In the Netflix original series Orange Is The New Black a nun is in Danbury Correctional Facility because she chained herself to a flagpole at a nuclear test site. That’s fiction.
The character is actually based on a real life nun who was convicted of cutting a government-owned chain link fence at a Colorado missile silo, then using baby bottles filled with her own blood to draw a cross in protest. For this non-violent property damage offense she served more than two years at Danbury and an additional three years of probation. (See Common Dreams.)
Meanwhile, in 2013, a 16-year-old rich kid gets in his dada’s F-350 pickup, loads it up with seven of his friends, steals two cases of beer from a convenience store, drives 70 mph in a 40 mph zone with three times the adult legal limit BAC and Valium in his system. He causes an accident that claims the lives of four pedestrians on the side of the road. As we all know by now, the driver, Ethan Couch, received no jail time for his actions.
In 1978, Dan White murdered in cold blood Harvey Milk and the George Moscone, Mayor of San Francisco. The mayor he shot at close range in his office, hitting him in the shoulder, chest, and twice in the head. He then reloaded while walking down the hall and shot Milk five times, again at close range. The final two shots to the head came with the gun pressed against Milk’s skull.
For this actions, Dan White served just five years of a seven year sentence.
Justice is decidedly not a dish that is meted out evenly.
Now I’m thinking about the Michael Dunn case which currently rests in the hands of the jury.
Dunn is accused of shooting into a car and killing a teenager at a convenience store in an incident involving loud music. I won’t explain the case further. If you’re not familiar, you can google it.
Let’s say you’re at a convenience store in a strange town waiting while your wife is shopping inside. A car pulls up next to you and the music is loud. What would you do?
I know what I’d do. I’d be irritated. That would be about it. What I would not do is ask a carload of people I don’t know to turn their music down. Who does that?
People irritate the hell out of me all the time. It’s extremely rare I ever do anything about it aside from the occasional bird flip on the highway and even then that’s only when I’m reasonably sure I can get away with it. I’m pretty sure I would never approach a car full of strangers and ask them to turn down their music, no matter how loud. I just wouldn’t do it. Would you?
I mean, what are the odds that situation turns out well? “Golly, gee, chap! It never occurred to us that when we cranked the system up to 10 that it might be bothersome to other folks. Gosh, whiz. Thanks for letting us know. We’ll take care of that. Thanks and have a nice day!”
Yeah, I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure anyone turning their system up to 10 already knows exactly what they are doing.
Now, ask yourself this: What if you had a 9mm handgun in the glove box with a full 15-round clip? Would that, perhaps, make you feel a bit more comfy about asking strangers to comply with your wishes?
The other thing about this case: After firing 8, 9 or maybe even 10 rounds into a car full of people (I’m not sure of the exact count based on reports) what would you do next? Would you call the cops and report what happened? Or would you leave the scene and chill out back at the hotel?
This is an important detail. Why? For one thing it gives you the luxury of time. And that’s pertinent mainly for two reasons. The main reason people want time after an incident is to get things out of their system. What? Who knows? That’s why they need time to disperse whatever might be in their bloodstream. The readings between now and ten hours from now may change significantly. That’s the power of time.
The other reason is that it gives you time to prepare for the coming shitstorm. You can think. You can ponder. You can call friends or attorneys for advice. You can rehearse your stories with everyone involved. You can practice what you are going to say. You have the luxury of ten extra hours of time that you wouldn’t otherwise have had if you simply called the cops when it happened.
Time is the means by which you take control of the situation and not surrender it to the police.
From what I’ve gathered, Dunn loved his guns, loved shooting at the range, and don’t care for liberal “bastards” too much. It seems plausible that he was a fan and backer of the stand your ground philosophy. It doesn’t seem hard to imagine that he was trained and coached on what to do if he ever got involved in certain situations.
I know that what you do next was covered in my handgun safety training. In my training I was told to make sure you are safe and then call the cops as soon as possible, because you want to surrender your weapon and tell them the truth. What you don’t want is to make them come looking for you.
I can also imagine that training might have included things what you should say to cover your ass. Claim you saw a weapon. Say you feared for your life. Repeat these thoughts from the beginning to the end. Stay consistent. Never waver. Bingo. You just established enough reasonable doubt to cover almost any conceivable circumstance.
After Dunn was brought in for questioning by the police, he held firm that he saw a weapon. It was a shotgun with a barrel. Police said no weapon was ever found. Well, he saw one. He was sure of it. It might have been a stick but he saw something.
He also stated repeatedly that he feared for his life. He was really afraid. He had never been so scared in his entire life. He was so afraid he didn’t even know what he was doing. He was acting out of fear.
Dunn had an answer for everything. Why did he continue shooting while the victims were fleeing? He had to lay down suppression fire just in case they started shooting back at him. Why didn’t he call the police? They might have come back. Why didn’t he call the police when safely back at the hotel? He was in a strange town and wanted to be around people he knew before making the call. He wanted to be back at his own house.
If someone had been trained on how to play the stand your ground card and someone had the luxury of extra time, it all sounded like exactly what you’d expect to hear.
Maybe he really did think he saw a gun. I think it’s theoretically possible. But, if you are a civilian and you get that one wrong, I don’t think you should be able to get away with. There should be no coming back from a mistake like that. There should be a higher standard for the taking of human life than merely “I thought I saw something and I was afraid.”