Monday, April 21, 2014

Save your life, lose your freedom?

It won't make the Network News and certainly not CNN, what with the disappearing airplane and sinking ferry and the mourning and self pity and claims of heroic strength on the anniversary of  the Boston Marathon bombing.  It's not likely to join the long, sad stories of the countless people who had to use violence -- or even threaten violence to save themselves from attackers only to spend a fortune, spend a lot of time in jail trying to prove that they really were in danger and had no other possible option in avoiding being maimed or killed.

Former US Army Captain and grandmother of one Valery Lowe  is having trouble finding representation.  She makes a bit too much to be eligible for a public defender and being on trial for murder, would certainly like the best she can find.  She's going to need a good lawyer because, according to her story, her new husband of 6 months became belligerent when she accused him of seeing another woman and raised his fist to her and got her in a choke hold.  She claims she grabbed his gun from the dresser and unable to breathe, shot and killed him with it.

Of course I wasn't there and I don't know who to trust, but it may be more than a case of whom the jury believes. She has to prove that she had no other choice beyond a reasonable doubt, that the man strangling her was enough of a threat to warrant using main force. We can be sure that the prosecutors will be just as aggressive in ascribing the blame to the victim as they so often are when it comes to female victims attacked by men.

You'll remember the Jacksonville, FL woman given 20 years for firing a warning shot into a wall to scare away her estranged husband with a restraining order already against him.   According to a mandatory sentencing law that was not intended to apply to self defense cases, anyone can get 20 to life for using a gun in a crime and after all, if she had time to pull out a gun, she had time to run away.  That law has since been changed and Marissa Alexander is going to get a new trial, but it's not unusual for someone to spend years and a large fortune in litigation, if not jail in cases of self defense.  Our laws can be confusing and seemingly irrational, but many feel that they are heavily biased in favor of attackers and that the burden of proof  in fact rests on the defense.

Yes, it's so easy to make up Stand Your Ground Jokes and to try to connect it with high profile cases that have nothing whatever to do with it -- easy to ascribe it to racism, to pretend that it's a hunting license for murderers.  When we remember that we're liberals and Liberals are certainly right about things and anyone with a gun is probably a murderer as well, we're usually quick to pile on, to make cynical jokes, inflate and distort the story without conscience.  We're not so eager to read, not so eager to put ourselves in the shoes of some woman having hell beat out of her by someone twice her size, some guy cornered on a subway by a gang with sharpened screwdrivers.  Doing that might call into question our fixed ideas about weapons and the right to have and use them and that might call into question our guiding principle: Our side is always right!

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