Reports from the media are almost always filled with errors. The reporters, at best, are expert writers and are seldom experts on the topic. They have limited time and rely on others for the “facts” which filter through biases and various error prone communication channels before they ever reach the public. And in the case of what happened behind a bar shortly after closing time on a Friday night (actually early Saturday morning) even the people who participated are probably not going to be worthy of being called knowledgeable. The changes in the story of what happened that night reflect the difficulty in knowing exactly what happened.
What is known for certain is that 32 year old Michael Charles Williams, in possession of an Idaho concealed weapons license, fired three shots from a “large caliber” semi-auto pistol into the chest of 25 year old Christopher Rick Adams who died at the hospital a short time later.
My references, all from the same paper, are:
- February 27, 2005 Man shot and killed near Blackfoot bar
- February 28, 2005 Waitress: ‘This sort of stuff just doesn’t happen’: Blackfoot shooting shocks lounge workers
- March 01, 2005 Verbal dispute sparked killing: Victim hit by three gunshots to chest
- March 11, 2005 Hearing put off for accused murderer: Williams charged with shooting man
- April 08, 2005 Judge sets Williams’ trial date: Man faces second-degree murder charges
- May 11, 2005 Accused murderer pleads not guilty
- May 18, 2005 Judge reduces bail in Blackfoot murder case
- June 02, 2005 Man posts bail in murder case
- August 30, 2005 Blackfoot man free unless murder charges are refiled
- September 2, 2005 Man faces highest charge of murder
Read the April 8th story for the most detailed version of what is believed to have happened.
In addition to getting an email from Williams sister asking for help what makes this interesting to me are some of the biases in the story as it appears in the paper. Some of those biases are probably unintentional. Others, almost for certain, were intentional. All of them are against Williams yet who, according to my understanding of the law, is to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The February 28th story says:
A press conference on the murder is scheduled for 10 a.m. today at the Blackfoot Police Department, 501 N. Maple St.
It’s not murder until someone is convicted. The paper should have said something along the lines of “…conference on the death…”. If the circumstances had been much more clear I would let them get away with it. But in this case there is at least some reasonable doubt as to what actually happened.
The following, from the March 1st story, doesn’t adversely affect Williams in this case but it does affect you and me. It’s an implication of what someone, probably the reporter, thinks the law is or should be. The police captain, Kurt Asmus, almost for certain knew the question presumed things that were not true but figured it didn’t really matter and answered the question in such a way the reporter could continue believing their view of reality was correct:
The weapon was legally registered to Williams, Asmus said.
There are no registration requirements for semi-auto pistols in Idaho. My guess is the police captain said something like, “The pistol was legally owned.” in response to a question about the gun being registered. This allowed the naive public to believe firearms are registered and desensitizes the public to the hazards of firearms registration. When it comes up that firearm aren’t registered after for years believing they were it will be easier to get such a law passed.
In the May 18th story the prosecutor, arguably doing his job, shows a bias and the newspaper lets it stand:
He said Williams has shown no remorse for his crime and has admitted he could have avoided the shooting.
“Mr. Williams was perfectly willing to kill Mr. Adams,” Andrew said.
Williams has only been charged with a crime. It has not been proved there was actually a crime committed. No remorse could mean he believes he behaved morally and legally correct. Admitting he could have avoided the shooting doesn’t mean that would have been the proper course of action. You could avoid shooting someone and let a dozen innocent people be killed. And willingness to kill someone is not evidence of a crime or even evil intent. For example I’ll bet we could have found 100’s of thousands of people willing to flip the switch that turned Ted Bundy into burnt toast. I suspect the prosecutor exaggerated on the willingness angle. Carrying a firearm for self defense shows willingness to use deadly force under extreme circumstances. We don’t really know if the prosecutor has evidence Williams was “perfectly willing” to kill.
In the August 30th story we have this from the prosecutor:
Andrew said witnesses would now testify that Williams told them he would kill someone if the right scenario presented itself.
If you reword that just slightly you get the essence of what nearly every firearm self-defense instructor teaches. That is you are legally justified in using deadly force if innocent life is immediate danger of death or permanent injury. And guess who one of the witnesses is?
…one of the prosecution’s new witnesses is Williams’ ex-wife and the couple is currently involved in a child custody action.
I’ll bet the child custody battle will go a lot smoother for the ex-wife with Williams doing time for murder. I’m sure she will be totally unbiased in her testimony.
From the September 2nd story we find the line from Deputy prosecutor Scott Andrew that got Williams sister all wound up in her email to me:
Williams is accused of shooting Adams outside the Blackfoot bar after Adams allegedly walked towards his car during an argument.
“He waited for him to get closer, just like when you’re hunting … He hunted Mr. Adams,” Andrew said.
Interesting hunt when the prey knows about the hunter, has been warned about a possible weapon, and still advances on the hunter. This is really over the top–even for a prosecutor.
I don’t know which way this is going to go or should go. I don’t have a strong opinion on it because I know the facts as represented in the newspaper story are tenuous at best. The jury will have much better, if still limited, view of the facts and usually will do a pretty good job of coming to the correct conclusion. But there are some lessons to be learned here. Nothing new, but this guy either didn’t know or forgot them. As we teach in the NRA Personal Protection class:
- After a shooting let your lawyer do all the talking.
- Don’t talk about killing people to defend yourself. What you can say is that if innocent life is in immediate danger of death or permanent injury you would be willing to use deadly force to stop the attack.
I suggested to his sister that the defense attorney call CCRKBA and/or SAF. Depending on the type of case the prosecutor tries to make, like saying the concealed weapons license was evidence Williams was looking for someone to kill, they may be able to help in some way.
No matter how the trial goes there is plenty of tragedy to go around. I just hope our legal system can come up with a reasonable approximation to justice–whatever that is in this case.