Will the McCloskeys spend a day in jail? At the moment, it’s not even clear they’ll spend a day in court. So far, St. Louis County DA Kimberly Gardner hasn’t filed charges over their use of weapons to protect their property. If she does and she gets a conviction, Missouri governor Mike Parson told a radio host that he would likely pardon them immediately — even though he doesn’t yet have “all the facts” at hand:
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson says he is prepared to exercise his pardon powers if prosecutors bring criminal charges in the case of a St. Louis couple who brandished firearms at a group of protesters outside their home.
Parson, a Republican, told a St. Louis radio station Friday that he thinks a pardon is “exactly what would happen” if Mark and Patricia McCloskey are hit with charges in the June 28 incident captured on video and seen by millions.
He later added that based on what he knows about the case, “I don’t think they’re going to spend any time in jail.” …
“A mob does not have the right to charge your property,” he said, according to the paper. “They had every right to protect themselves.”
Parson linked to the interview on Twitter and added the comment, “We will not allow law-abiding citizens to be targeted for exercising their constitutional rights.”
That’s the best news yet for the McCloskeys, but it’s not necessarily a game changer. In fact, it’s not quite a solid promise, although Parson might find it tough to hit reverse now. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes that Parson admits that he hasn’t reviewed the issue in depth yet, and the video from the incident might change the narrative a bit:
According to Missouri law, one of the ways to unlawfully use a weapon is to exhibit “in the presence of one or more persons, any weapon readily capable of lethal use in an angry or threatening manner.”
Parson told reporters last week the statute didn’t apply because of the Castle Doctrine, which which gives homeowners more leeway to shoot people on their property.
But a live feed of the protest shows the first few protesters to enter their private street swerved away from the McCloskey property and into the street. No protesters were on their property when Mark McCloskey, holding a rifle, began shouting at them.
Parson said at the press conference that he didn’t know “all the details of it.”
A couple of points should be noted here. The citation of the law is correct as far as it goes, but it becomes moot if there is a valid case for lethal-force self-defense. The Castle Doctrine does not change that, despite the P-D’s characterization of that law. All the Castle Doctrine does is eliminate the requirement of retreat while on one’s own property; it doesn’t give “more leeway to shoot people.” (As I’ve also noted, Stand Your Ground laws do the same thing, only they also apply anywhere rather than just on your own property.) The basic elements of lethal-force self-defense still have to be present: a threat that a reasonable person would consider a threat of death or grave bodily harm.
If there was no threat, then the McCloskeys are in trouble. If there was a threat, then the Castle Doctrine only applies because the threat was there in the first place. As for no one being on the property, the live feed mentioned may not have been in position to capture that. The McCloskeys claim that the gate on their property got damaged and knocked down, which if true suggests that entry was made at some point. And if that’s the case, good luck convincing 12 jurors in St. Louis County that a reasonable person wouldn’t have been afraid of grave harm from an angry mob forcing entry onto their property, considering all of the violence that have attended such protests during the last two months.
That’s why this case is a loser, especially now. Gardner’s likely just riding this out to score some political points. Parson’s doing the same, while the playing is still cheap. If an indictment gets filed, however, the stakes go up. Who’ll be the first to fold?