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Subjective ‘self defense’ vs. ‘murder’ case highlights reporting dilemma

Providing insights into cases that have been inadequately covered by establishment media, including the ordeals of the Reese family, former FBI agent John Shipley, David Olofson, Wayne Fincher and more, it’s understandable that people caught up in a collision between the legal system and the right to keep and bear arms routinely approach this column to get their stories out. It actually happens all the time, and more often than not such overtures never make it beyond a series of email exchanges with the person seeking wider exposure.

Kiehlmeier is fighting to have her son's story heard.
Screenshot: Justice for Joel YouTube video

That’s because, first and foremost, there is only one of me, my time and resources are extremely limited, and because without the ability and resources to fully investigate them, many of the tips are generally sent in by people with a subjective interest in presenting their side of things, which may or may not give a complete picture.

Sympathies for such people notwithstanding, the truth, even if inconvenient to “the cause,” must not also be a casualty.

In any case, there is standard advice I give all who approach me asking to have their cases written about: Ask the attorney representing the defendant if exposure is something that is in the client’s interests to publicize. If not, then I’d rather ensure someone at legal risk not jeopardize their case in the courts, even if it means foregoing an “exclusive” story that may be well-intentioned, but that nonetheless paves a road to hell for some unfortunate caught in a legal web who does not know where else to turn.

As an aside, I have such an exclusive story that’s been on hold for months now due to exactly those concerns, and it’s potentially remarkable. I may or may not be able to tell you that one in the coming months.

I’m now going to discuss another story that breaks my own rules. No attorney of record currently exists to consult with and to rely on, first to ensure client interests are protected, and also just to have a legal professional willing to put his own reputation out there for public scrutiny and for a reality check on what is being represented. And my primary source could not be more subjective or self-interested in representing one “side” – it is a convicted killer’s mother, a woman who has made it her life’s mission to clear and free her son.

Add to this the casualty of this story, a deceased man shot by that son, and his family, friends and survivors, all of whom have their own subjective accounts and feelings about what happened and the appropriateness of the outcome. Factor in that a trial has been conducted and a sentence pronounced, and it’s fair to ask why this story should be resurrected at all, and why it should be rehashed in alternative media, especially media that makes no pretenses about its agenda, as the very title and purpose of this column proclaims.

It’s because the mother raises powerful questions that I can’t answer. It’s because she makes a provocative case about answers and evidence that ought to be publicly available but are apparently not. And it’s because, as is often the case in the land of supposed equal protection under the law, all too often there is no voice for the voiceless, and no justice for those without resources and connections.

Brenda Kiehlmeier has found her voice and is directing it to any who will hear. Those of you interested in listening to it, read on.

Brenda’s son, Joel Atkin, has been designated the villain of this piece by the state. Is he? Or is he someone who defended himself with a firearm and who has found himself unjustly convicted of murder? Perhaps some of you will find what she has to say compelling, and will want to learn more.

We’ll begin with the video embedded at the top of this column. In it, Kiehlmeier alleges missing evidence, including a video turned over to police that is now missing, a 911 call that does not coincide with cell phone records, allegations that the arresting officer was related to the deceased, and other discrepancies, including unfulfilled requests for investigations. That this is addressed to Barack Obama shows she truly does not know where to turn, but in desperation will turn anywhere and everywhere to have her questions answered and to get others asking them as well.

Rather than simply summarize what Kiehlmeier has already stated on a series of recorded pleas, it would be best to let her speak for herself. To that end, this column directs the reader to some of those videos, including summaries from:

It’s evident this has been a long time in the contesting. What’s also evident is that questions that ought to concern all will remain unanswered and Brenda Kiehlmeier’s single-minded quest will go unfulfilled if continued media interest is any indicator.

Did Joel Atkin act in self-defense, and what bearing did the deceased being “legally drunk [with] the painkiller hydrocodone in his system” have on the incident?

Why was Atkin outside of his vehicle? And being so, does that negate a subsequent right to self defense? What other outcome might have occurred had an attempt to drive away been impeded?

One can walk away from this (because we have that option) feeling that this entire episode was unnecessary and tragic, and one can feel sympathy (or not) for all concerned. Perhaps there will be nothing Kiehlmeier can do, and if one is a survivor of the deceased, perhaps that’s the least of what they would demand.

Regardless, the outcome of this story hardly defines the legitimacy of all defensive gun use justifications. In any case, if nothing else, it should provide an object lesson for gun owners that things will not "be over" after a shooting. In many case, they will just be beginning.

That may be an unsatisfying conclusion. That’s the thing about real stories that drag on with no real way for those observing things to know what remains obscured.

Case in point: Here’s another story my friend Mike Vanderboegh and I called attention to several years back, in spite of a mostly-disinterested media. It also involves shootings and unsatisfactory investigations and missing evidence and no obvious way to resolve things. Can anyone tell us how it ends?


Recent health issues have kept me from regular posting over the past few days. Please expect limited production until further notice, both here and at the blog. Unfortunately, this will also affect the ability to respond to emails and to social media contacts until further notice. Reader understanding is appreciated.


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No one wants to take your guns -- they just want to promote “common sense gun safety.” You believe that, don’t you? My latest GUNS Magazine "Rights Watch" column is online, and you can read it well before the issue hits the stands. Click here to read "‘Gun Control’ Messages ‘Evolve’.”

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