One ongoing theme of this blog has been, “get both sides of the issue before you judge.” A classic example of why is the 20-part series in this blog that ran from July 13, 2013 into September of that year. CNN and some other “news” outlets made the shooting of a young attacker by an armed citizen into a racist murder to rival the lynching of Emmett Till, and that became a lynching all its own before a jury heard the facts and saw the evidence and acquitted George Zimmerman.
We’re seeing something of a replay of that in Ferguson, Missouri in the still-controversial shooting of Michael Brown, 18, by police officer Darren Wilson. CNN has at least put a few voices of reason on the air, such as David Klinger and Mark O’Mara, whose message is one I share: “We can’t judge until we have all the evidence, and we don’t have that yet!”
I just got home from California, where amidst the whole media blitz I ran across a couple of issues of an alternative newspaper out of their state Capitol, the Sacramento News & Review. Amidst the usual “The shooting of Brown is unconscionable” (8/28/14, Page 15) stuff, I found this refreshing bit of honesty by the paper’s on-the-ground-in-Ferguson reporter, Sean Stout:
“I didn’t feel like a journalist for a single second I was in Ferguson,” wrote Stout on Page 9 of the same edition. “I felt like a Brown supporter. I sided with the Ferguson organizers yearning for peace, racial equality and justice for the senseless murder of an unarmed youth.”
Well, Sean Stout, God bless you at least for saying so. The “unconscionable” statement was in an essay/editorial, where opinions including that one belong. Stout’s statement and article were in the News section. He gave total disclosure that what he was writing in “news” was in fact “opinion.”
And that’s a lot more honesty than I’ve seen in a lot of the rest of the mainstream media as regards this case, from reporters and news editors who are just as biased to one side as Stout, but don’t have the integrity to admit it.
If Officer Darren Wilson, an average size man judging by photos, turned into Elastic Man and reached up from the seat of his patrol car and grabbed the six-foot-four Mr. Brown by the throat and brutalized him, and then shot him in the back as he ran – as some of his accusers say – he deserves to go to prison. But if – as his defenders say – he was attacked violently by Brown, who tried to take his gun and kill him with it, and then shot Brown when he turned from a short run away and lunged again at the officer he had already seriously injured, it has all the hallmarks of a justifiable homicide.
Today, supposedly, a grand jury convenes in Missouri to examine the facts surrounding the death of Michael Brown at the hands of FPD officer Darren Wilson, to determine if an indictable crime has been committed. One talking head on TV even said that hearsay would be permitted there, which if true is nothing less than a travesty.
The grand jury review itself, it would seem, is coming awfully early. The general public does not realize how long it takes to complete a homicide investigation. The toxicology screen on the deceased, which can be a critical factor, may or may not have been completed yet, but to the best of my knowledge such results have not yet been released to the public.
Members of the grand jury will be under tremendous social and political pressure to indict. The state’s own governor has, incredibly, called for “vigorous prosecution.” Damn shame he didn’t have the integrity to call for “vigorous investigation” instead. One should not be convicted before trial in the Governor’s Mansion instead of in a courtroom.
The smell of mob rule is growing stronger, and more fetid.
Also today, Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to be on the ground in Ferguson for investigative purposes. Many pundits expect him to visit with the family of the deceased; certainly, there’s nothing wrong with that.
But I sincerely hope that the AG, our nation’s chief law enforcement officer, will visit the family of the injured officer as well.
The meme started out as sweet, tender 18-year-old Michael Brown about to enter college, murdered by police in front of many witnesses despite no discernible motive. National uproar and civil disturbance ensues.
The family of the deceased hires Benjamin Crump, the lawyer for Trayvon Martin’s family who engaged a high powered, well connected PR firm to turn that shooting into a national cause celebre, which they did with enormous success. By the time the truth came out, most of America seemed to still believe that the deceased was a harmless, innocent victim of racism murdered by a monster who deserved to be lynched. That meme seems to be getting a repeat in Missouri.
Only days later, do we learn how savagely the officer was beaten by the physically huge man he shot. And that very shortly before the incident, the innocent college boy had performed a strong-arm robbery at a convenience store, caught on surveillance video. (This, of course, would not do, so last night looters ravaged that particular convenience store.) It has been reported that that Facebook images of Brown exist, flashing gang signs indicating membership in one of the nation’s most feared street gang, the Bloods.
Countless people already invested in the police brutality meme cry that this late news must be a cover-up. They do not realize the long-standing ethos of law enforcement that says, “We don’t try our cases in the press.”
There is still much for us to learn about what happened in Ferguson, Missouri that day. Results of the autopsy and toxicology screen have not yet been released. Location of entry wounds and trajectory of the bullets through the body will tell us things, and it would be interesting to know what if anything was in Michael Brown’s system when he turned from the “gentle giant” his family described him as, into the hulking monster throwing the store clerk around in the surveillance film shortly before he was shot by police. I suspect there are dashcam images or i-phone video that the public has not yet seen.
One lesson that has clearly emerged so far: the longer the accused wait to put forth their side of the story, the more damage will be done to their cause. An accusation unanswered is seen by the general public as a plea of nolo contendre.
And this morning, CNN reports that storeowners, feeling that police aren’t protecting them from looters, are standing outside their shops in Ferguson with “machine guns.”
In legal theory, crimes are divided between malum prohibitum and malum in se. Translated from Latin, malum in se means that the thing being described is evil in and of itself, and is probably so in every civilized society. Malum prohibitum essentially says “It’s bad because we prohibited it.”
Case in point: you are a responsible young single mom, gainfully employed in the medical profession to support your two little kids. Becoming the victim of a couple of crimes has caused you to arm yourself, go through training, and get a permit to carry a gun where you live, in Philadelphia.
After crossing a state line, you are pulled over in a routine traffic stop. You do what you think is the responsible thing: you advise the police officer that you are licensed to carry a gun and do have it with you.
You are then placed under arrest, and find yourself facing a MANDATORY penalty of three years in prison and becoming a convicted felon for life, because the state you’re now in is New Jersey, and they do not reciprocate with Pennsylvania or any other state on concealed carry permits.
She’s not the first to make this honest mistake, and won’t be the last. (And, before anyone questions that it was an honest mistake, why would someone who knew they were breaking the law spontaneously tell the first cop they encountered that they were doing so?) This case is the very definition of malum prohibitum.
It’s also why I and so many others have been calling for national reciprocity for decades.
As we celebrate Independence Day, we need to remember among other things not to take liberties with our liberties.
Open carry – that is, carrying or wearing a visible firearm out and about in public – has become a hot topic on both sides of the gun debate. On our side, there are some who claim “a right not exercised is a right that will wither away.” In recent years, it has turned out otherwise. Ostentatious open carry led to it being banned by the state legislature in California. More recently, a series of store and restaurant chains, most recently Target, have come out and asked customers not to come there armed with firearms. These have been direct results of AR15s, AK47 clones, etc. being carried in their premises for no reason other than “because I can.”
My own position is middle of the road. I would like to see the open carry of a handgun made legal in all fifty states without a permit, with the practice prohibited to convicted felons, those adjudicated mentally ill, and the like. First, legal open carry prevents arrest of concealed carry permit holders whose gun becomes visible when the wind blows their coat open. Second, when someone becomes a stalking victim or the target of death threats overnight, they don’t have time to wait for the bureaucracy to take weeks or months to process a concealed carry permit.
However, a growing majority of gun owners – including me – are fed up with clowns who sling a rifle over one shoulder, a camcorder over the other, and go out to show off and maybe taunt a policeman or two. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these people weren’t false-flag plants from the other side. Not all of them are, though.
It’s self-delusional to think that you’ll spread a positive Second Amendment image by frightening people already made leery of armed people in public by news reports of atrocities like Sandy Hook. The gay rights movement didn’t make the strides it did by having its members have sex with each other in Starbucks, and wandering into a coffee shop or department store with a loaded military style rifle won’t make positive strides for gun owners’ civil rights. A small handful of attention whores have done huge damage to the vast majority of responsible gun owners.
Enjoy the Fourth. I intend to be setting off some fireworks myself, but on the range. Hope you get some fun time for the holiday weekend as well.