"If there was a role reversal with the races, I doubt there would be a jury in this country that would convict a man for trying to defend his family."So said Noel Leader, a spokesman for 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, a New York City-based civil-rights group, about the murder conviction of John White who shot and killed a hopped up, drunk teen ager who along with a mob-like group had shouted threats and insults in front of his house. I'm afraid it's true.
Would it have been the same if the scenario had been transported to a state where it's not necessary to register an old handgun you inherited from your grandfather with the police and where you're allowed to take the threat of grievous bodily harm seriously? Certainly Mr. White should not have gone out to confront the darling son of the tatooed skin-heads who hooted and high-fived each other when they heard the verdict. Yet Daniel Cicciaro Jr. was committing a crime by making terroristic threats and in many States, that fact would have made his unruly, drunken friends accessories to murder. Not so in New York, a State more concerned with the possibility that attackers may be hurt than with any harm coming to the attacked.
Here in Florida, if a group of people threatens my life and is able and apparently willing to make good on the threat, I'm not required to petition the police and wait half an hour for the Sheriff to finish his donut and show up. I'm not required to try to outrun a 17 year old with my 62 year old legs or to abandon my family and hide for fear that I might hurt the young gentleman.
Take the case of Hygens Labidou, the Florida man, who recently was cut off in a busy intersection in Deerfield Beach Florida and accosted by two very large, very angry men carrying a knife, pounding on his truck and yelling " get out of the truck, N****r!"
Waiting for the police would have meant the last of Labidou for sure, but drawing the handgun he is legally permitted to carry, he shot both would-be murderers, one of whom had prior convictions for attempted murder and hijacking. Labidou was not charged and the surviving assailant is now charged with murder since his actions contributed to the death of his partner in crime.
Of course it's not a perfect comparison. White's immediate chances of survival were probably better than Labidou's, yet he lived in a state where protecting one's life and family is of secondary importance to the perceived chance that one may someday use a gun in a crime.
Yes there is a difference between law and justice, but in New York, the gap seems wider. There was a great deal of fuss made when Florida passed the "shoot the Avon Lady" law that is the reason business owner and family man is alive today, yet no Avon ladies have been shot and a variety of home invaders and parking lot hijackers have been. New York is a different place, just ask Bernard Goetz who went to jail rather than be stabbed and perhaps killed by a gang of "kids." In New York, he was called a "Vigilante," In other places he would be called a survivor.
Having had to face down a driveway full of young men shouting racist threats more than once during the hurricanes of 2004, I have to sympathize with Mr. White as well as Mr. Goetz and I have to be glad to live in a State that isn't so jealous of its dubious power to protect me that it will force me to die rather than allow me the constitutional right to self protection.