Death as Drama in the Waco Biker Shootout


Holly Yan with CNN has a piece on notorious biker gangs, just in time to ride the wave of public interest following Sunday's shootout in Waco, Texas. Yan offers brief profiles of the Bandidos, Hells Angels, Mongols, and Outlaws, which cursorily satisfies our morbid curiosity with "criminal enterprises" ala the TV drama Sons of Anarchy. As an angle on this story, Yan's piece will certainly draw some clicks, but to us (lawyers who defend "bad guys") it's more of the same: Nine people lost their lives, but all the media can focus on at the moment is the "brawl" among "gang members."

True, it's extremely fortunate that no bystanders were hurt or killed at the Twin Peaks restaurant where the shootout went down - no unassociated adults (and no children), who simply had the misfortune of being inside a restaurant at exactly the wrong time, and who were undoubtedly traumatized in some way, but did not suffer physical harm.

But to gloss over the fact that nine people died is to assume that those who died somehow deserved it, as though the act of joining a motorcycle club makes you guilty. Just like in a trial, we make an argument and present evidence, asking the jury to assess the truth of what happened. We do not or should not presume to know. To do so does a disservice to those who died, and to the family members and loved ones grieving them.

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