An illustrative case. Just saying that you were in fear for your life is not enough. Those are not magic words , the phrase is not a “get out jail free card”. You must be able to demonstrate to people that you has a reasonable fear for your life, a logical one, that required that you use lethal force to save yourself. You must especially be able to convince the people who will sit in judgment of your actions, such the police, the district attorney, the jury and the judge that you acted reasonably under exigent circumstances. If those sitting in judgement of the facts decide that you acted unreasonably and you used lethal force without just cause, then they are liable to surmise that your were either acted recklessly out of panic or acted out of a malicious desire to hurt someone. Either way that makes you a “nut with a gun”. Nobody, but nobody, wants to see a nut with a gun running loose.
“Leonard advised he feared for his life when he observed them reaching for something, so he drew his handgun from his jacket and fired several shots at them,” the affidavit said. Mr. Leonard apparently meant well, and seems to have wanted to place the robbers under citizen’s arrest. When the suspected robbers ignored him and allegedly made threatening gestures, he shot at them. Nine times. He shot Adams twice, including once in the back.”
“When asked by police why he felt threatened by two people running away from the store, Leonard could not articulate an answer. A store employee also chasing the suspected shoplifters never heard the suspects say anything to Leonard, nor reach in their pockets as if searching for weapons.”
That’s the thing, claiming self-defense is an affirmative defense. By making that plea you have already admitted that you used force against another person, so now you have to be able explain why is was necessary and proper under the law for you to do so in that circumstance. If you cannot articulate why you had good and cogent reasons for doing what you did, you are liable to be charged with a crime.
People frequently comment about how law enforcement officers are so infrequently charged when they shoot someone. Part of that reason is that cops are better at explaining and justifying their actions than Joe Average citizen. They have more training and experience at it. Likewise the armed citizen must learn how to explain his lawful use of force in a way that will satisfy the authorities that he acted properly if he wants to improve his chances of staying out of court. Always remember that the law doesn’t allow you to shoot criminals for mere theft of property (except in Texas), only to stop a threat to your life. In this case the dude was just a concerned black citizen who attempted to stop some dindu shop-lifters at Wal-Mart from fleeing with their ill-gotten goods.
“We’d advise that if you are in a similar situation, let the thief take the merchandise. There are few possible good outcomes if you decide to insert yourself into such a situation, and many bad ones. While I know many of us (and hopefully all of us) have a strong sense of right and wrong, you can’t take care of yourself and those you love if you’re in jail because your attempt to help escalated a minor crime into a felony homicide.”
He Says He Was “In Fear For His Life.” Now He’s In Jail.
Fighting Smart: Boxing, Agonistics & Survival