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Vigilante justice is legal in the war on drugs - news article on the court case which established this example of fucked U.S. justice

CRIME OF THE HEART ONLY - Jury acquits couple who held teen
  drug seller at gunpoint

by Jack Broom, Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday, March 28, 1992 -- Page One, banner article.  
Reprinted from the Seattle Times without permission.


An Auburn couple who held a teenage boy at gunpoint because he sold
drugs to their daughter was acquitted of assault charges yesterday
by jurors who said they didn't approve of the couple's action, but
didn't consider it criminal.

"I think we pretty much agreed their judgment was faulty, but they
sort of acted out of haste," said one juror after the three-day trial
of Theodore and Sherry Butz in King County Superior Court.

The two were charged with second-degree assault in connection with
the Nov. 11 incident.

According to prosecutors, the two were armed with a shotgun and a handgun
when they pulled alongside a group of young people that included a 15-year
old boy who, they had been told, sold marijuana to their daughter, 15.

Prosecutors said Theodore Butz pointed a shotgun at the boy's crotch and
threatened to kill him and that Sherry Butz pointed the handgun at a 
teenage girl.

The couple forced the boy into their car and drove him around for about 
15 minutes, continually threatening to kill him, and eventually dropped 
him off where they had picked him up, prosecutors said.

Deputy Prosecutor Cheryl Carey said the parents' anger was no excuse for
their threats to use deadly force.  

"They took the law into their own hands---and they broke it," Carey said.

But the couple's attorney, Charles Burgeson, told the jury, "This case
is about a citizens' arrest.  This case is about a mother and a father
who give a damn."

Burgeson said the couple drove the youth to the Auburn police station,
unaware it is closed at night, before returning him where they picked
him up.

In his closing argument, Burgeson noted the boy admitted on the witness 
stand that he did sell marijuana to the Butzes' daughter, but was granted 
immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying against the Butzes.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is a war," Burgeson said, adding that putting
caring parents in jail while someone who sold drugs goes free would send
the message:  "Drug sellers, have at it . . . We as parents rwally don't 
have anything to say."

He said the couple have fought their daughter's drug and alcohol problems
for two years and have made calls to the police with no result.  The daughter 
was not in court.

Jurors deliberated about threee hours Thursday afternoon and yesterday 
morning before acquitting the parents.

As the verdict was read, the Butzes wept and embraced.  Sherry Butz 
approached the jury box to thank jurors as they filed out.

"I knew that if justice prevailed, we'd be found innocent," said Sherry
Butz, an elementary-school teacher who feared loss of her job if convicted.
Theodore Butz is a contractor.

Several jurors said it had been a difficult matter but that after 
deliberations, all 12---eight women and four men---favored acquittal.

"The sentiment was that it was just a sad situation," said juror Gloria
Hensley, "and they were reacting emotionally but were sort of pushed to
that extent."

In the hallway afterward, one juror told Theodore Butz the case was
emotionally trying, adding, "We didn't sleep last night."

"We haven't slept in three or four months," Butz replied.

and i wonder how soundly the rest of us will sleep knowing that the War on
(Some) Drugs provides justification for vigilante justice like this.  this 
is further evidence that we as a society really have our priorities screwed 
up big time.

 /'''   The Machman     machman@milton.u.washington.edu    david c carroll
    \                 "i am the walrus.  goo-goo-goo-joob"

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