The Jury Talks Back


Report: Professor Shoots Himself To Protest President Trump

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 3:37 pm

[guest post by Dana]

In this season of Trump, posting criticism about the president at a right-leaning site such as this one, have been with consternation and outright rejection – even before the merits of the argument are have been considered. And as it’s being rejected, the author of the criticism is frequently accused of having Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) . Commenters have been known to leave this site as a result of said perception. Criticisms might include President Trump’s decision making, tweets, policies, lies, legal debacles and any number of issues that are the result of his weak character, lack of understanding (and unwillingness to learn), lack of a functioning moral compass and his basic ignorance with regard to history and political philosophies. As a guest contributor, I believe disagreement is a great way to fine-tune what I believe, as well as consider whether my beliefs really hold water. And to be challenged by a persuasive argument is always welcome. Who doesn’t want to learn, or have the gray matter stimulated? However, what is frustrating is to see an opinion reflexively thrown into Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) waste bin because said opinion is diametrically opposed to a reader’s own view. Often it seems that there is a reflexive rejection if Trump was their first pick, thus taking the argument presented as a personal attack. (In my estimation, this usually excludes those who, with frustration, plugged their noses and voted what they decided was the lesser of two evils.) But as for the true believers, those who really bought into Trump’s claims that he would fight for them and drain the swamp, there seems to be a lot of the “personal” at stake (i.e. pride, ego). It also seems that they believe if they agree with criticism of the president, it’s not only a betrayal to the president himself, and thus unpatriotic, but that it is also seen as a betrayal to the GOP, and even America itself. Whatever the reasoning, it’s discouraging that discussion and sound debate have been replaced by angry hyperbole, emotionally driven attacks as critical challenges are reflexively tossed straight into the TDS waste bin.

So because of that, I wanted to write a post about an incident which truly demonstrates exactly what real Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) looks like. And there is a very sad, and very vast difference between it and a reasonable criticism of Trump being made.

It is being reported that a sociology professor at the College of Southern Nevada shot himself to protest Trump:

A longtime College of Southern Nevada sociology professor is facing felony gun charges in connection with an on-campus shooting on the second day of classes.

Mark J. Bird was charged last month with discharging a gun within a prohibited structure, carrying a concealed weapon without a permit and possessing a dangerous weapon on school property, court records show. He was found bleeding from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his arm about 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 28 outside a bathroom in the Charleston campus K building.

Inside the bathroom, campus police found a $100 bill taped to a mirror along with a note that said, “For the janitor,” according to Bird’s arrest report. On the floor of the restroom was a black-and-white, .22-caliber pistol and one spent shell casing.

The sociology professor was hired Aug. 26, 1993, and was an emeritus faculty member at the time of the shooting, college spokesman Richard Lake said. Bird was not scheduled to teach any courses during the fall 2018 semester.

While a student waited with Bird for the police to arrive, the professor made this mind-boggling claim:

Bird said he had shot himself in protest of President Donald Trump, police noted in their report. The report did not elaborate.

This, people, is real TDS. It’s not presenting a different point of view involving the president. It’s not challenging anyone’s perceptions and thought processes. It’s not debating the finer points of an argument, or even making the argument. Shooting oneself to protest President Trump is a very real and very disturbing demonstration of TDS. (But more than that, as I’m sure we would all agree, it’s evidence of a troubled individual.)

Because I’m just not game enough to look, I would not be surprised if someone, somewhere is saying, “See, this is what the mad fascist in the White House has driven people to do.” And that would be just as sad as people angrily and automatically lobbing accusations of TDS before they’ve even read through an argument or considered its merits.

P.S. I believe that Professor Bird is obviously unwell. I hope that he is getting the help that he needs. With that, the report states that as of yesterday, he was still employed by the college.



  1. If anyone is interested, I am interested in having this discussion here where I don’t believe there will be horrible things said like on the front side side, which compelled Patterico to delete comments, and then close the comments.

    Comment by Dana — 9/13/2018 @ 9:08 am

  2. Thanks for reposting here, Dana. It makes me sad that the Trumpkins among us just can’t let their own style of TDS go for just one post.

    Left/right/center, makes no difference. That man is in serious need of help.

    Comment by Bill H — 9/13/2018 @ 5:52 pm

  3. Thanks, Bill H. It’s disappointing to see the reaction on the front side, and subsequent refusal to have an actual discussion of substance regarding the issue. It’s foolish not to expect such a reaction though…

    Comment by Dana — 9/13/2018 @ 6:11 pm

  4. I read your post but not the comments so I did not realize that happened. I’m sorry.

    Comment by DRJ — 9/13/2018 @ 8:08 pm

  5. I feel compassion for mentally ill people and their families, but unfortunately our medical knowledge about mental illness seems limited. Accordingly, the medical and legal systems focus on treating the mentally ill and ultimately releasing them, even though we don’t know if they will re-offend.

    This is an example of someone who is a danger to himself, but he could also be a danger to society. What if a Trump supporter wearing a MAGA hat had been in the area? Or what if this event doesn’t given him the satisfaction or closure he craves — what then? The mental health system will not lock him up forever and I doubt any therapy or medicines will change his views at this point in his life.

    Comment by DRJ — 9/13/2018 @ 8:19 pm

  6. He obviously has mental issues, but I wonder too if he was intentionally upping the ante for the Resistance? Given that he shot himself in the arm, I don’t think he was trying to kill himself. I just have a hard time wrapping my mind around an adult hating Trump so much that they would be compelled to act out this way.

    Comment by Dana — 9/13/2018 @ 8:56 pm

  7. That he is still working at the college around students is troubling. What if a student who supports Trump opines thusly to him?

    Comment by Dana — 9/13/2018 @ 8:58 pm

  8. Being in his class would make even the most die-hard (!) Trump supporter shut up, but hopefully he never teaches again.

    Comment by DRJ — 9/14/2018 @ 7:05 am

  9. Honestly, though, I could see some colleges letting him come back or putting him in an administrative position.

    Comment by DRJ — 9/14/2018 @ 7:06 am

  10. That he is still working at the college around students is troubling. What if a student who supports Trump opines thusly to him?

    I certainly would not want my child to remain in such a class. I would tell her to drop the class, whether it’s too late or not, and write a letter to the administration explaining why. Risking your child’s life is not worth it.

    Comment by Patterico — 9/15/2018 @ 7:13 am

  11. I know people will disagree but I think we should consider punishing crimes by the mentally ill the same as crimes by those who aren’t mentally ill. We may not be able to incarcerate them together since the mentally ill are disruptive, although I think many are already incarcerated instead of hospitalized.

    IMO the mentally ill who commit violent crimes are more dangerous in the long run because they are more unpredictable. As a society, we want to be kind but we put society at risk by refusing to incarcerate mentally ill criminals simply because they have a mental illness. Instead, let’s work harder at providing mental health options in prisons — which I suspect we don’t do because we don’t understand what makes people violent and doctors don’t want to work in prisons.

    Comment by DRJ — 9/15/2018 @ 7:23 am

  12. I’m not sure I would want my kid on that campus with him, let alone in his class.

    Comment by DRJ — 9/15/2018 @ 7:24 am

  13. I’ve stayed away from commenting on the other site despite the fact that I read all the posts and many of the comments because of some of the toxicity. I hadn’t checked this section out until today, but this comments section looks much more promising.

    Thanks for explaining the purpose of it in your post today, Patrick.

    Comment by Nathan — 9/15/2018 @ 8:14 am

  14. Welcome to The Jury, Nathan. Hope you continue commenting here.

    Comment by DRJ — 9/15/2018 @ 10:24 am

  15. As a lawyer, you would surely know better than I, but I thought it was only very specific types of mental illness that would prevent a person from being tried for a crime:

    1) Diminished capacity, meaning the person is incoherent or dysfunctional to the point that they cannot provide information to allow their counsel to prepare a defense.

    2) The person is criminally insane, meaning they had no conception of the wrongness of what they did.

    Once again, IANAL, but neither of these circumstances appear relevant to this case.

    On the other hand, I’m not sure how often people are prosecuted for attempting suicide when they don’t harm or endanger others in the process.

    Comment by Dave — 9/15/2018 @ 10:31 am

  16. I have never practiced criminal law but I think the issue is complex. It can be raised as a defense in different ways and there are different standards, but in general I think the concept is we should not punish people who cannot understand the difference between right and wrong. I agree with that but IMO that approach doesn’t always take into account society’s need for protection.

    Take the example of autistic individuals who commit crimes, sometimes violent and deadly crimes. They appear to have no understanding of their crimes or the impact of their crimes, and don’t care, making them especially dangerous. Often their actions aren’t based on cruelty, instead they seem hardwired not to care, which to me makes it hard to blame them. But they can still hurt people and we don’t know how to stop them except constant lifetime structure and supervision.

    Comment by DRJ — 9/15/2018 @ 11:24 am

  17. Irritatingly enough, the rules for determining sanity vary wildly from state to state.

    in california specifically, the defense of diminished capacity was abolished by voter ballot initiative in outrage after a man who shot the mayor of a large city was acquitted of murder (and convicted of manslaughter) on those grounds.

    there were massive riots in the city in question, the day he was acquitted.

    Comment by aphrael — 9/15/2018 @ 11:29 am

  18. As for the mental illness defense in this case, IMO it probably won’t apply. Most Americans are compassionate and we tend to blame mental illness when people do strange, crazy, or unexplainable things. But medicine has a more expansive view of what constitutes mental illness than law does. We look at this and say he must be mentally ill to do something so stupid, but fortunately the law may not see him that way.

    Comment by DRJ — 9/15/2018 @ 11:29 am

  19. Harvey Milk, right?

    Comment by DRJ — 9/15/2018 @ 11:31 am

  20. The Mayor was George Moscone. But the riots were about Harvey Milk (a county Supervisor). The killer was a former county supervisor who had resigned his post a few weeks prior and who wanted his job back; he was angry at Moscone for refusing to give it to him, and blamed Milk for persuading Moscone.

    Amusingly given the conversation i’m having with harkin on the main site, Moscone’s murder is what elevated Dianne Feinstein to the Mayoralty.

    Comment by aphrael — 9/15/2018 @ 11:36 am

  21. All of this was happening in the immediate aftermath of the Jonestown massacre, the majority of the victims of which came from the area. I’m not old enough to remember those days, of course, but it was a really, really dark time in the city’s history.

    Comment by aphrael — 9/15/2018 @ 11:37 am

  22. I was old enough and I remember all those events. They were shocking events.

    Comment by DRJ — 9/15/2018 @ 11:40 am

  23. I think John Hinckley’s successful insanity defense resulted in a lot of changes that reduced its viability.

    DRJ, is it really the case that confining someone to a mental hospital leaves society less safe? In theory, I suppose it is easier to escape from a hospital, although I can’t recall a high-profile case where that’s happened. (I imagine Hinckley’s guards included Secret Service, so he for sure wasn’t going anywhere).

    My impression is also that the number of people who mount successful insanity defenses after Hinckley is essentially negligible.

    Comment by Dave — 9/15/2018 @ 12:05 pm

  24. Yeah. Jonestown has faded, but the Moscone/Milk murder is still an incredibly important event in the local psyche.

    I went to a rally last year where Cleve Jones was speaking. He was an amazing speaker, and his message, to a bunch of angry anti-trumpers, was *hope*, the antithesis of despair. Look at me, he said (i’m paraphrasing here): i despaired growing up as a gay man in the 60s, i despaired when harvey was killed, i despaired when the plague came — and each time there *was* actually a light at the end of the tunnel, and we made it through. this time is no different.

    i was astonished that he had that kind of spirit, after living through the murder and the plague.

    Comment by aphrael — 9/15/2018 @ 12:10 pm

  25. First, defendants have to show they are mentally competent to stand trial. If they are not competent, they are held in a mental health facility until they are competent enough to stand trial. I don’t know where to find statistics about these people. It is conceivable that people could be held for a period of time and then sent back for trial, only to find that the prosecutors cannot try them because witnesses are not available due to the passage of time. This might be especially true with lesser charges.

    In addition, there is the insanity defense that defendants assert as a defense to being held criminally liable for acts they commit. The insanity defense is rare, not because mentally ill defendants are rare but because the insanity defense has limitations, is expensive, and is hard to prove:

    If a large percentage of inmates have clear mental health issues, why then is the insanity defense so seldom used?

    “The rarity of the NGI plea being entered is likely related to the complexity and cost associated with such a case. An NGI plea, in California, increases the cost and length of a criminal trial. The experts obtained by the defense attorney as well as those appointed by the court must spend time with the defendant, evaluate past medical records, and give testimony potentially twice. Because of this, the attorney may not even have the time or ability to even get past medical records and analyze if a defendant is a good candidate for an NGI plea.

    Furthermore, the type of defendant most likely to be arrested or found guilty of a violent offense is also unable to pay for private defense counsel or have access to mental health professionals before their arrest, so they are put into a vast trough of cases given to local public defenders without adequate access to mental health evaluations. The legal right to representation in a criminal case, made famous in Gideon v. Wainright, guarantees only that an attorney will be appointed to represent a person through the criminal process. There is no guarantee that a person with a mental disorder, which was manifesting at the time of the crime, will ever have a jury hear evidence about their mental condition.”

    Comment by DRJ — 9/15/2018 @ 12:44 pm

  26. Perhaps the most likely way mental illness arises is in the sentencing phase, where a sentence can be adjusted downward in cases of mental illness.

    By the way, the NY Times has an article that an insanity defense can lead to lifetime imprisonment, suggesting defendants never get better and never get out of the mental health facility. No doubt that has happened but my feeling (and I admit it is a feeling based on reasoning) is that there aren’t enough mental health facilities or government money to pay for lifetime care in mental health facilities.

    Comment by DRJ — 9/15/2018 @ 12:51 pm

  27. Sorry, Dave, I neglected to answer your question. I think the mental health issues endanger society because those defendants are more likely to be released, thus endangering society if their mental health issues have not been successfully addressed.

    They may be more likely to be released or sent to a mental health facility if they have competency issues or a mental health history or successfully assert an insanity defense. Once there, they can be released based on the decisions of one or two doctors. IMO the high-profile defendants probably aren’t released quickly but that may not be true with others, especially if there is a waiting list for beds.

    Comment by DRJ — 9/15/2018 @ 4:46 pm

  28. I am not targeting the mentally ill. It is a very difficult problem for them and their families, but it is also a problem for society. I am concerned because they are common in our prisonsand more likely to reoffend. I also think they are unpredictable.

    Comment by DRJ — 9/15/2018 @ 6:11 pm

  29. There’s a decent argument that this isn’t really TDS. In that he was retired, and lack of human contact can do very bad thing’s to one’s mental state. There’s a chance that he would have been as self destructive no matter the stress level from media noise. I think it probably contributed, but then I am not qualified to practice medicine, nor am I treating the man.

    There’s an extreme and obnoxious argument that if we fired every teacher that I think are unfit to be around children, we wouldn’t have many primary and secondary teachers that have passed state certifications. If I thought this was a temporary decline in his level of mental health, I would think the talk of firing perhaps excessive.

    Couple things seem to have been overlooked, and I think they are important to be aware of when discussing both criminal punishment and mental healthcare.

    Substance abuse is relevant. Brain chemistry can be very fragile. The wrong person getting the wrong dose of the wrong substance can end up permanently impaired. Someone with a long term habit of abusing varied substances is likely to have a number of bad trips, accumulate damage, and get progressively more ill. Substance abuse is one of the crimes that people often argue should be punished leniently. It is an important link in understanding how healthcare policy impact criminal punishment, and vice versa.

    There are severely mentally ill people who are perfectly safe when they are in circumstances that coerce them into taking their meds consistently. Back in the day, a number of them were locked up in hospitals, and we decided to let them out. Turns out that even people willing to comply might have trouble staying on their meds when they have to do the management themselves. So a lot ended up out in the streets, which is a much worse environment for providing mental health care. Cops simply cannot handle people as gently as psychiatric nurses can. American prisons do provide psychiatric care. They can also make prisoners take their meds without handling them very roughly.

    I think these aren’t simple problems with obvious tradeoffs and easy solutions.

    Comment by BobtheRegisterredFool — 9/20/2018 @ 11:52 am

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