"Off with his head!" shouted state attorney Angela Corey, the Red Queen, after she declared she'd prosecute Michael Dunn a second time for Murder One. The first jury hung, or choked, on whether the rage triggered by raunchy rap and some "fuck you"s was sufficient to constitute premeditation in the shooting death of Jordan Davis.
"Off with his head!" echoed Seventh Circuit State Attorney R.J. Larizza. The Knave of Hearts, he stole Corey's tarts by charging Christopher Fries with Murder One after he shot Paul Crookshank in a beery brawl outside the Giggling Gator, a louche lounge somewhere between St. Augustine's Bridge of Lions and the Road to Perdition.
Corey's prosecution of Dunn was incompetent, as the learned Larizza's will be, because both are overcharging their defendants. Murder One requires premeditation, defined thusly by the Florida Supreme Court: " ‘Killing with premeditation' is killing after consciously deciding to do so. … The law does not fix the exact period of time that must pass between the formation of the premeditated intent to kill and the killing. The period of time must be long enough to allow reflection by the defendant."
Do prosecutors think enough time elapsed between the "fuck" and the "you" of the Dunn case to constitute premeditation? Do they think, in the Fries case, that the moment between the smack of the haymaker and the splat of butt on asphalt was long enough for any meditation, pre- or non-? In the vapor of law school seminars, where angels dance on pinheads splitting hairs, it's clever to argue the existence of "instantaneous premeditation." Try selling that to a jury.
As annoying as prosecutors' soap-operatic flourishes (weeping relatives, TV-camera indignation) is their practice of presenting a jury with a smorgasbord of frequently unappetizing charges. Corey indicted Dunn for first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, attempted manslaughter, launching a deadly missile …
T ricky bullets beget tricky problems, death-wise, legal-wise and otherwise. The yearly appearance of ammunition new and strange reminds me of the kaleidoscopically colorful fishing lures that change constantly on the merchandise hooks at Walmart. They're designed to catch anglers, not fish.
The new bullet on the block this year is a dazzler. The Multiple Impact™ Bullet (MI™ Bullet) is made by Advanced Ballistic Concepts. When fired, the slug separates into three pieces tethered by cords. The array spins like a propeller and upon impact saws a salad-bowl-sized slice out of the bad guy.
The advertising emphasizes that, because of the array's 14-inch spread, even dithery amateurs (your name goes here) can't miss. The photos show targets zapped impressively at 25 feet. You might infer that, with such ammo, you can shoot attackers from farther away!
When you fire in self-defense, you have two problems: staying alive and staying out of prison. Behind the attacker comes the popo, and behind them the Red Queen, Angela Corey, and her prosecutorial minions. Unless the attacker is a stranger who breaks into your home, and the corpse you create drops conveniently inside the threshold, nothing will be certain. Here's a more likely scenario:
You foolishly drive at night through an ash-can neighborhood like mine, where lowlifes lean on lampposts 24/7. Everybody on the block except you is selling crank, crack, heroin or a combination thereof. At the red light at Market and Union, a guy yells, "Gimme your car," then pulls a pistol and fires. His bullet misses. Yours hits.
Everybody stares at the twitching corpse. Nobody notices a kid who grabs the bad guy's gun as it skitters across the asphalt and then disappears at full gallop into the shadows. You and God know it was a righteous kill, but you're the only ones.
As God will not be your witness, you have only the onlookers. Some will be serving time on probation or free on bail. Some will be …