Friday, March 23, 2012

Keeping Your Mouth Shut

By now, you've heard about the shooting in Florida that ended with one person dead and another having to live in the shadows while the press, the anti-gun rights crowd, and the usual gang of race baiters scream for his blood and the authorities decide whether or not to prosecute him.

I'm not going to speculate as to whether or not the shooter was justified.  I don't know enough about the circumstances or the self-defense laws in Florida to do that.

To hear one side tell it, the shooter in this case was a self-appointed vigilante who went out looking for trouble and the shootee was a choir boy who got in his way and was targeted because of the color of his skin.

To hear the other side of it, well, we don't hear much from the other side.  Pretty much all we hear that's not being trumpeted by those on the dead man's side is from the police, who are doing their best Joe Friday, "Just the facts, ma'am", closed-lipped routine, which they should be doing.  It's not their job to defend the shooter, and they shouldn't be making any comments while they're engaged in an investigation.  What has been said, including releases of police reports, leads me to lean towards the "he wasn't right, but he might not have been criminally wrong" side of the argument.  But like I said, I don't know enough to make a true judgement of the shooter's actions.

In the court of public opinion, which will be contaminating any prospective jury pool in the event that this blooms into criminal charges and a trial, the shooter is being crucified.  For the most part he, his family, and his attorney are keeping quiet, possibly waiting for all the facts to come out from the investigation before defending themselves in the press.

When I took my concealed carry class, and in discussions with self-defense instructors, I've been told that after a shooting shut the heck up.  Cooperate with police through an attorney, stay out of the press, and let the process take care of itself.

This case makes me wonder if that's the best thing we can do in the unfortunate event that we have to use force to defend ourselves.  Yes, anything you say will be used against you, either by the authorities, civil litigants, or reporters who just don't like your looks.  But leaving that particular battlefield undefended means that even when the actual facts are reported and you are legally exhonerated, most people, including lawyers, demagogues, and reporters, will have made up their minds and the shooter is hosed.  Maybe the shooter will win, but it will be a Pyrrhic victory if they have to bankrupt themselves to repair the damage done when talking heads, race baiting politicians, and anti-rights extremists trash you on cable news.

No-one wants to speak ill of the dead, but if you're being painted as a cold blooded thug of a killer when the facts of the matter are quite different, do you owe it to yourself to point out the reasons you felt it necessary to use deadly force, including truthfully claiming that the person you shot did things that made you fear for your life and listing them in detail?  Is it right to refute claims by the other side that the person you shot was an innocent lamb who was gunned down in cold blood?  Would you be justified in having your attorney go to the press with any statements you made to the police if they contradict what is being said about you in the press?

What do you all think?  Would a shooter be better served by having someone stand up in the public glare and openly refute attacks against them?  Or is it better to just let the garbage flow around you while you patiently wait for the process to work itself out?


Suz said...

It's a tough call, but I'd say, "Zip it." Guilty or not, the shooter's life is forever changed, if not ruined. Nothing he can say right now could possibly make a positive difference in the face of this overwhelming bad publicity.

Even if he's not guilty of murder, there are consequences to taking a life. This may be a tragic reminder to CAREFULLY consider the ramifications of using deadly force. Sometimes it's necessary, but it's never "good."

Sean D Sorrentino said...

I'd want my family to do their damndest to counter the screaming mob.

That's the problem, though. If you have a sense of honor, you're handicapped when fighting the anti-gunners and the race baiters. I think I would just have to resign myself to being a symbol forever, so I might as well be a symbol for the pro-rights crowd instead of a bad example.

eiaftinfo said...

I see no problem refuting the claims of the victim's family, detailing why you felt in mortal danger, telling exactly what the circumstances were - through an attorney. Remember, there is tremendous pressure on the police to "solve" this - and they will naturally be swayed by the loudest voices. You can see this at work already in Florida with the police chief stepping down.

A person has a constitutional right to an attorney - I would suggest everyone make use of it.

kahr40 said...

He should cooperate with the investigation through his attorney and do exactly what his attorney advises. He is going to be dealing with this for years to come. He needs to give them as little ammunition as possible.

Peter said...

Remember part of the Miranda warning: "Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law". Even if you haven't been arrested and 'read your rights', that statement remains true. If you say anything that might be even remotely construed to be an exaggeration, or a slight untruth, or anything of the kind, the 'other side' will pounce on it and use it to hang you.

Shut up and STAY SHUT! Talk ONLY to your lawyer, and through him/her to the cops.

For a fuller explanation, see:

It's very well worth your time to watch the whole thing.

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