Wops, Spics, F****ts, C**holics and Immigrants”, calling for their expulsion from the US – peacefully, if possible, not-so-peacefully if not.

Stevenson – at 60 years old a small man, 5’7 and maybe 150 pounds, with a law degree from the U of M and closely-cropped hair – is a truly hateful man.  He also has a spotless criminal record, and has a Minnesota permit to carry a handgun; “believing rotten things” is not a condition for denial.  As hateful as his beliefs are, he’s never been in a physical fight in his life. He’s got a little .380 in his pocket.

After his speech, and after coffee and coffee cake with the assembled louts, Stevenson leaves the meeting, walking out onto a cold, dark, wind-swept Brooklyn Center street to get to the parking lot, a block away.  He’s being followed, he notices, as he tries to walk toward the parking lot, by a large woman in a “trench coat mafia” duster. His spidey sense, augmenting his far-left Nazi paranoia, kicks in; he walks a little faster.  The woman walks faster still.  Stevenson breezes through the stoplight to get across the street to the parking lot; the woman breaks into a jog, yelling “Hey!”

Stevenson turns, and notices the woman appears very aggressive.  He starts backpedaling, toward his car, yelling “what?”

“I’m coming for YOU, Stevenson!” the woman – Hannah Rothenshteyn-Gabler, 29, a 5’11 former rugby player and current competitive bodybuilder, bellows.

(By an odd coincidence, a video production class was just letting out in a building across the street.  Seven people with video cameras happen to videotape the entire incident, from a variety of angles, with crystal-clear audio, albeit with a style overly derivative of early John Sayles).

At this point, it was Stevenson’s opinion and perception that something bad would happen if he waited to meet the woman.

Stevenson backpedals, yelling “DO NOT ATTACK ME!  HELP!  DO NOT ATTACK ME!” – because while Stevenson may be a neo-Nazi, he did pay attention in concealed carry training; he remembers the part where his instructor said “when you’re carrying, you have to turn into the biggest p**sy in the world”.  ”HELP!  DO NOT ATTACK ME!”

As he backpedals through the parking lot, he can’t see the banana peel, left earlier in the evening by a littering driver, lying in his path.  As he backpedals, he slips and falls squarely on his butt, sprawled on the ground, dazed for a shaved instant.

Rothenshteyn-Gabler runs up to where Stevenson lies on the ground, and pulls a 16 pound sledgehammer from under her duster, and hefts it above her head.  ”I am going to pound your brains into silly-putty”, she says.  ”And then I’m going to soak what’s left of you in gasoline and light you on fire!”, she bellows, preparing to smash the hammer down on Stevenson’s face.

Feeling himself – in his opinion, informed by his perception of what was going on - to be in imminent danger of death and great bodily harm, having established that he was an unwilling participant and making a very credible and reasonable effort to try to run away, Stevenson pulls his .380 and fires one shot.  It hits Rothenshteyn-Gabler in the head, killing her.

Stevenson calls the police, who detain him, but review the evidence – including the seven videotaped accounts – and note that Stevenson behaved correctly in every possible way.

But the Hennepin County Attorney brings charges – Second Degree Murder.  Stevenson’s lawyer mounts an affirmative defense, a “self defense” claim, noting that yes, Stevenson did shoot Rothenshteyn-Gabler, but…:

  • Stevenson  was as reluctant a participant as it was possible to be.
  • He’d made an extraordinary effort to retreat.
  • He had a freaking sledgehammer above his head, and an attacker who was clearly ready and able to use it, putting him in very reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm.
  • He fired exactly one shot, enough to end the threat – so his force was “reasonable”.

The prosecutor got up to respond.  ”But ladies and gentlemen of the jury – while the defendant meets all four criteria of the self-defense claim, HE IS A NEO-NAZI!  I mean, come on!  He’s a NEO NAZI!  He HATES Jews and women and blacks!  HE’s A NEO NAZI!  A NEO NAZI!”

Two questions for you, the audience:

  1. How does the jury rule – bearing in mind that Stevenson’s beliefs, reprehensible as they are, had nothing whatever to do with the fatal encounter itself - personal beliefs don’t justify deadly attacks, right?
  2. How would the story be any different had the “Stand Your Ground” bill passed?

For the first:  If the Jury doesn’t nullify the law and ignore that, noxious personal beliefs aside, Stevenson acted correctly?  They’ll most likely acquit him; hateful as he is, he obeyed the law.  There are no guarantees with a jury, but given impeccable behavior, he could prove the correctness of his actions.  He’d make his lawyer a little wealthier, of course.

For the second?  The lawyer would have to come up with a better argument, one that hinged less on “HE’S A NAZI”, and more on proving his fear wasn’t reasonable.

Tha’ts really about it.

I bring this up because some local leftybloggers want to ignore the facts and pretend that the first part is what matters, when it suits them.

 

Continue reading

An Inconvenient Investigation

Let me make a coupile of things crystal clear, lest the idiocracy that is the Twin Cities Sorosphere try to make hay by gang-raping the context of what I’m about to write:

  • In a self-defense shooting, nobody wins. As you are repeatedly told in carry permit training, having to kill someone in justified self-defense is the second-worst possiible outcome.  While most defensive gun uses involve no shots being fired – like, about 98% of them – there are usually around 1,000 homicides in the US every year that are ruled justifiable.  Most of them leave behind a family mourning someone whose life took a tragic turn – and one shooter who has to live with one of the most terrible moral conundra known to man for the rest of their life.   And even when it’s as justifiable as can be – a 100 poiund woman killing a 250 pound stalker with a sexual predator record longer than the woman’s legs – it’s almost always a tragedy for someone, and almost always a psychologically, to say nothing of financially, scarring event for the person who did the shooting, no matter how justified it was.
  • I’m a parent.  In particular, I’m a parent who’s had all sorts of trouble raising teenagers (although not nearly as much trouble as one particularly loathsome, depraved, morally retarded and, I think, disturbed leftyblogger would have people believe).  Whenever I hear of some teenager and their family coming to grief in some awful tragedy – a car crash, suicide, overdose, a prank, stunt or impulsive criminal act gone wrong, or whatever – think “there but for the grace of God went I and mine”.  Defusing IEDs is nothing compared to the impulses of a hormone-addled teenager under the best of circumstances.  If the circumstances aren’t “the best?”  Ugh.

With that said; did you hear that hissing sound?  That was the sound of a media/liberal narrative starting to go flat (with emphasis added on occasion):

With a single punch, Trayvon Martin decked the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who eventually shot and killed the unarmed 17-year-old, then Trayvon climbed on top of George Zimmerman and slammed his head into the sidewalk, leaving him bloody and battered, law enforcement authorities have revealed to the Orlando Sentinel.

That is the account Zimmerman gave police, and much of it has been corroborated by witnesses, authorities say. There have been no reports that a witness saw that initial punch Zimmerman told police about.

Bear in mind, this is Zimmerman’s account – as, apparently, corroborated by witnesses.  This is far from a final report from the investigators, much less any indication of what the county attorney, much less the Feds, will end up doing.

This is what the newspaper has learned about Zimmerman’s account to investigators:

He said he was on his way to the grocery store when he spotted Trayvon walking through his gated community.

Trayvon was visiting his father’s fiancée, who lived there. He had been suspended from school in Miami after being found with an empty marijuana baggie. Miami schools have a zero-tolerance policy for drug possession.

And so on, and so on.

This is no more final and definitive than the left’s hooting and hollering about “murder” and “stalking” and “profiling” were last week…

…except that this time it’s the police, rather than Media Matters (and you can expect a campaign to discredit the police department and prosecutors from the left’s chanting points bots next).

Two facts here:

First: under Florida law, Zimmerman is considered innocent until proven guilty:  since it’s a plausible (!) self-defense claim, it’s the police and prosecutors’ job to prove he wasn’t in legitimate fear of death or great bodily harm, that he used excessive force, and that he was a willing participant.  As a result, expect Media Matters and, eventually, the media to start second-guessing the whole Fifth Amendment thing when they really really really want to find someone guilty of something.

Second? The Administration has to be getting nervous.  As we discussed yesterday, the Administration needs this incident to keep their constituents – Afro-Americans and lily-white urban liberals – whipped up. But lynch mobs have short attention spans, especially if they can’t actually lynch anyone.

As I said when the shoe was on the other foot and the media was telling us in lock-step that Zimmerman was a cold-blooded murderer – we don’t know everything yet.

And by “we”, I mean “and that means you too, liberal know-it-all who believes anything the media has to say about anything”.

The Unemployment Rate Rose By One Last Week

Sandra Fluke got laid off from her position as “Obama Administration Stage Prop”.

Trayvon Martin has the gig now.

I’ve been pondering why the Administration has been going so long on the Martin case.

Certainly the Obama administration has hated guns all along; the President tried use the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to pin responsibility for Mexico’s ‘drug wars on the law-abiding American gun owner.  The fact that the media has been so utterly hands-off with “Fast and Furious” should show you just what an explosive scandal it should be; the Government trying to set up the majority of its own population?

Can you imagine what they’d have said if George W. Bush had used the FBI to set up a sting to try to blame 9/11 on Democrats, purely for political gain on a wedge issue?

So of course, Obama would like to find some way to take a chunk out of firearm rights, a movement that has spit in the eye of the left and (are you listening, MNGOP Legislative caucus) won, and won consistently for the past thirty years, by setting its bar high and not compromising on core principle

But gun control is only part of the story.

Here’s the real story: Afro-Americans are losing their enthusiasm for Obama.   Oh, not in a way that’ll lose him the black vote – but Obama’s initial election depended entirely on a whipped up base.  Obama is going to face an uphill fight getting his based whipped up, though; whatever “recovery” we’re in has largely skipped the black community; the black unemployment rate of 14% (actually up in the past month) only tells part of the story; while 59.6% of the general population is actually working, only 53% of the black working-age population has a job.

That’s catastrophic.  Not only has the black community not gotten any of the hopey-changey yet, it’s inescapable that if you’re black in America, you are worse off than you were four years ago.

Of course, a black kid getting killed is hardly news.  It’s sad but true; it happens all the time.  And the white liberal media could hardly care less; confronting the horrendous death and incarceration rate among black youth – to say nothing of black unemployment – would force them to confront liberalism’s failures, which means confronting its institutional racism.   So while the possibly unjust death of a young black man may be good for enthusiasm points, if it doesn’t get media coverage, it’s the proverbial tree falling alone in a forest.

But when you combine a dead black kid with an issue that does get the white liberal media exercised – their fear of citizens with guns?  You’ve got political gold.  Suddenly, you’ve got media coverage!

And that’s why Trayvon Martin is in the news, and Sandra Fluke is out.  Every dim-bulb that can be fooled into thinking “Republicans will ban contraception” has already been fooled.  Now it’s time to hoodwink the ones that think Republicans want to arm white people to kill black people.

And the media – wittingly or not – is totally on board with that.

Open Letter To Channel Nine News

To: News Department, KMSP-TV (“Fox Nine”)
From: Mitch Berg, very occasional viewer
Re:  A Warning

To whom it may concern,

I don’t watch a lot of TV news – but for whatever reason, I do wind up watching your morning news; it does carry a fair amount of local news, and yeah, I like Marler’s weather.  So sue me.

But I had your 9PM news on last  night.  I noticed that you had jumped on the national “Trayvon Martin” bandwagon with both feet.  That’s understandable – it bled, so it led.

I could go over some of the points of your coverage that were, er, squishy – but that’s really not why I’m writing.

I noticed that you were very prominently using Heather Martens as a source for your coverage.  Martens, you note, is the “Executive Director” of “Protect Minnesota”.  If you check a little bit, you might also find she may very well be the sole member of “Protect Minnesota”; if there are half a dozen members, you might want to try to vet them, because I’ll lay odds that most of them are ringers from the Second Amendment movement.   The late Joel Rosenberg used to tell stories of going to Heather Martens’ meetings and finding that every single person at the gathering other than Martens was a Second Amendment activist.    At any rate – it’s not a “group”; it’s a checkbook advocacy front.  It’s also the third name Martens has been through in the past ten years.  For most of the past decade, “they” were “Citizens For A “Safer” Minnesota”; before that, they were something like “Gun-Free Minnesota” or “Minnesota Without Guns” or something like that; I’ve forgotten, but let’s be honest, so have you.  They keep getting shredded in the marketplace of ideas;  they keep having to change their name.

Anyway, my point is this – if Heather Martens says it, it’s most likely wrong.  I was going to say “it’s most likely a lie”, and that is the truth, but I’m trying to be all calm and measured here.

No, seriously; have me on one of your debate segments – if she’ll agree to come on against me.  I’ve shredded everything she’s said and written for a decade now.  There is not even a faded patina of fact in a single utterance she makes.

Just saying – while there are lots of things to be written about the Trayvon Martin case, and even some about Minnesota’s proposed Stand Your Ground Bill (although most of your other sources on that subject are also lying hacks), Heather Martens is not the one you should be going to to find them.

Presuming, of course, “covering the news” is your goal, rather than “fluffing the narrative”.

I just thought you should know.

Have your people call my people – or the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, of course – if you ever want the whole story, complete with real facts.

That is all.

Someone Got Shot

One dark, ambiguous evening, a black youth was shot under circumstances that, to the local media, were confusing. Not much information was available; the youth was shot by a citizen with a legal handgun.  The citizen claimed self-defense.

So the local media did what they always do on big stories – shootings! – when not much information is available, as they waited for the details of the investigation to go public.  They found stuff  to write about.

They interviewed the deceased’s mother and family – who, stricken with grief, demanded justice.  They talked with friends of the deceased, and community leaders, many of whom wondered why the law allowed mere citizens to use lethal force, or to be able to claim “self-defense” with such seeming impunity.

Some of the media’s learned observers scratched their furrowed brows and pondered aloud (or in print) whether the changes the legislature had made in 2005 to the state’s laws regarding self-defense were wise – repeating things many of them had written at the time.

I am of course, not talking about the Trayvon Martin case.  I’m talking the Evanovich case in Minneapolis last fall.  You had the family.  You had the friends and community leaders.  Furrowed learned brows?  Check .

You had everything you have today in the Martin case, with one exception; a resolution.  Media caterwauling notwithstanding, it was a legitimate enough case of self-defense to prompt the frothingly anti-gun, anti-Second-Amendment, anti-law-abiding-citizens-with-guns Hennepin County attorney Mike Freeman to praise the shooter.

The point of this post is not to try to compare the Evanovich and  Martin cases; in terms of the factual and legal specifics, it’d be stupid to try, since we, the non-investigators, know nothing about the facts of the case.

Well, almost nothing; we know what the local Florida and national media have told us about the case.

And if there are any lessons from the Evanovich shooting to apply to the Martin case, they are…:

  1. When it comes to emotionally-charged cases, the media is no better off at getting the facts than we are.  And that’s a best case.  Because…
  2. …whether they will admit it or not, the media has a narrative; the higher up the media food chain you go, the worse it gets.  The law-abiding gun owner, the bitter, gun-clinging Jebus freak, is a powder keg just waiting to blow.  They’ve been saying it, one way or another – if not in their editorial stances, then via their editorial selection bias – since 1983, when Florida passed its “Shall Issue” law.  They did it with each of the 30+ states that have passed similar laws in the past 29 years.  They did it when Florida passed “Stand Your Ground” seven years ago, and in each of the dozens of states that have some combination of “Stand Your Ground” and “Castle” laws.   They’re still predicting it.  We’re still waiting for it to happen.  But hey, it’s only been almost thirty years; one of these days, the powder keg’s just gotta blow, right?

On gun issues even more than most others when it comes to the mainstream media; distrust, then verify.  Then, almost invariably, distrust some more.

That’s not to say the Martin case might very well not be a legitimate shooting.

We don’t know.

And when I say “we”, I mean “especially those of you who get your information on the case from the mainstream media”.

More later.