January 13, 2014

A Grave Injustice in the Dallas Dog Poop Shooting Case

Trial begins for Dallas man accused of murdering neighbors in dog-poop dispute (1.7.14)

Dallas jury hands down verdict in dog-poop revenge killings (1.9.14)

Fatal shooting tied to quarrel over dog feces

Man claims dog poop feud killing was self-defense

Recently, Chung Kim, an elderly Korean American man was sentenced to life in prison for shooting his neighbors over an ongoing conflict over poop, urine, and noise. To call it a simple dispute would trivialize the matter. Originally, there had been tension over noise and excrement, which his neighbors had consistently  dropped or sprayed into his yard by hosing down waste in their own balcony, which was over his.

"It is well-documented that Jackson and Stafford frequently washed dog feces from their balcony onto Kim’s. The condo’s homeowners association received reports of dog-poop dumping dating back to August 2012.
Kim provided photos of his balcony’s poop-streaked windows, floors and walls to a variety of entities. Animal control eventually took the couple’s dog away, but the poop problems didn’t end. In December 2012, after Jackson gave birth to her fifth child, the couple began tossing dirty diapers over their balcony and onto the unit below them.
Kim and his wife owned their first floor condo and had lived there for more than a decade . . . . . In addition to voicing his complaints with the condo association, Kim reported the excrement issues to the Dallas Police Department, the City of Dallas Health and Human Services Department. Condo maintenance supervisor Keith Morris said he was aware of the ongoing dispute between Kim and his neighbors.Morris said he had personally cleaned Kim’s balcony on at least two occasions, and once used a power washer to remove the poop (Culture Map, 1.7.14.)."

He had brought this matter up with the police, the health department, as well as his homeowner's association. Unfortunately, they did not do much in the matter except for clean his balcony in the case of the homeowner's association. Animal control took the neighbors' dog away but after their fifth child was born, they "began tossing dirty diapers over their balcony" and onto his unit (Culture Map, 1.7.14). After a year and more of aggravated stress without much resolution to the problem, the man decided to confront his neighbors after they had dumped dog poop on his front door and patio. According to the Star-Telegram:

"Investigators believe that Michelle Jackson and Jamie Stafford, both 31, dumped their dog's excrement at the front door and on the patio of downstairs neighbor Chung Kim, 75, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
During a subsequent argument, Kim "produced a handgun" and fatally shot Jackson as she stood outside her front door on her balcony, the affidavit stated."

On 1.7.14, Culture Map also reported that:

"Carlata Robinson, the condo’s HOA president, testified about the extent of the animal and baby feces on Kim’s property. She said the amount, location and frequency of the feces made it a health issue.
On January 31, 2013, more poop appeared on Kim’s balcony. This time, instead of being washed down from the balcony, it appeared to be piled up deliberately on Kim’s property.
“This issue has been ongoing for months,” Robinson wrote in an email the same day to the HOA board about Jackson and Stafford’s behavior. “Mr. Kim is about to reach his breaking point.”

There was a heated confrontation and he shot several bullets, which ended up killing the couple. I don't condone the way he handled it, but I don't think his neighbors were without fault either. It was not a simple matter of a crazed man who decided to "settle" things through violence. He had taken all the reasonable measures to settle the matter by going to the police, the health department, as well as his homeowner's situation. But they did not do much except for get rid of the dogs. Evicting the tenants is not always such an easy process. There are legal standards that need to be met, which may take a long time. I don't understand why the police could not charge the neighbors with a harassment violation or a violation of the public space like vandalism. I'm not sure that vandalism would warrant jail time, but I think that it might have been a deterrent to the harassing behavior of his neighbors and might have given his homeowner's association more legal ground to evict them. Graffiti vandals do get charged, so I do not understand why something that is much worse than graffiti, a public health violation as well as the intentional infliction of emotional distress, not up to legal scrutiny. Unless laws in Dallas are grossly different from those in the rest of the United States, we have a case of incompetence by the authorities. We have an elderly man who felt overwhelmed by his living situation and the constant, daily emotional distress it caused him due to the incompetence of the legal system. Thus, the old man had to put up with this torment for a long period of a year and several months. Some people say that he should have just moved out, but that is very blasé. Not everyone has the means to move out. This was a retired old man on a limited income, so just renting another place may have been a strain on his resources. His defense attorney, "Warren[,] pointed out that Kim had no prior issues with the homeowners association. 'He's been there for years, and this couple comes in and in a matter of months, shakes up his world (Culture Map).' " There was no mention of previous issues with Mr. Kim during the trial, which the prosecutor would have brought up because it would have bolstered his case, so I think we can safely assume that he had no prior issues before these neighbors moved in. It was only after he had gone through all the legal channels available to him and finding poop on his front door and balcony did he decided to confront the neighbors on his own.

You can look at a matter like this and say that it is silly, but if you can imagine having to deal with the emotional distress of poop flooding your yard on a daily basis and not just clean poop that you can pick up and throw away, but poop that is drenched in water so that your whole yard becomes a poop drenched mess, then I think you would be more sympathetic. The man had been through a lot at that point. He was weak and elderly. People don't appreciate how vulnerable elderly people can be. Their bodies and minds are weak so they just can't take these kinds of assaults in the same way that younger people can. If he had been a forty year old man, it would have been a different story, but I still think the neighbors would have been culpable for some of the situation. Just looking at pictures of the man, you can tell that he is of a frail mind and body. That doesn't excuse shooting people at any hint of anger. There should be consequences for what he did. At the same time, he was under severe emotional duress and so the shooting was aggravated. By the actions of the neighbors and the inactions or impotence of the legal system, he was made to feel that he had no recourse. Elderly people spend a lot of time at home and so it's important for them to have a peaceful environment as any change in their environment would affect them greatly. This situation was not just a minor inconvenience. It was vigilant harassment and emotional terrorism. His neighbors felt free and audacious to "get him back" for having their dogs taken.

One can make an argument for dog poop laying on the ground to a certain extent as that's where dogs need to go. That still does not excuse leaving dog poop on the ground. However, one cannot make the argument for a child's feces to be on the ground when his parents intentionally throw it over their balcony or drench dog poop with water so that it floods into their neighbor's balcony. Can you imagine having to deal with that day in and day out? Dog poop, repeatedly thrown not just a pile thats easily swept up, but liquefied dog feces [poured] on the windows, walls and doors, multiple times. Over and over again, Mr. Kim tried to rectify this in a civil manner (Culture Map, 1.9.14.). In an earlier article, it was mentioned that "Kim provided photos of his balcony’s poop-streaked windows, floors and walls to a variety of entities (Culture Map 1.7.14)." Can you imagine being an elderly person who spends a lot of time at home having to live around such people and having to deal with their concerted harassment day in and day out? Older people are generally weak, so it would have been a great hardship to have to clean up his whole yard EVERY SINGLE DAY or perhaps every time the child's diapers got changed. Can you imagine that? It would be difficult for anyone, young or old, to deal with on an emotional and practical level. The old guy felt trapped because he had taken all the measures he knew how and I don't believe that he should have had to do more than calling the police to rectify the situation although it would have been the best for him if he had not shot his neighbors. He did much more than most people would have done by contacting the police, the health department, and the homeowner's association. I can see how any reasonable person, especially one of such advanced age, would have been taxed by the situation on a legal, emotional, and practical basis. The fact that the jury indicted him for capital murder is a grave injustice and suggests that they really did not take into his emotional capacity at that time.

What he should have gotten is the insanity defense as he was under great emotional distress and limited mental capacity. The guy is 76 years old and so, he does not have much longer to live. Even without that consideration, he should have gotten the insanity defense and sent to a facility for evaluation until he was deemed to be mentally stable by a psychiatrist.  He had to endure a lot of emotional distress on a daily basis for months and months, which caused him to reach his breaking point as Robinson, the president of the homeowner's association warned of. I just think it's sad that he gets life in prison for something that he was greatly aggravated into doing. He did not shoot at the first sign of dog feces. He went through all the legal channels to get the matter resolved, but the authorities were too inept or impotent to take any effective action, except for getting rid of the dogs. I cannot understand why the housing association could not evict the tenants after fair warning like maybe two times, but there are certain mandates that need to be upheld in such a process and without the backup of the authorities like the police to charge the tenants with anything, I don't think there was much they could do unless it was explicitly stated in the housing contract.

It is sad that there are children that will grow up without their parents, but at the same time, these people need to be held accountable whether or not they have children. It was unfortunate that the authorities were too inept to do anything about these individuals, but there are consequences to affecting others in a negative way. Based on the reports of how the neighbors acted, I really don't think their children are going to miss out on great role models. These are people who acted as animals, throwing feces on a daily basis over their neighbor's balcony. These are people who willing trashed their own balcony by leaving or throwing feces onto it and washing over it with a hose so that the water would flow into and drench their neighbor's yard with fecal matter. These are people who chose to "take revenge" on their neighbor because the authorities made them give up their dogs as a result of their own negligence and harassment.  These are people who feel that they can do anything they want without regard to the consequences. These are not civilized people who have the basic understanding that other people need to be treated with respect. These are individuals who feel that they can do whatever they want and will only comply if it threatens their personal interests or you have power over them. They may be nice to their family and friends, but have little regard for others who have no value in their eyes. These are the people that the elderly and vulnerable man had to deal with for months on end on a day-to-day basis, so I do not have much sympathy for them. Sometimes, the response to an action may be too much, but at the same time, if one does something that is hurtful to another, one cannot be outraged when the other person reacts in the only way they know how to protect themselves. We cannot say, "No, you have to protect yourself in this way." We can say, don't go crazy in how you deal with something, but some people are led to that point by their aggressors like in the case of this man. If the old man were more emotionally resilient and mentally tough, perhaps it would be reasonable for him to "rise above" the situation and find other ways to deal with it. But in this case, he was frail and elderly and emotionally exhausted due to the situation and he took all the reasonable channels to address his concerns yet they were not resolved. I believe that he did the best he could based on his age, physical and emotional condition, as well as resources. The conditions he was forced to deal with on a day to day basis would have brought about charges of criminal neglect had he been a parent or caregiver of someone that was mentally ill. But in this case, there were no such charges. So he had to deal with the matter the only way he knew how.

I don't believe that he set about to kill the neighbors, but he did have to arm himself as he needed to deal with these barbarians and that is saying a lot as I am generally not in favor of guns in the home. This was an extreme situation. Had the neighbors been civil enough to just take responsibility for their mess and leave it at that, the matter would have been resolved, but instead, they chose to continue to inflame and instigate the matter by continuing their ongoing harassment of the old man. If you are ever in this situation, obviously, guns are not the answer. But I don't know how much presence of mind you can expect from someone like this man in this type of situation. It would certainly be different if he was in his forties. One would certainly expect more presence of mind, but by the time one gets to this man's age, typically there is a feeble mindedness that occurs unless one is proactive about their health. He wasn't a super healthy old man, but one that was frail and at his breaking point.

I hope that he appeals his case, which I am sure that he will do based on the comments he made in the second Culture Map article. and that he testifies to the new jury so that they can see the kind of emotional distress he had to endure after going through all the proper legal channels and still not having the matter resolved. I believe that if he had testified in this trial that the verdict would have been more fair to him. But because the jury was only told of the poop incidents from second hand sources, they did not get a real understanding of the suffering and injustice he had to go through. There have been cases where soldiers who had fought in Iraq were acquitted from mass killing due to post-traumatic stress disorder. Now, of course, the man was not threatened with violence, but the emotional distress is the same. He did not go off and kill some unknown civilians like those other cases. He went to confront his neighbors over a long simmering dispute and ended up shooting them in the process. He would not have had this distress if they had not consistently harassed him for months on end. So they are not innocent victims, but guilty of bringing about the type of situation where they would have been confronted with violent emotions. They were willful agitators of his emotional distress and are guilty of that part in his "crime". You don't want to set a precedent where people are blasé about shooting anyone at a hint of anger. At the same time, you have to be understanding of certain cases where the individual had been put through so much stress that they could not have the presence of mind to make the rational decision. I would say that his lawyer would have an argument in temporary insanity. By the time the old man had confronted his harassers, he was literally at his wits end. Mix that with gun possession and you have a dangerous situation.