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When trial courts go stupid on self defense law (aka, know the law)

Discussion in 'Legal & Political Archive' started by Law of Self Defense, Mar 16, 2013.

  1. Law of Self Defense

    Law of Self Defense Boston, MA Bronze Vendor Bronze Vendor

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    I recently came across a 2011 self defense case in which the prosecution, the defense, and the judge all got the law completely backwards on the reading of a brief and rather straightforward self defense statute.

    The result was that the defendant, who might well have been acquitted on the basis of self defense without this error, was instead convicted of second degree manslaughter and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Somehow, every expertly trained legal professional in the court room managed to make a mistake I wouldn’t have expected from a first year law student. And, of course, it was the defendant who paid the price.

    Although this particular case is out of Kentucky, trust me, mistakes like this happen in every state, and far too often. All the more reason why it is essential that all armed citizens have at least a basic working competence in the self defense laws of their jurisdiction (or anywhere they might go). Just because you're paying your defense lawyer a lot of money doesn't mean he's not going to make a stupid mistake--and if he does, it's you who pays the price. Know the law.

    If you're interested in more details on how something like this occurs, the case citation is Barker v. Commonwealth, 341 S.W.3d 112 (KY Supreme Court 2011). Alternatively, you can read my analysis/narrative about the case on my blog page at: KY When trial courts go stupid on self defense law . . . .

    Andrew
     
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  2. Jabba

    Jabba Oregon Member

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    I can't believe the judge and defense lawyer were that dense. On my first, quick read through of your article I immediately picked up on the wording, and it's improper interpretation. It's basic English! The guy should be able to sue his lawyer for incompetence in my opinion.
     
  3. Squidly

    Squidly Sandy Active Member

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    It's really hard to find a lawyer who is willing to sue another lawyer.
     
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  4. Law of Self Defense

    Law of Self Defense Boston, MA Bronze Vendor Bronze Vendor

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    Indeed.



    It might be especially difficult when the case would also cause tremendous embarrassment for the prosecutors office and a sitting judge.

    Andrew
     
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  5. boarder4life81

    boarder4life81 Eugene, Oregon Active Member

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    Let's not forget the real moral of the story. Don't be a stupid bubblegummer and slash a strangers tires and you won't find yourself in those types of situations.
     
  6. Law of Self Defense

    Law of Self Defense Boston, MA Bronze Vendor Bronze Vendor

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    Well, that wasn't my intended take home lesson. I presume the folks on this forum aren't property destroying punks, and don't need to be cautioned against engaging in that kind of behavior.

    Rather, the story is that while we expect that such punks will do stupid things and get into trouble, we DON'T expect is that a court room full of professional and experienced legal experts would have all blown such a simple legal issue.

    Remember, when you use force in self defense you are really engaging in two battles. The first, and of course most important, is the physical fight for your life. The second is the legal fight for your liberty. In my opinion, it's not a "victory" unless you win both.

    We armed citizens take upon ourselves the personal responsibility to be prepared to defend ourselves and our families in the physical fight, long before that fight is upon us. We choose not place the physical security of ourselves and our families solely in the hands of the police, who, when seconds count, are only minutes away.

    Similarly, it behooves us to also take personal responsibility in preparation for the legal defense of our liberty, long before we find ourselves in court. We should choose to not place the liberty of ourselves and our family solely in the hands of a criminal defense attorney with whom (if we are indeed law abiding) we almost certainly have no prior personal or professional experience, much less in the hands of the prosecutor seeking our imprisonment or the judge who (presumably) stands above the fray and doesn't really care which side wins.

    To me, THAT is the real moral of the story.
     
  7. RoneKiln

    RoneKiln Western Washington Active Member

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    The half dozen times friends or family members of mine have had to defend themselves in court, the public defense lawyers have actively gone out of their way to increase the amount of trouble their defendant was in. I know my personal experiences are not representative of the world at large, but it leaves me completely unsurprised that the defense lawyer "missed" this mistake. I doubt it was really missed so much as ignored.
     
  8. Law of Self Defense

    Law of Self Defense Boston, MA Bronze Vendor Bronze Vendor

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    Well, having (briefly) worked in a public defender's office myself, I would not like to think that was the norm. When I started, I know I really wanted to help innocent people from being convicted.

    Very soon I realized that pretty much everybody I was involved in defending was really a repeat miscreant. So, I lost my taste for that kind of work.

    Public defense, and criminal defense in general, can be noble work, but I just wasn't cut out for it.

    Andrew
     
  9. RoneKiln

    RoneKiln Western Washington Active Member

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    I can empathize with how hard it would be to do a good job at something you destest or even just grow very weary of. I don't empathize with working hard to make it worse for your client (referencing the ones I saw work, not Law of Self Defense). Several of the cases I personally witnessed ended in successful lawsuits against the municipality due to ruined lives and businesses. Yet every one of those lawyers still work for the municipality, and as far as we could determine, were never even penalized in any way.

    Again, I know I should not judge the greater population based on those few cases. I am sure there are many very well meaning public defenders that work very hard under incredibly trying circumstances. It just leaves me suspicious that the defender in the original article (I am guessing was likely a public one) probably was in support of this "mistake."

    To be honest, it sounds like the guy probably had it coming, just not for the reason he was in court for. As Boarder4life81 said, don't go slashing strangers tires. Or the tires of people you know either. Even if he was a miscreant, it's still a good example for our need to know self defense laws and I think it's a good one to post.

    I'd just add, if the worst happens and you have to shoot someone, don't rely on a public defender. Get your own lawyer.
     
  10. Law of Self Defense

    Law of Self Defense Boston, MA Bronze Vendor Bronze Vendor

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    And know enough about the law of self defense yourself to know whether that lawyer knows what he's doing. Really, it's not that hard.

    Even among criminal defense lawyers, almost none of them have ever tried a self defense case with a genuinely law-abiding armed citizen, like us. It's almost invariably a miscreant who is claiming self defense as just another try to get out of an obvious conviction.

    Know the law. Just as you know your PDW.

    Andrew
     
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  11. CharonPDX

    CharonPDX Portland, OR Active Member

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    As I've said before: It doesn't matter what is legal, it matters what a prosecutor can convince a jury to convict.

    It's also why, when people insist that OTHERS should be open-carry examples in places like Portland, I say "unless you want to be the test case, don't do it." Personally, I can't afford the lawyer to defend against a charge I would consider frivolous, and I don't want to trust to a public defender, so if something is "questionable" in the eyes of local law enforcement, I'm not going to do it, even if all reasonable interpretations have the letter of the law on my side.

    (Big counter-example: The Multnomah County Sheriff has fully stated that Portland Public Schools "no guns, even to CHL holders" policy is unenforceable, so I concealed carry. If the Sheriff hadn't made such a statement, I wouldn't carry, because I don't want to be the test case.)
     
  12. drew

    drew OR Well-Known Member

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    Excellent advice.