J. Pharoah Doss: Has Daniel Penny turned conservatives into social justice warriors?

When an accused person goes through the judicial process, we use the phrase “brought to justice.” According to this viewpoint, the fact that the accused had their day in court defines justice, not the verdict.

Social justice advocates have a different perspective. The powerless and the vulnerable should be favored in judicial decisions.

Law-and-order types on the right typically uphold the process, while their counterparts on the left are more concerned with socially just outcomes. The death of Jordan Neely has caused some conservatives to switch roles.

On May 1st, Jordan Neely, a homeless, mentally ill 30-year-old Black man, got on a New York subway car and started acting erratic and belligerent, but Daniel Penny, a White 24-year-old ex-marine, came from behind Neely, took Neely to the ground, and kept Neely in a chokehold for several minutes.

Penny believed that by restraining Neely, he was protecting himself and the passengers from Neely’s hostile behavior, but Neely ended up dead. The medical examiner determined that the cause of death was compression of the neck.

Police questioned Penny and then released him without charges, prompting demonstrators to take to the streets of New York to demand for social justice; in other words, they wanted a White man prosecuted for murdering a Black man.

Left-wing politicians, commentators, and influencers called Neely’s death a public lynching. They depicted Neely, a man who had been arrested 40 times for similar public disturbances in the previous decade, as a harmless homeless man who simply begged for food and water on the subway.

According to these leftists, Neely wasn’t merely the victim of an unwarranted chokehold; he was also the victim of a society that doesn’t care about the homeless or the mentally ill. Since proponents of social justice don’t—blame the victim—or believe the victim can play a part in their own demise, Penny’s actions can’t be considered self-defense because he initiated the confrontation.

Therefore, Penny should be charged with murder.

On May 12, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg charged Penny with second-degree manslaughter. Now, the legal process has to clear or convict Penny; either way, justice would have been served, right?

Not exactly.

Many conservatives who ordinarily uphold the process have become social justice warriors in support of Daniel Penny. These conservatives have no interest in the process and are only concerned with the “moral” end that they seek. They feel Daniel Penny is a hero who should be spared from the legal procedure because he was protecting fellow citizens from a dangerous situation.

Once, Neely shouted on the subway car, “I will kill a motherf—cker. I don’t care. I’ll take a bullet. I’ll go to jail.” These conservatives argue that Neely threatened the lives of every passenger on the subway car, and they had the right to defend themselves.

Fair enough, but what about the duty to retreat?

According to the website of Tilem & Associates, PC, a New York-based legal practice, “New York state law makes it explicitly clear that a person being attacked by deadly force in their home does not have a duty to retreat as long as they were not the initial aggressor.  Outside of one’s home, however, a person does have a legal duty to retreat and take reasonable steps to try and avoid using violence in self-defense. If a person has performed their duty to retreat and clearly communicated their intent to de-escalate a potentially violent situation, then using force for the sole purpose of self-defense may be a legal option.”

This raises two issues.

1) In a subway car, how far must a potential victim retreat before being able to defend themselves?

2) Did Penny express a desire to de-escalate the situation before restraining Neely?

The answers to these questions will establish whether Penny’s acts were legal or not, but in order to answer them, Penny needed to be brought to justice.

Nikki Haley, a 2024 presidential candidate, stated that the Governor of New York should immediately pardon Daniel Penny because it is the right thing to do, but nothing is more wrong than when conservatives seek outcomes that defeat the purpose of the legal process.





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