THE FOUR ELEMENTS OF SELF DEFENSE
Written by Guest Article / Contributor , in Section Self Defense Insurance
THE FOUR ELEMENTS OF SELF-DEFENSE
As a litigation consultant, I have worked with criminal defense lawyers on many self-defense cases. Some have been high-profile cases with reporters in the courtroom, and others have been much quieter affairs with just the lawyers, the judge, and the jury in attendance. One thing I’ve learned is that no two self-defense cases are alike. They all have different “fact patterns,” as the lawyers say. That is why it is difficult to give guidelines about when a shooting is justified and when it is a crime. The best we can do is look at a number of cases after the fact, and dissect what the shooter did right, and what the shooter did wrong.
I’ve identified four elements to a self-defense case that have been important in every trial I’ve witnessed. They are: the location of the shooting; the escalation of conflict; reasonable fear; and what the shooter did immediately following the shooting.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be looking at high-profile self-defense cases, and we’re going to breakdown how location, escalation, reasonable fear, and post-shooting actions affected the legal defense, and ultimately how it influenced the decision regarding whether a particular shooting was justified or not. This week, we’ll talk about these terms generally, and this will serve as a good reference for forthcoming analysis of self-defense cases.
THE FIRST ELEMENT: LOCATION
The location of a shooting carries significant weight when determining whether an act of self-defense is justified. The castle doctrine gives us the right to defend ourselves in our homes. Some states extend that same right to our automobiles. Other states, the so-called “stand-your-ground” states, extend that principle further -- to anywhere you have a legal right to be. In practice, however, these rules aren’t so hard and fast and, as we find in the exploration of self-defense cases, there is gray area everywhere.
In Minnesota, Byron David Smith killed two home invaders and was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
We will be following the case of Ronald Gasser who goes to trial in August for shooting former NFL player Joe McKnight in an alleged “road rage” incident, where McKnight approached Gasser in his own car. In regards to shootings in public places, we’ll look at the famous Zimmerman case which caused many to speak out against stand-your-ground (despite that fact that his lawyers -- including CCW Safe National Trial Counsel Don West -- never evoked the law in court).
Shawn Vincent is a litigation consultant who helps select juries in self-defense cases, and he manages public interest of high-profile legal matters.