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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Parallel Justice

The story of Ronald Dixon has been covered. Rachel Lucas has links, and Clyde Haberman of the NY Times recently had a column on it.

Briefly, Dixon, a 27 year old ex-Navy computer technician, shot and wounded an intruder at 2 AM on the second floor of his residence in Brooklyn. The intruder has a criminal record, but now Dixon is in trouble as well - the gun he used for self-defense was not registered in NY. Dixon faces possible jail time on a plea deal, but his attorney seems to be relying on public pressure and a sensible jury to free his client. Jury nullification - we want to come back to that.

So, parallel justice - here is a story about a homeowner in Queens. Two would-be intruders rang the front door bell of the Santos home at 9:50 AM. When no one answered, they walked around to the side of the house and used a crowbar to force their way in. But, surprise! Mr. Santos, alerted by his wife, was waiting for them with a handgun. He chased them into the front yard, one of them stopped and raised what seemed to be a pistol, and Mr. Santos, a former air marshall, fired and killed him.

Well, so he says. The second intruder drove off, and no gun was recovered at the scene. Police are still investigating, but, fortunately, Mr. Santos has a permit for his gun. At this point, all seems well, and no charges are contemplated.

Now, I am not sure that this was a proper deadly force incident - the intruders were fleeing, so chasing them may have been a bit overzealous for a civilian. However, I have had friends do stranger things, so we will let that pass.

But something is not right here - Santos killed a guy who was, broadly speaking, in retreat. (I presume that the fellow was not shot in the back, and I suppose he could have circled around and returned for a second attempt, but still, Santos did not seem to face an immediate threat other than of his own making.) Dixon shot a man who was rushing towards him in his own hallway (so he says, but no one disputes it). So, Santos is OK, but Dixon goes to jail? Wrong answer.

UPDATE: Brooklyn, Queens, and now the Bronx: during a hold-up attempt, an employee grabs an unlicensed gun and shoots the would-be burglar. The DA is going to pass this to a grand jury, which will almost surely not indict.

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