The first degree murder trial of James Love began Tuesday in Galesburg, IL. Love, a 59-year-old respected local farmer, claims he fired in self-defense. This, after a drunk, unarmed 19-year-old body-builder named Xavier Hartman allegedly attacked him following a roll-over accident near the farmer’s home.
The evidence strongly suggests a righteous use of force in self-defense. Meanwhile, the prosecution is hellbent on gaining a first-degree murder conviction on a very dubious case. In fact, a grand jury refused to indict Love altogether on the first degree murder charge. After that, the assistant state’s attorney 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 doggedly wants a first degree murder conviction and 40 years in prison for the farmer. Some folks say Kerr also wants this scalp to help get himself elected to replace his retiring boss.
Other folks say you can hear Kerr’s contempt for gun owners at every turn. Not surprising as Kerr tried to suggest at a preliminary that Love loaded his magazines with hollow points because he wanted to kill someone.
We covered this last summer as part of a warning to gun owners. “Shoot an ‘Unarmed’ Attacker in Self-Defense, Expect to be Prosecuted.” Prosecutors today seem inclined to take a self-defense shooting of an unarmed attacker to a jury. Especially when politics enters the deliberative process. And doubly so for local prosecutors who do not believe in self-defense.
As we also reported last summer, the case has a lot of other George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin narratives happening beyond a political-fueled prosecution. Like the Trayvon Martin case, a white man shot an “unarmed” teenager, in this case a half-black Hartman. Also like the Trayvon case, the unarmed teenager attacked an armed individual before getting fatally wounded. And then the dead kid’s family presented a boyish picture of the kid to the media, claiming the farmer murdered their boy.
Oh yes, and the attacker’s family blamed the NRA and its members as well for Hartman’s death.
The state’s “star witness” testified Wednesday. Colyn Glisan testified that he and Hartman both had a lot to drink that night, but he had Hartman drive 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.
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.
Knox County Deputy Paul Cates also testified that he interviewed Love. He transported Love to the Galesburg hospital to 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 and 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.
Love told the officer that while back-pedaling from a continued attack from Hartman, he fired a second round into the ground. Even then, 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 ran a short distance after that. He collapsed and soon bled out long before police or an ambulance would arrive.
Thursday may see Love himself testify. 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.
We will continue to monitor this trial and will report on the verdict.
In the meantime, stay safe out there.