“Mr. Talifer, you have been charged with illegal manufacture of a firearm, manslaughter, and reckless disregard for human life, how do you plead?” The judge asked, her pleasant alto voice swallowed by the dark wood and padded benches in the courtroom.
“Not guilty your honor.” Sean Talifer replied, his Scotch-Irish red hair and pale skin standing out in the crowd of chocolate and mocha hued skin tones of the prosecutor, defense attorney, and all twelve jurors.
“Well that simplifies matters.” The judge nodded towards the prosecution’s desk. “Are you ready to proceed?”
“Yes your Honor.” Spoke the slightly balding Indian American attorney.
“Then begin.” The judge ordered.
The prosecutor opened up with a well rehearsed description of Sean Talifer’s life, how he got by on manual labor as a general handyman, doing everything from unlicensed plumbing to carpentry. How Sean Talifer began hunting small animals as a child, mainly squirrels and rabbits, before moving up to wild hog and deer. By the end of the tale some of the jurors were visibly sick. After ten minutes of describing how Sean Talifer used a dangerous weapon, a single shot break action rifle, to brutally slay wildlife, and then a six inch fighting knife to skin the carcass and cut the still warm flesh from the bones the prosecutor stopped talking and took his seat. How on occasion when his rifle stopped functioning Sean Talifer had taken tools from his toolbox and broke the law be performing firearms repair without a license which denied the state valuable tax dollars from licensed repairs, and then used that same illegally manufactured rifle to kill a home intruder. Clearly Sean Talifer exhibited a callous disregard for life, law, and the state saw no chance at rehabilitation.
One of the jurors dry heaved.
The defense attorney, a young African American woman from the public defenders office stood up, and began to talk.
“Gentlepeople of the jury, what you have heard is a gross mis-characterization of the truth, and Sean Talifer has broken no law. In fact the very law states that all traditions are permissible as long as they harm no other people. Throughout this trial you will learn how Sean Talifer’s actions, and lifestyle, are traditional and harm no one, no matter how unpleasant we may personally find them. Bigotry has no place in our legal system, and Sean Talifer is the victim of an overzealous prosecution.”
She then explained, in deep detail how the law allowed for defense of life in the home, how the “castle doctrine” was still the law of the land, and how Sean Talifer cooperated with law enforcement, how he acted without a depraved mind and was honestly shocked to find himself here in the courtroom, the last refuge of an innocent person. At the ten minute mark, she stopped speaking and took her seat.
The trial continued for two days. The rifle was brought in as evidence, the marring of the screws on the action clearly showed that they had been worked over with repair tools, and Sean Talifer could not produce any receipt of repair by a licensed gunsmith, nor produce a gunsmith to testify that they repaired the rifle. The coroner came in, explained how the person who intruded into Sean Talifer’s home died almost instantly as the cast lead bullet from the 30-30 rifle ripped through his heart and spinal column.
Finally, Sean stood and addressed the jury.
“Gentlepeople of the jury, I am a simple man. My family has been dirt farming up in that hollow for going on two centuries. My daddy worked the mill until it shut down, then he worked as a mechanic or blacksmith, or whatever else he could until he died of a heart attack fifteen years ago.” Sean’s voice cracked at the memory of his father’s passing.
“The prosecutor says I manufactured a firearm because once a firearm stops working it ain’t a firearm no more, just a lump of metal. That don’t seem right to me cause a pen don’t stop being a pen because it needs a refill of ink, or a book stops being a book just because it was written in a language you don’t read.” A few of the older women nodded their heads at that analogy.
“The state won’t let tell you about the man that done broke into my home, as he ain’t on trial here and I am. I can tell you that my sister and her two kids were behind me, and that I told him to stop and leave cause we didn’t want no trouble. But he didn’t stop, and he didn’t leave, and he held onto that big cooking knife like he was going to charge at me. I wish he hadn’t done that.”
“It’s true that I work as a handyman, and that I hunt for food. But we eat what I harvest, cause we can’t afford vat grown protein, and everything we can’t eat gets used somehow, either turned into soap or fertilizer. We use the fertilizer to grow a garden too, and sell some of that, and can the rest for the winter. My family ain’t got much, but we pay our taxes on time, and you’ve seen the letters that the pastor and the elders wrote about my character. You good people hold my future in your hands, so I ask you to listen to your conscience.”
Sean sat down, and the jury left the courtroom. Five hours later the jury unanimously found Sean guilty of manufacturing a firearm and reckless disregard of human life but not guilty of manslaughter as the incident was deemed lawful self defense with an illegally manufactured weapon. The judge sentenced him to five years of re-education at a camp in Wyoming. The first winter he was gone the state took his sister’s children, and sent her to a re-education camp in Oklahoma. Their family home was put up for auction to pay for the cost of re-education of the adults and the foster care costs for the children. A state Senator friend of the Judge won, and 137 acres of hills and valley became her second summer home.