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 Post subject: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 1:12 pm 
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Yay or Nay?

I was thinking about this after listening to an old This American Life that featured the story a triple murder in Toulon, Illinois. The murders were committed by Curtis Thompson, who was known as a terrible bully in the town. He'd stalk people, threaten to kill them, destroy property, beat people up, etc. Very little was done to stop him. Complaints were either ignored by state officials or Thompson was slapped with volunteer work or minor fines. One day a deputy came to his door with a warrant. Curtis killed him, then killed a couple he was having a minor feud with in front of the couple's 10 year old child.

In the TAF story, many of the town members felt that something should have been done to stop Thompson before he stepped over the line to murder. Some spoke of essentially riding him out on a rail, others sited Skidmore, Missouri as an example of how to deal with a town bully. (Basically, kill him.)

Now, when I think of vigilante justice, three things come to mind: superheros, small towns in the 1800's that had no representative of the law, and lynch mobs pursuing the innocent. But the town bully I've not really considered. Someone who makes life miserable for many, terrorizing a town or neighborhood. And I'm pulled apart by what is "right" in this situation. I spoke to Mr. W about Skidmore in the past when I first heard the story, and his only response was a grim, "good." And sometimes I feel the same. And sometimes I can't condone murder under even those situations.

So. Vigilantism. Is there ever a purpose for it? A good excuse?

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 1:22 pm 
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GC has been getting substantially POOPier over the last year or two....

That said, I want to chime in with my pithy response to the question. Perhaps I'll go into detail at some point.

It is sometimes (often, in some places) the case that the ordinary course of the justice system fails of its essential purpose. Just as it is sometimes the case that the ordinary course of governance fails of its essential purpose.

When the justice system cannot deliver justice, then it is sometimes appropriate for justice to be delivered, regardless.

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 2:56 pm 
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yay, to a degree... better to be discussed in POOP.

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 5:52 pm 
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Speaking as someone who has "allegedly" committed vigilante justice my opinion on the subject is mixed. In general I believe it is something that should be avoided at all costs if possible. Having said that, I agree that
Grillick wrote:
When the justice system cannot deliver justice, then it is sometimes appropriate for justice to be delivered, regardless.
We must be aware though, just how dangerous vigilante justice can be and how innocents can be hurt by it. IMO it is and should be used only as a last resort.

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 3:15 pm 
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Jorodryn wrote:
yay, to a degree... better to be discussed in POOP.

Agreed. going to POOP now.

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 10:05 pm 
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My opinion on the matter is as follows.

Should a situation ever arise where public safety is threatened and law enforcement is unable or unwilling to act, citizens need to take their safety into their own hands. However this does not mean forming an angry mob every time the court doesn't rule the way you want. What I'm talking about is borderline life-or-death situations where inaction could cause serious harm to yourself or those around you. If the problem is anything less than life-threatening, it does not necessitate taking matters into your own hands, as this will almost always make the situation worse for everyone involved...

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 11:28 pm 
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weatherwax wrote:
So. Vigilantism. Is there ever a purpose for it? A good excuse?


Yes, although I probably define vigilantism more broadly then most.

I don't see alot of difference between a person that personally pays for a police department to run every conceivable test to convict a criminal and one who waits outside the court house with a weapon when the DA doesn't have enough evidence to convict.

I agree with Grillick; if justice fails people, they get their own.

In some ways, people going out and getting justice is a necessary part of society because it highlights the fact that the system is failing people.

Course... I also think we've grown too tolerant. The death penalty and the ways in which we punish people isn't punitive enough.

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 12:58 pm 
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A neighborhood watch is a form of vigilante justice. Police aren't available, so the residents do what they must. Or just to help each other out.

Also as a matter of life and death when seconds count. I also believe in the use of deadly force if necessary. The police cannot respond to what they don't know about. Even when they have information it takes time to get there. I believe we have the ultimate duty to protect ourselves and our family.

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 4:41 pm 
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While there is a grey area, i think vigilante justice needs to be kept seperate from self defence.

Self defence is protecting me or others from an imminent danger by means appropriate to the danger and the situation. Vigilante justice is metering out punishments to people who have (arguably) not been punished enough by the state.

The difference is am i thinking about what i need to do to prevent the danger, or am i thinking about what punishment the perp deserves.

Self defence is fine, as long as i don't show neglegence in my attempts to identify dangers, generally am not paranoid and don't use force out of proportion for the danger and the given situation.

Vigilante justice (according to my definition) should not be done. Sure sometimes i might come quite happiely to the conclusion that it had hit the right person this time, but so do i occasionally in case of car accidents, and i still do not think they are a good thing in general.

Cases of preemtive self denfence, against people, where it is reasonable and not paraniod to assume that they will attack you sooner or later, and where any interventions of the state, to prevent an escalation have failed (or had not been there in the first place) are a bit of a grey area. There are situations where the self defence argument does hold water. But it also is quite easy to delude yourself and use it as rationalisation for your desire for revenge.

I would not really trust myself to make a good decision in such a situation if i am emotionally involved, and i have quite a good opinion about myself opposed to many other people. So i am very wary to trust people in general with such decisions and tend to lean toward saying that trusting the state in such matters is the rule that has the better overall results as long as it is a halfway functioning state.

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 5:48 pm 
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I definitely would not condone hunting down someone that robbed me and gun him down. I would condone tailing him if I could and call the cops on him.

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 8:34 am 
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While vigilantism may be defensible from an ethical perspective if the legal system has failed, I think it's something that's very dangerous to condone. The Rule of Law is an essential part of a civilised society, and to abandon it in favour of mob rule is a prospect I find quite frightening.

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 12:10 pm 
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I have a question.

In the case of OJ Simpson, he was acquitted. A few years later he goes and steals some of his memorabilia back. The sentence he received, to me at least, for the crime of armed robbery seemed excessive. Do you think that was because of the judge's belief that OJ was guilty for the earlier murders and 'got away with it'. Would you consider that a form of vigilante justice?

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 5:43 pm 
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I don't know about the second OJ trial and thus can't comment if the sentences were fair. (and even if i knew more about the case, i propably would lack legal knowledge)

But if the judge truely metered out a harsher sentence, because he thought there was an error of justice in the other trial, that would be an abuse of office on the part of the judge.

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 11:57 pm 
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I'll give a situation that happened several years ago and elicit opinions.

My first wife had a sister who is divorced from the father of her child. The child is my god-daughter and niece. The father had, on numerous occasions physically beat my sister-in-law both during the marriage and after. She had a restraining order in effect on him. He had been arrested for this and fled the state while on bail. His father, the child's grandfather, is a member of the Pagans. A violent biker gang that is not known for tolerance and understanding. The grandfather had called my sister-in-law and told her that he, his son, and some of his friends were on the way over to her house to kill her and take the child. She called the police and filed an incident report. No officer was dispatched to the home.
My wife was currently visiting with her sister at her apartment and had been witness to the call. I was at work. After the phone call the grandfather's blue van pulls up in front of the apartment and does burn outs, honks the horn and generally makes a nuisance of himself. She calls the police and the van leaves before the police arrive. This happens three more times leading to the theory that the grandfather is watching to see when the police leave before coming back for more harassment. The grandfather calls again and says next time we are coming in to finish you. The police are called and they tell her that she cannot monopolize the police department and that there is no way to prove she is telling the truth and that they cannot keep sending officers to the house and that they haven't seen any evidence that anyone is really threatening her when they came out to the house. They called me and told me the situation.
My response to the situation:
I left work. Drove home. Got my gun. Drove to the apartment. Hid my motorcycle. Hid myself in the shadows by the building door and waited for the van to return. When the van pulled up again and the sliding door opened up revealing several people getting out I proceeded to step out into the light and empty the clip into the open van door from about 15 yards away. They piled back into the van and got the heck outta there. I am unaware if I actually hit any of them but my sister-in-law didn't hear from her ex for three years after the incident. The next time he came over it was because he begged to see his daughter for Christmas and promised to be good. When he visited the first thing he did upon entering the house was look around nervously and ask if I was there. I judged my response to be a successful resolution to the situation but was hardly legal.

Was this vigilante justice? Proactive self defense? Was I way out of line? If so what were my other options? What say you?

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 Post subject: Re: Vigilante Justice
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 12:59 am 
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