Simple murder.

I read a lot, some of it in books, some of it in newspapers, some of it from on line sources. I recently ran across a story that stopped me in my tracks. It wasn’t the story itself, but the response people had to it, that really stopped me cold.

This is the story:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_pharmacy_shooting

The facts are simple: a pharmacist is working in a drug store in a “bad” section of town. Two teenagers walk in, one of them armed, and attempt to rob the drug store. The pharmacist has a gun behind the counter, which he pulls and shoots one of the would be robbers. The other robber flees while the pharmacist follows him to the door, then he returns to the counter. Now comes the part that changes the story. The remaining robber is now on the floor, unconscious with a bullet in his head. The pharmacist goes behind the counter, retrieves a second gun he has there, then come back around the counter. He then proceeds to fire five shots into the unconscious robber’s abdomen, killing him in the process.

When the story first broke, people hailed the pharmacist as a hero, he was seen as defending himself and his coworkers. When video surveillance from the store was examined by the police, they notified prosecutors, who charged the pharmacist with murder. The case was tried before a jury, who heard both the prosecutor’s argument that the shooting was murder, and the defense’s claim that it was simply a matter of self defense. The jury took around three and a half hours to decide that it was, in fact, murder; and to further recommend that the pharmacist be sentenced to life in prison.

It’s all pretty straight forward, the evidence was in no doubt what happened, and the jury would have been hard pressed to come to any other verdict. What amazed me was what I read when I scrolled down past the end of the story.

One after another, people had weighed in, denouncing the jury and hailing the pharmacist as a hero. The level of hatred, of anger, that most of those people expressed should be enough to make anyone shudder, if not openly blanch. It’s like once the kid walked in the door, he was fair game, no matter whether he was actively attacking anyone or not. It makes one wonder, what would these people have considered a response on the robber’s part that would have justified not shooting him. Would it have been enough if he’d been gasping out pleas for mercy? If he’d managed to get on his knees and beg for his life? When does a person cross the line from defending themselves to, as the prosecutor put it, becoming “judge, jury and executioner”?

For myself, I think the jury did the right thing. Shooting someone who’s actively trying to harm you is an act that isn’t hard to justify. Shooting someone who’s lying defenseless in front of you, that’s murder, plain and simple

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