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15 July, 2013

Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (of Our Legal System)

If you didn't preface your shot by telling witnesses "I am killing this guy for no particular reason," then you are innocent.

For the people who will read this a week or more after the fact, when everyone has forgotten what happened, I'll recap: In Florida, a man was found not guilty of murder, or even manslaughter, after he shot and killed an unarmed teenage boy.

I don't doubt that the jury did the "right" thing acording to the state's "Stand Your Ground" law, which forced them to let the shooter go if he had the slightest inkling that he was in danger. Like similar laws in many states, it gives a free pass on murder, as long as the murderer says he felt threatened. Not in imminent danger of death, just threatened.

Ironically, part of the prosecution's case was that the victim, a kid, himself felt threatened by a grown man who was following him around, and that was why he punched the guy. The boy's mistake was that he attacked with his fists. Had he had a gun and shot the man, he could have claimed that he felt threatened, so murder was necessary. Stand Your Ground would then have protected him (but for the extenuating circumstance that the boy was black and the man was not).

Anyway, a killer walks free, and will be lauded by many for his firm resolve. The fact is, he was about to get his ass kicked by a kid, and instead of taking it like a man, or fighting back, the wuss whipped out a gun and killed a kid. No warning shot, no aiming for an arm or leg, but straight through the heart. Problem solved, United States of Handguns style.

Our nation has a serious problem with laws designed to permit immoral behavior. During the last presidential election, another aspect of that was on display, when super-rich candidate Romney explained that he paid all the taxes he was legally required to pay. Like Apple Computers and most corporations and wealthy individuals, he availed himself of "legal" means to hide his income and avoid paying anything close to the rate that we working people are stuck with. In the midst of the worst financial crisis in decades, with government revenues lagging far behind what it would take to emerge from trouble, corporations and 1%-ers legally availed themselves of government bailouts, incentives, and subsidies while avoiding their fair share of the burden.

Again, perfectly legal (well maybe, if the government really looked, I suspect they'd find tax havens and financial tricks that could be prosecuted, but Mitt and his ilk are not un-armed black kids, so they enjoy a certain level of immunity).

No doubt there are conservatives who look at my state and bemoan the legal pot and marriage equality. But legalizing a drug that is around anyway removes an underground, dangerous economy, removing the incentive for crimes that hurt people. Gay people getting married? That doesn't hurt anyone either. These laws just reflect changing values in society.

If laws allowing murder, possession of military firepower, and cheating on taxes also reflect where our society is headed, I worry about the future. It is legal, if you have sufficient means and the mean spirit, to deprive the poor while you increase your wealth. It is legal these days to own handguns and assault weapons, and to use them on unarmed people.

But is it right? Not by a long shot to the chest.

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