It’s late one early summer evening, and I’m sitting on my porch, minding my own with a glass of iced tea. The traditional summer sounds are in the air – crickets, birds, children playing… are those gunshots? I live right on the suburban/rural split, so it’s not like I’ve never heard gunshots before, but they are very rare. The town I used to live in, we had a game called “Gunshots or Fireworks,” so I know they can sound very much alike. But no, those are definitely gunshots. And screams. Coming from the synagogue around the corner from me.
I grab my phone and call 911. “I’m hearing shots fired at Beth Or, you need to get officers over there immediately!” I tell the operator. I’m barely done saying that when I hear sirens. Police in these parts have some good response times.
I turn on the news and hope it’s not bad. When all is said and done, it turns out, it isn’t. Some racist asshole shot the place up and only managed to wound one person, who has already been released from the hospital. The local custodian, who barricaded a study group into a supply closet quickly before being forced to run himself. The shooter tried blasting his way through the door, but it was reinforced. There’s damage to the building, but that will heal. Of course, the shooter, being a heavily armed white guy, is taken peacefully into custody.
Mine turns out to be the first 911 call. Luckily for the DA, Beth Or has a pretty good surveillance system, so the shooter is clearly seen in the act. He didn’t even cover his face. The DA offers a ridiculously good plea deal, despite the suspect’s many ties to White Nationalist groups and racist comments they have made online, but the shooter and his crack legal team don’t take it – they want a trial. Their defense? He’s not guilty of a hate crime or 15 counts of attempted murder, because he didn’t actually kill anyone. He was just redecorating. He is actually a great friend of Jews and was helping with a Holocaust remembrance, and how dare you suggest otherwise? He can’t be guilty, because he’s such a bad shot that it’s inconceivable that he could even hit anyone. And even if he did, he has the right to keep and bear arms. What he did wasn’t even illegal. This whole process is a sham.
Moreover, the first witness they want to call is the person who very anonymously tried to get him in trouble by blowing the proverbial police whistle. Very malicious of that caller, who they hear is terribly biased against white people. They want me to testify, publicly. The shooter has the right to face his accusers, you know.
Except, that’s not even remotely the case. I am not “an accuser.” I am a third-hand witness who alerted proper authorities to what I perceived as a possible crime. Actual witnesses are willing and able to testify. Actual evidence shows the crime in progress. No only is there no legal basis to compel me to testify, there is no need. The evidence speaks for itself.
This scenario is, of course, fiction. Any even mildly competent DA would get a conviction in front of any jury, and the shooter would spend (not nearly enough) time in prison. More importantly, any judge in the country would take the suggestion that a 911 caller reporting shots fired could be compelled to testify as an accuser as complete idiocy and dismiss the motion out of hand.
The entire notion seems rather stupid, doesn’t it? Almost like all of the people involved with the shooter have no concept of or respect for the Constitution or the rule of law?