The first degree murder trial of James Love continues today, and all sides seem to suggest that it will wrap up by Friday. It began Tuesday in Galesburg, IL with jury selection. Love, a 59-year-old respected local farmer, claims he fired in self-defense after coming under attack from a drunk 19-year-old body-builder named Xavier Hartman. Their worlds collided after Hartman rolled over a pickup truck just outside the farmer's home while driving drunk at about three times the legal limit of alcohol.
The evidence strongly suggests a righteous use of force in self-defense. Meanwhile, the political-minded prosecutor seems hellbent on gaining a first-degree murder conviction – and forty years in prison for James Love – on a very dubious case. In fact, a grand jury refused to indict Love altogether on the first degree murder charge. The assistant state’s attorney then took the unusual step of re-filing the case himself.
Prosecutors file new murder charge in Galva shooting
GALESBURG — In a rare move, the Knox County State’s Attorney’s office has again filed a first-degree murder charge against James Love in the June 19 shooting death of Xavier Hartman.
According to Knox County court files, prosecutors filed the same charges as they initially sought in a new case Wednesday, July 18. The charges are: first-degree murder with a mandatory firearm enhancement; Class X felony aggravated battery with a firearm; and felony aggravated discharge of a firearm.
Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Kerr hates gun owners. He detests that you and I can use force in self-defense. At an earlier hearing, he tried to assert that because James Love loaded his magazines with hollow-point bullets, he was looking to kill someone. One wonders if this smug, self-righteous Brian Kerr thinks the same of the police officers in his county!
Kerr used to serve the residents of Henry County as the appointed State's Attorney but voters rejected him in the following election. So some say that Kerr wants to use this case – and a decent man's scalp – to help get himself elected as Knox County's State's Attorney after the current SA retires at the end of this term. Here's to hoping his inept, bordering on vengeful/wrongful prosecution in this case trashes his credibility with voters of Knox County.
I wrote about this prosecution last summer as part of a warning to gun owners. “Shoot an ‘Unarmed’ Attacker in Self-Defense, Expect to be Prosecuted.” Prosecutors today across the nation seem inclined to take a self-defense shooting of unarmed attacker to a jury. Especially when politics enters the deliberative process. And doubly so for local prosecutors like this one who do not believe in self-defense – or care for gun owners.
Not only that, but this case has a lot of other George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin narratives happening beyond a political-fueled prosecution. White guy shoots an "unarmed" black teenager… only in this case the teen was half-black, a body-builder, and drunk. And on probation for a mob action plea from 2017. Like the Trayvon case, the unarmed teenager attacked an armed individual before getting fatally wounded. And then we have the saga of the dead kid’s family presenting a boyish picture of the kid to the media, claiming the farmer murdered their choir boy.
A choir boy whose own mother filed for an order of protection against a few months before the fatal incident. Yes, according to earlier testimony, she was scared to death of her own son when he would become intoxicated.
Oh yes, and the attacker’s family blamed you – the NRA and its members – for Hartman’s death, too.
The state’s “star witness” testified Wednesday. Colyn Glisan testified that he and Hartman both had a lot to drink that night. They had been at a party, left the party on a beer run, and then returned and drank some more.
Glisan testified that he had Hartman drive them because he thought Hartman the less intoxicated of the two. Despite his eye-witness testimony as the state’s key witness, Glisan didn’t do such a great job for the state. The defense worked successfully to undermine and/or impeach his testimony on a number of points. He may return to the stand when the defense presents their case. In the end, he may prove a better witness for the defense. So much for the smug, self-righteous prosecutor's "star witness", right? This thing is playing out like a TV court drama, only in real life.
The Galesburg Register-Mail reported on the balance of Glisan’s testimony.
Hartman lost control of his truck and it rolled onto its side along a rural road near Love’s residence. The two tried to jump on the side of the truck to get it to flip back over when a man asked them their names and then turned and walked with them to a house, Love’s home.
Glisan and Love were walking side-by-side while Hartman was behind them. Hartman asked Love why he wouldn’t help them and Love reportedly said he was goint to call the police, Glisan said.
At that point, there was a scuffle between Love and Hartman, and Glisan, who previously worked at Springfield Armory assembling guns, and owns firearms himself, heard a slide being racked, or a round being chambered, in a pistol.
“I was thinking, ‘why would there be a gun?’ I jumped in the ditch and heard a gunshot,” Glisan said Wednesday.
After that first shot, he heard Love yell, “damn it, keep your hands off me,” Glisan said.
After hearing the shot, he stood up out and took off running through a field. Before that, he saw Hartman and Love with their hands on each other, almost in a wrestling stance. He heard the second shot as he was running away.
“I didn’t know if I was being shot at. After that one, I heard, ‘goddamn it, I told you to stop’,” Glisan said.
He said there were about two to three minutes between the two shots and that nothing was said until after the first shot, which has been called a “warning shot” in previous descriptions.
Indeed. There was much more, but the reporter tried to play nice. After all, the Galesburg Register-Mail has to work with the prosecutor's office after this trial. James Love and his defense team? Eh, not so much.
Knox County Deputy Paul Cates testified that he interviewed Love. He transported Love to the Galesburg hospital so Love could get a whole slew of stitches from where Hartman had beat him about the head prior to the fatal shot.
Even after his Miranda warnings, Love said he left his home to check to see if anyone needed medical assistance after hearing the crash and yelling. On his way out of the house, he picked up his Ruger LC9S, and a spare magazine. The gun had an empty chamber.
After arriving on the scene, things deteriorated as he was approached by Hartman “in an aggressive manner.” He told Hartman to stop, but the kid kept coming and striking him, even after Love fired the first warning shot into the roadway. An earlier hearing revealed that the minor Hartman didn't want Love summoning the police. Because, you know, he didn't want to go to jail. Again. Can you say motive for a drunk man to attack the farmer?
Love told the officer that while back-pedaling from a continued attack from Hartman, he fired a second round into the ground. Even then, even after facing a drawn gun and a second warning shot, Hartman pressed the attack, punching the farmer in the face. Whereupon the farmer fired the third shot at very close range.
That round would rupture the intoxicated Hartman’s femoral artery. Hartman decided to break off the attack (funny how getting seriously shot does that for most bad guys), then ran a short distance after that. He collapsed and soon bled out long before police or an ambulance would arrive.
Love is expected to testify today. The defense team says their side of the case will take about a half-day or so. All sides expect the case to wrap up by the end of the week.
The prosecution, feeling nervous about their case, reached out to Love’s attorney Tuesday with an offer of a plea bargain – 2nd degree murder. Love promptly rejected the offer. Hopefully he returned it with a note urging Brian Kerr to go self-procreate in the corner somewhere.
We will continue to monitor this trial and will report on the verdict.
In the meantime, stay safe out there.