Killing without Consequences

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Recently, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, 6-5, that the state of Idaho could prosecute federal sharpshooter Lon Horiuchi for manslaughter in the killing of Vicki Weaver at Ruby Ridge.

Horiuchi shot Mrs. Weaver through the head at 200 yards with a 30-06 sniper rifle. She had a baby in her arms.

After Mrs. Weaver was killed, federal agents taunted the surviving family members.

Federal agents, one must recall, were there to arrest Randy Weaver for what the Washington Post refers to as u201Crelatively minor weapons charges.u201D

Indeed. Weaver was charged with sawing one-half of an inch off the length of a shotgun. At this point, one must question the Post’s choice of words: u201Crelativeu201D as compared to what? The u201Cweapons chargeu201D which ultimately led to the death of Vicki Weaver is objectively minor, unless the word u201Cminoru201D is to lose part of its meaning. (And so we see how the mainstream media insidiously sanitizes the news, giving perhaps half of the truth).

Did I mention that Weaver sawed the hideously evil half-inch off the length of the shotgun at the request of a federal informant in the hire of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms?

Weaver, by the way, had failed to appear in court because he had been given the wrong date for his hearing.

That justifies killing? Apparently it does in the eyes of some people, who perhaps cannot imagine any human conduct which should not be subjected to state control. In other words, there are some people whose notion of liberty is being allowed to do what the government tells you to do — and if you disobey, you die.

And now the state of Idaho has decided that it will not exercise its right to prosecute Lon Horiuchi.

Killing without consequences.

Did some federal lackey threaten to take away Idaho’s highway funds? Is there a cushy federal agency job in somebody’s future? So far, no one is talking.

The Washington Times adds that

Boundary County Prosecutor Brett Benson, in a brief statement issued yesterday by his office, said Agent Lon T. Horiuchi, a member of the FBI’s hostage rescue team, would not be tried in an Idaho court for the Aug. 22, 1992, death of Mrs. Weaver. The statement gave no reason for the decision.

This is more than a bit odd. After the state expends no small sum of money to take the case to a federal Court of Appeals, they decide to drop the case.

Disturbingly, one of the five judges who would deny Idaho the right to prosecute the sniper for the killing, Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, called the ruling a u201Cgrave disserviceu201D to federal law enforcement authorities u201Cwho knew until now that if they performed their duties within the bounds of reason and without malice they would be protected…and not subject to endless judicial second-guessing.u201D

What exactly is u201Cwithin the bounds of reasonu201D about shooting a woman with a baby in the head from 200 yards? Are we to believe that the government trained this sniper to kill from such a distance, and yet he could not tell, or did not have sufficient optical devices to discern, that his target was a woman with a baby?

The majority opinion from the Ninth Circuit found that the sniper’s shooting was u201Cmore akin to recklessness than reasonable doubt.u201D Do we want to encourage reckless behavior by men with sniper rifles? If they work for the government, apparently so.

As the Washington Times reports of the Ruby Ridge killing,

Acting under modified rules of engagement by FBI supervisors saying the sharpshooters u201Ccould and shouldu201D shoot any armed male, Mr. Horiuchi was attempting to hit Weaver friend Kevin Harris when he shot Mrs. Weaver, 42, as she stood behind a cabin door. The same bullet also struck Mr. Harris as he ran behind the door.

Ah, he couldn’t see what was behind the door — that is the excuse.

But of course, if any private citizen were to shoot at someone in self-defense, but hit someone else, you can be certain that private citizen would face prosecution. That is because his private killing is not u201Cofficial.u201D In short, those who work for the government can kill — they can violate the government’s constitutional duty to safeguard the lives of the citizens — and face no consequences. Well, they might not get a promotion.

The point the minority judges miss is that the decision to kill — most certainly the decision to kill a woman holding a baby, even if she was killed because she was behind a door and not the intended target — must always and everywhere be subject to second guessing.

The alternative is to allow the government to create more men like Tim McVeigh — who was, of course, trained to kill by the government — who kill without remorse.

The state of Idaho owes the world an explanation. Since the Justice Department spent $3.1 million in tax dollars to settle one lawsuit stemming from Ruby Ridge in 1995, perhaps someone believed that justice had already been served.

But if that is the case, was the state of Idaho merely making a point by pursuing its appeal to the Ninth Circuit?

I doubt that very much.

To be blunt, something doesn’t smell right about this decision to let a killing go unpunished.

In that regard, the Washington Post reports that the newly elected prosecutor who decided to drop the case, Brett Benson, u201Cis being investigated by the Idaho Attorney General’s office at the request of the Boundary County Board of Commissioners because of allegations that he falsified two notarized documents.u201D

Benson won his job by defeating the old prosecutor, Denise Woodbury, last November. And surprise, surprise, it is the defeated Woodbury who appointed the special prosecutor, Stephen Yagman, to handle the case against the sniper.

Yagman, the special prosecutor, called the decision to drop the case u201Cunjustified and done in a sneaky way.u201D

Who backed the Benson campaign? Was the decision to drop the case his alone to make?

The plot thickens.

Mr. Dieteman [send him mail] is an attorney in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.

© 2001 David Dieteman

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