Friday, March 23, 2012

The Problem With Bo Morrison

Memorial Service for Bo Morrison
As the Trayvon Martin shooting gains national attention and universal outrage, the small story in Wisconsin about the death of Bo Morrison in Slinger garners little notice.

The Washington County DA announced this week that no charges will be brought against the homeowner who fired a single shot at Morrison - killing the 20 year old.

Why has the killing of Bo Morrison not outraged the public in the way the senseless death of another African American youth, Trayvon Martin?

Well, Bo Morrison liked to party. He was at garage party and drinking illegally the night he died. Bo had citations before for underage drinking, he had some traffic tickets and he got into a scuffle in 2011 that resulted in a disorderly conduct charge - his most serious offense.

Bo was not an angel.

On the night Bo was killed, when the police showed up at the party he had attended - Bo fled to avoid another citation and hid from police. Morrison chose to hide on the 3 season porch at the house of the neighbor next door. It was on that porch he was discovered by the homeowner and killed.

Bo was clearly trespassing. In his foolish and inebriated condition he chose to hide from the police on someone else's property - a decision that cost him his life.

What has been less discussed is that the homeowner who killed Bo Morrison had already called the police because of the noise created by the party.

The DA's report says, the homeowner was awakened by music playing too loudly from a car radio, he went outside and pounded on the car and got into a confrontation with a girl and others inside the car. He then called the police.

The police came and could not immediately get into the garage to break up the party. While they waited, they called the homeowner and let him know they were outside. The police were able to contact the owner of the garage who broke up the party and that is when Bo Morrison and some others fled. The police were parked a half-block away at the time.

In his statement to the police, the homeowner said he heard a noise on the back porch - the noise he believed was possible retaliation because he thought one of the kids in the car heard him call the cops - and were now fucking with him and his house.

That is when he got his gun - even though he knew for a fact the police were outside.

When the homeowner walked across his porch, he turned back and discovered Morrison hiding between a refrigerator and a dresser. He said something to Morrison - Bo put up his hands and took a step towards him and that was the last thing Bo Morrison ever did.

In spite of the fact the homeowner knew police were close by and had talked with them personally, under the "Castle Doctrine" law passed just this year, the homeowner was able to use deadly force without risk of incarceration because some foolish kid tried to hide from police on his porch.

It is likely Bo Morrison never even knew this was the man who called the police in the first place.  

In many cases of self-defense and more specifically under Wisconsin's "Castle Doctine" law - just "thinking" you may be harmed is enough to use deadly force without question in most cases - particularly ones that happen on your property. Imagining the violence or threat you "think" a person could cause is the only real relevant evidence - regardless of the absence of any real violence or threat.

All you have to do is tell the police you "thought" you might be in danger - even if you were wrong.

Adding insult to injury - a shooter can collect attorney's fees from the estate of their victim if they are found to have acted within the parameters of the Castle Doctrine law.

The Castle Doctrine was brought before the Wisconsin State Senate by former law enforcement officer, Van Wanggaard. It is strikingly similar to ALEC model legislation proposed in the past - and under the perfect storm of GOP control it passed with ease - by a number of Democrats as well - most notably, Gubernatorial Candidate, Kathleen Vinehout.

It is important to note that special interest groups who worked to see the Castle Doctrine passed - who have given campaign contributions to Wanggaard - wanted to see the "Stand Your Ground" legislation passed in Wisconsin as well.

From the Journal Sentinel in October, 2011:
"Some states go further than the Wisconsin legislation and extend the right of self-defense to any place a shooter has a right to be, with so-called "stand your ground" legislation. Such laws generally do away with the requirement that someone try to retreat before using deadly force against a perceived threat. 
Nik Clark, chairman of the gun-rights group Wisconsin Carry Inc., said his group wants to see the legislation here expanded to include "stand your ground" provisions.
"We think that arguably, in the home is the safest place a person can be and that it's actually more important to have the protections of the castle doctrine law outside the home," Clark said."
It is the "Stand Your Ground" law that has been invoked to shield the killer of Trayvon Martin in Florida - another ALEC model legislation bill.

Bo Morrison's killer told police he was "worried" the teenager's next door were retaliating against him. He "believed" calling the police might have angered them and now perhaps now he "might" be in danger. Of course all these events took place in his head. They were not real events.

His imagined danger was enough to pull the trigger and satisfy the District Attorney.

By the owner's own account - Bo Morrison did not threaten him. Bo Morrison did not touch his wife or children or even suggest he would. Bo Morrison did not steal anything and he was unarmed. The homeowner wasn't even sure if the door to the porch was locked or unlocked. Police officers were yards away - his wife could see them outside the window in her 911 call after the shooting.

Perhaps the circumstances of Bo Morrison's death meet the criteria the Castle Doctrine was designed to address, but the question remains - was it necessary to kill Bo Morrison?

Did Bo Morrison deserve to die because he trespassed on a man's porch...with police already on the scene?

If you read the comments that follow articles about the shooting - the answer by many is yes.

Bo Morrison was a student at MATC and had received a certificate in carpentry. He graduated from West Bend High School and played football, basketball and wrestled. Bo Morrison had many friends and a loving family who will no doubt miss him all their lives.