President Biden’s Safer America Plan speaks about his plan to further reduce gun crime and save lives.
The sentencing hearing for the shooter in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Florida is ongoing this week. The shooter, Nikolas Cruz, pleaded guilty to the murders, so the trial is to determine whether he’ll spend the rest of his life in jail or be executed for the crimes. In Florida, death sentences require a unanimous verdict.
Cruz committed the murders with an AR-15 on February 14, 2018. He was 19 at the time and a former student. He is now 23 but still looks like a kid to me. (Perhaps because he’s about the same age as MY kid, whose adulthood I outwardly respect but secretly do not accept.) It’s fairly rare for a school shooter to be tried in court; most kill themselves or are killed by the police.
Cruz randomly murdered 14 students, a teacher who was trying to lead students to safety in his classroom, and the school athletic director and a football coach, who ran into the building to try to save students. The armed school resource officer took cover outside as the shooting unfolded. An additional 17 students were shot and injured. All of this happened within six minutes on three floors of one building.
I’m against the death penalty in every case, including this one. If Cruz had killed or injured my kid, I’m sure I’d have an entirely different view, and I expect the parents and families of those killed and injured at MSDHS are hoping for a unanimous verdict of death. It’s perfectly understandable.
Cruz had been a troubled mess for many years. Law enforcement missed so many red flags. Cruz caused so many unendurable losses, and some of the victims and families have channeled their rage and sorrow into gun safety activism, including students Cameron Kasky, David Hogg and X (formerly Emma) González, and also Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaimie was among the victims.
All school shootings are horrific, but for me, this case has been haunting from the beginning. I wrote about it here a couple of days after it happened, believing it might finally change the thinking on guns, even just a little. It did, a little. The wingnut-dominated Florida statehouse and then-Governor Rick Scott did what was previously unthinkable and enacted new gun restrictions. Not enough. But not nothing either.
Anyway, I doubt they will, but I hope the jury spares the shooter’s life. And I hope everyone involved, even him, finds a measure of peace. Cruz is responsible for the horrors he visited on that school, all the lives he took and all the pain he caused. But America gave him the gun that made such a deadly rampage possible. This country — our sick gun culture — is an accessory.
BREAKING: A Wisconsin judge has approved an agreement to destroy the assault-style rifle used by Kyle Rittenhouse to shoot three people in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during a 2020 protest. A jury last year acquitted him of all charges, including homicide. https://t.co/aE8GFAagpB
— The Associated Press (@AP) January 28, 2022
Good news, if the ruling is actually enforced:
… Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger said the state crime lab would destroy the gun, probably in April. Judge Bruce Schroeder, the Kenosha County judge who presided over Rittenhouse’s trial, approved the agreement. Rittenhouse was not in court for Friday’s hearing.
The judge also ordered that Rittenhouse’s $2 million bail be divided among his attorney, a foundation that solicited donations for his defense and actor Ricky Schroder, who donated to the defense fund…
Rittenhouse’s attorney, Mark Richards, filed a motion Jan. 19 asking prosecutors to return Rittenhouse’s rifle, his ammunition, his face mask and other clothing he was wearing the night of the shooting to him. Richards and David Hancock, a spokesman for Rittenhouse, said last week that Rittenhouse, who is now 19, wanted to destroy the rifle and throw the rest of the items away so nothing can be used as a political symbol or trophy celebrating the shootings.
“We didn’t think anyone should profit from it,” Richards told reporters after the hearing. Asked if anyone had reached out about purchasing the gun, Richards responded: “Lots of people.” He didn’t elaborate…
The judge approved an agreement that calls for splitting the money between Richards’ law firm and the #Fightback Foundation. Attorneys Lin Wood and John Pierce, who were representing Rittenhouse in the early days of case, formed the foundation to raise money for him. The agreement also calls for sending $150,000 to Schroder, the former star of the 1980s television series “Silver Spoons.”…
Authorities in Michigan say they may charge the parents of the 15-year-old who perpetrated the latest school shooting. Good. That should happen more often but usually doesn’t, perhaps because some states don’t have laws requiring adults to keep The Precious away from minors. Here’s hoping Michigan does.
The latest school shooter’s parents seem like lovely people. The Daily Beast uncovered an open letter to Donald Trump that the mother posted on Facebook in November 2016:
“As a female and a Realtor, thank you for allowing my right to bear arms,” the letter continued. “Allowing me to be protected if I show a home to someone with bad intentions. Thank you for respecting that Amendment.”
She complained about parents at other schools where the “kids come from illegal immigrant parents” and “don’t care about learning.”
It was signed, “A hard working Middle Class Law Abiding Citizen who is sick of getting fucked in the ass and would rather be grabbed by the pussy.”
The father replied, “My wife can be spot on. Sometimes.” Funny, I can’t think of a single school shooting incident involving “kids com[ing] from illegal immigrant parents.”
There’s an awful video that I won’t share taken by a student during the shooting. There’s no violence depicted, just the fear those kids and a teacher experienced while huddled behind desks in a dark classroom as someone pounded on the door. Was it a sheriff or a shooter? They weren’t about to open the door to find out. It’s haunting.
We choose to live this way. We choose to subject our children to this madness. Not all of us, of course. But enough of us think this is okay, so we all have to live this way, with active shooter drills and real-life tests of them a routine part of American life. It’s shameful. That’s all I have to say about that.
By now everyone has, I’m sure, done a bunch of venting about the outcome of Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial today. Whether that’s about the judge and his behavior, the prosecution, the defense, the actual events, or some combination of all of them. The reality though, and I’m sure someone put this in a comment in MisterMix’s post, is that the odds were always in favor of an acquittal. I’ll leave the discussion of whether the local prosecutors in Kenosha overcharged or incorrectly charged Rittenhouse to the our crack team of readers and commenters who are lawyers, especially those who practice in Wisconsin (hint, hint). As for whether the judge’s behavior and rulings were way out of bounds, I’m sure those readers and commenters who are lawyers will be happy to explain that judges, especially those handling criminal cases, are often unique individuals. I’m sure those that do defense work will also explain that the instructions about using terms like victim or perpetrator are actually what every defendant should be getting from judges, but, sadly, all too few ever do. Especially if the accused are people of color.
This is a good thread from a public defender in Louisiana about the judge’s instruction on the language the prosecutors and the defense counsel could and could not use during the trial and how almost all the initial reporting and subsequent commentary got it wrong. Here’s his take on the outcome of the Rittenhouse trial. Here’s Ken White’s, aka Popehat, explainer on Judge Schroeder, his behavior, and why it is all too common.
I want to just briefly focus on why today’s acquittal was always the likely outcome: because the laws on armed self defense and/or stand your ground laws are either sloppily written or are currently interpreted in a very broad manner. I’m most familiar with Florida’s stand your ground expansion of its self defense laws because I was teaching state and local politics* at UF when it was being debated. The bill, commonly referred to as the Baxley Amendment as it was submitted by a state legislator from the greater Orlando area named Dennis Baxley. Baxley didn’t write the bill, it was written by Marion Hammer, who was the then chief lobbyist for both the NRA in Florida and Associated Industries of Florida (the largest business lobby in the state). Hammer is commonly referred to as the Gun Granny. The bill has what is now the usual legislative language about a reasonable person feeling threatened as the determinant for whether standing one’s ground is justified, as well as no duty to retreat. However, it also frames this within the perception regarding whether the person who is claiming stand your ground as a defense is actually facing an imminent threat. When you combine the latter with the no duty to retreat portion of the law, it allows someone to instigate and/or escalate a confrontation, determine they’re being imminently threatened with serious harm and/or death, and therefore use lethal force to stop that perceived threat.
While my understanding of the Rittenhouse case from the reporting and the commentary is that there was no stand your ground law in place in Wisconsin for Rittenhouse’s defense team to invoke, the description of instigating and/or escalating a confrontation determining one is being imminently threatened with serious harm and/or death, and therefore employing lethal force to stop that perceived threat is a pretty good description of Kyle Rittenhouse’s actions on the night he decided to go play shooting medic in Kenosha.
That description, part of which – that Rittenhouse was under attack by three different people as the lead elements of a mob of protestors, demonstrators, and rioters – focused on the imminent threat Rittenhouse was in and his inability to safely retreat, which required him to use lethal force in self defense is what his defense was built around. It was the focus of his direct testimony and it was the focus of his attorneys’ theory of the case. And it was a powerful defense because with the exception of Gage Grosskruetz, the people he shot were not alive to tell their version of events. And this is what I want to focus on.
The simple reality is that in these armed self defense and/or stand your ground cases, the person who survives and is able to tell their version of events usually has an advantage. For the simple reason that the person or people that they shot and killed are dead and can’t really speak for themselves. The Tampa Bay Times did an extensive investigation into Florida’s stand your ground law and had two major takeaways. The first is that if only one party survived, specifically the party invoking stand your ground, then he or she (though it is usually a he) had a very high chance of either not being charged or of an acquittal because the other party or parties to the shooting were dead. The second was that if the person who was claiming stand your ground was white, the person they shot and killed is a person of color, and/or both they have an exceedingly high chance of either not being charged or of an acquittal. Whether Baxley, or really Marion Hammer, intended Florida’s stand your ground law, which became the model for similar legislation with minor variations in many other states, to actually have a racist effect is both not known and immaterial. Like so many other of our criminal laws, the reality is it produces a serious and significant racial disparity when applied.
This brings us back to Kyle Rittenhouse. The only way today’s outcome would have been different was if Gage Grosskruetz had shot Rittenhouse rather than moving his gun off of Rittenhouse as a target to signal he wasn’t a threat. Rittenhouse ignored that, which makes the acquittal on the charges regarding Grosskruetz’s being shot so egregious, and then claimed self defense because Grosskruetz was actively targeting Rittenhouse, which created an imminent threat of serious bodily harm and/or death.
Grosskruetz’s cardinal mistake was in deciding Rittenhouse was not a threat and, as a result, taking his gun off of Rittenhouse as a target and not shooting. I know that sounds cold and callous. And before someone eventually reads this and thinks I’m calling for Rittenhouse to be shot, I AM NOT CALLING FOR RITTENHOUSE TO BE SHOT!!!! The reality is if you draw your gun for self defense purposes, especially if you have a handgun and the person who is doing the shooting has a rifle, you had better take the shot. Unless you are under secure and impenetrable cover so that no matter what the other person does, you can’t be shot. Because if you don’t, the person who has been doing the shooting will see you, see your gun, and shoot you because you are a threat to him (it is almost always a him).
As I wrote way back when the congressional Republicans’ softball practice was attacked, the first attempted claim of stand your ground was in Philadelphia in the 1790s. The judge determined it was not a valid defense under the US constitution, Pennsylvania’s constitution, or the common law. The local newspaper actually published the write up of the trial as a special pamphlet, which is attached below this post. It is important to remember that the people (okay, white men) who had just come through the Revolution, the founding of the US, and were alive for the debates around both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution did not accept stand your ground as a legitimate defense. That it has been revived over the past twenty years with claims of originalism rooted in the largely created from whole cloth revisionism of the 2nd Amendment’s legislative, constitutional, and legal history is just stupendously amazing.
* When I first got to UF, because I already had a pair of masters degrees and experiencing teaching as an adjunct and as a teaching assistant, I got assigned to septuagenarian member of the faculty who had had a mild stroke from which he’d made an almost complete recovery. The guy rode his bike about 40 miles to and from campus each day! His specialty was state and local politics and, to be frank, he should have retired many years before I got there as time, the discipline, and reality had long passed him by. He was a wonderful person, really cared about the students, and loved teaching. Unfortunately they’d assigned him a 300 student intro to state and local government section. He’d never taught any course with more than 20 or 30 students, including the intro course. My job was to help him deal with this new reality. To this day I’m convinced the department chair at the time assigned him this section in the attempt to either force him to retire or kill him from the stress. Regardless, because I basically ran the course for him – I did the syllabus, handled drafting the tests and quizzes and getting them graded, did all the administration, ran the review sections, etc – we both got through the semester without major incident and as a result it was determined that I was now qualified to teach state and local politics. So every few semesters, I’d get assigned to teach it despite it being well outside of my specialty areas.
this is one hell of an ad from the Democrat running against Republican Nancy Mace. pic.twitter.com/uLFnM2ycqf
— Adam Parkhomenko (@AdamParkhomenko) November 8, 2021
This does, indeed, seem like an excellent ad for Dr. Andrews. Anyone want to talk about the chances of unseating Rep. Nancy Mace?
I am so excited to announce that our campaign raised over $200K in the first 24 hours! This amazing support proves that we can flip #SC01 and put a pediatrician in the House.
To everyone who has already donated, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Now let's keep it going!
— Dr. Annie Andrews (@AnnieAndrewsMD) November 9, 2021
Dwayne Johnson says that after Alec Baldwin’s fatal on-set shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, his production company “will not use real guns ever again” on its TV and film sets. pic.twitter.com/3EBQNjY8fw
— AP Entertainment (@APEntertainment) November 4, 2021
Here’s hoping, per Variety:
… Seven Bucks Productions, founded by Johnson and his longtime business partner Dany Garcia, is behind some of the most lucrative films in recent years, from “Jumanji” to “Jungle Cruise,” to “Hobbs and Shaw” and the upcoming “Black Adam.” Johnson is not just one of the most famous people in the world, but also one of the most respected and beloved figures in the business, who carries a lot of weight and brings mega-bucks to the box office. In other words, Johnson’s endorsement to end the use of real firearms can kick-off a domino effect of safe decision-making across Hollywood productions…
Rust numbers, per a new story from Yahoo Entertainment:
Producers on Rust, including Alec Baldwin, have come under fire over reports of chaotic working conditions in the wake of Halyna Hutchins’s death. The Hollywood Reporter obtained a draft of the production budget which sheds light on where money was allocated on the independent Western movie.
Baldwin was set to earn $150,000 as lead actor and $100,000 as producer, according to the new report. Hutchins, an up-and-coming cinematographer, would have earned $48,945, while armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, one of two people at the center of the investigation, was set to be paid $7,913. Producers budgeted $7,469 for “armorer crew,” $17,500 for the rental of weapons and $5,000 for rounds. Dave Halls, first assistant director who handed the prop gun to Baldwin, was to earn $52,830. While the draft confirms the low-budget nature of the film, which was slated to cost $7,279,305, experts tell THR the numbers are not unusual…
Smart, scary thread from someone who’s been in the business all her life:
A small story:
One of the most dangerous sayings among artists is “Jump and the net will appear.” The idea that if you risk the universe will automatically protect you from the worst possible consequences is very seductive and is not actually true. https://t.co/Yawp3OjWOL
— Quinn Cummings (@quinncy) October 27, 2021
… When you produce an indie, money is gathered slowly, painfully; I’d say you chip away at the amount you need like a sculptor working some marble, but imagine if while the sculptor delineated a leg, a bunch of marble sometimes grew back. Money gets promised, not always delivered.
At some point, you have to start moving forward as if the project is going to go, at least in part to get people you want to work with to block out the time you’ll need them on your schedule. Every day, you get closer to shooting. Every day, money waffles.
Making a movie outside of a studio system is objectively terrifying.
(Making a movie within the system is no pastoral idyll either, but that’s another Small Story)
Everything is on the line. Sometimes, literally; I personally know people who mortgaged houses to make a movie.
Not all of them kept their house.