Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Standing on What Ground?

How could we have known? Sooner or later, this kind of tragedy was bound to happen. And now, we're bound to witness a hot mess explode in court... Even though it's crystal clear that Wayne Burgarello shot two people.

So why is this bound to be a hot mess? Wayne Burgarello admitted he shot Cody Devine dead and seriously wounded Janai Wilson. What else do we need to know? Ah, but Wayne Burgarello is now claiming "Stand Your Ground" as his legal defense.

Wait, what?! Remember when the Nevada Legislature passed AB 321 in 2011? We do. Oh, and we remember sounding this alarm in 2012.

They set up a dangerous slippery slope for justifying as "self-defense" what would otherwise be declared manslaughter or murder. After all, what we may consider murder can be twisted by a smart criminal defense attorney into a "Stand Your Ground" situation just by insinuating that the homicide victim was somehow threatening the shooter's life and/or property, even if there's little or no evidence that the shooter was really at risk.

So why are we now falling down this slippery slope? Why did we have to take this downhill course in the first place? And can we afford to keep making decisions out of political convenience while ignoring future public safety crises?

And this is exactly what Wayne Burgarello's defense attorney is claiming. He's claiming Burgarello had the right to shoot Cody Devine and Janai Wilson because he found them at his vacant duplex in Sparks. After all, isn't this what "Stand Your Ground" is for?

Ever since George Zimmerman was set free after murdering Trayvon Martin, we've had to confront this brutal reality. Zimmerman shot Martin dead for "committing the crime" of walking outside while black. Martin was "armed" with a hoodie, a bag of Skittles, and a bottle of Arizona iced tea. And yet, George Zimmerman now enjoys his G-O-TEA/"gun enthusiast" celebrity status while Trayvon Martin's family must go to the cemetery to visit him.

But wait, wasn't Cody Devine trespassing upon someone else's property? Possibly, though it's unclear as to whether he even knew he was not wanted there. Whatever the case, did Wayne Burgarello have the right to unilaterally impose the death penalty on him?

This is the central question to the "Stand Your Ground"/Shoot to Kill principle. Should anyone have the ability to unilaterally impose the death penalty on someone else for whatever reason? Do we really need to return to the "Old West Days" of shootouts anywhere, everywhere? Why did the Nevada Legislature & Governor Brian Sandoval (R) approve this? Might they be having second thoughts about this now?

1 comment:

  1. Lessee, now. I have, apparently, the right to shoot someone who is committing a misdemeanor if I feel his actions represent a threat to me -- and, apparently it does not need an immanent threat. Guess I oughta fill the shootin' iron and set up outside a neighborhood bar, because anyone who is getting into his car intoxicated is a threat to me or my family. Of course, as a gay -- actually bisexual -- man, I feel VERY threatened by those preachers who are praising the Uganda laws and calling for them to be instituted here. And I know people who are on Medicaid and need it to save their own lives, and there are those damn threatening politicians who are trying to take it away. Sufficient enough threat?

    Or what if I had kids, and I knew one of them -- who was vulnerable to bullying, and he was going to be in a class, next fall, with a known bully. Can I risk his attending that class, or should I simply take preemptive measures?

    Actually, maybe it would be easier just to reinstitute the code duello?

    Of course, this is pure snark, but what is the limit to how far I can go? (Of course, I AM white, which helps, and for some of the targets I can make sure I get the benefit of choosing a non-white victim,. And I suppose we have brought back yet another 'blast from the past' since all lynching victims were theoretically guilty of some crime.)