March 2013 - Pg 10-Letters
A Thank-You to the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network
By Massad Ayoob
One thing you expect from any well-constructed organization is networking. It’s one of the things ACLDN provides. My old friend Richard Davis, the armed citizen who invented the Second Chance concealed soft body armor which first “bullet-proofed America’s police,” was always fond of saying “No one person can do it alone.” I was reminded of that in a murder trial during the first week of February 2013.
In November of 2010, a physically huge man who had threatened the life of an average-size guy came to the latter’s house in an angry and argumentative mood. Before he told his wife to get their two little boys into a safe room, the homeowner tucked a .45 into his waistband. He then stepped out onto the porch to meet his uninvited “guest” and hopefully calm him down.
It didn’t work. The unwanted visitor told the homeowner, “I’ll beat the life out of you,” and punched him in the face so hard it knocked his partial dental plate loose. Reeling backward, the armed citizen drew and fired to slidelock, so fast that his seven shots sounded to one witness like “a string of firecrackers.” The attacker fled, collapsing some 40 feet away at the end of the house. He died at the scene; one of the bullets had pierced his heart. Some twelve minutes after police arrived, they arrested the armed citizen for Premeditated Murder, a charge which carries with conviction a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole in that jurisdiction.
The state’s theory of the case was that, since five casings were recovered near the porch the night of the shooting but two more were discovered the next day near where the decedent collapsed, the defendant must have run after him and fired two more execution shots. By the time I arrived to testify as expert witness for the defense, we had long since been prepared to show that this was physically impossible.
However, during a trial which began on Monday, February 4, the state presented on Wednesday, February 6 a medical examiner who testified emphatically that a man shot through the heart with a .45 could not have moved more than ten feet before dropping.
I was scheduled to go on the stand the following day, and had to rebut that. Conflicting expert opinions can
turn into “he said/she said” if not supported by authoritative citations. I had some with me, but – not anticipating this turn of events – had not brought along a copy of Dr. Vincent DiMaio’s authoritative text, Gunshot Wounds. I recalled from that book a documented case of a man whose heart was shredded with a much more powerful weapon, yet he ran a considerably greater distance before collapsing than did the decedent in the instant case. The trial was taking place in a small community in the Appalachians, and there was no hope of getting a copy between the close of court on Wednesday and the following day.
Fortunately, there was ACLDN. It was after hours, but I reached out to Marty Hayes at ACLDN headquarters in Washington State, and ACLDN CLE (Continuing Legal Education for practicing lawyers) instructor Jim Fleming in Minnesota. Defense lawyer Brian Abraham and I were just sitting down to dinner and final trial prep when, two minutes apart, Hayes and Fleming were emailing me the critical commentary from the DiMaio text.
The following day, called to the stand by Abraham, I was able to deal with this issue with a series of quotes from three master forensic pathologists. I finished with the quote from DiMaio, and it was the piece de resistance. It deflated, finally and most dramatically, the erroneous allegation that the defendant’s account was impossible, and showed that instead, it was totally plausible.
That, coupled with other evidence, clearly showed that the state’s theory of the case was simply impossible: it violated the laws of the time/space continuum, and required anyone who believed it to disregard the entirety of the testimony of some seven eyewitnesses and earwitnesses.