We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

What is reasonable force?

After seeing an encouraging headline on the front page of yesterday’s Daily Express (“AT LAST, A JUDGE BACKS A MAN WHO SHOT A BURGLAR”), I bought the paper, read the story, and looked for further enlightenment by googling “Judge Andrew Hamilton” “Kenneth Faulkner”. I got these headlines:

Judge stirs debate on self defence

Shot burglar case sparks debate

Judge Backs Farmer Who Shot Burglar

Sadly, however, there is rather less to this story than meets the eye:

Prosecutor Michael Auty told Judge Andrew Hamilton that charges against Mr Faulkner had been considered but not brought, since his intention was to frighten; there was no evidence to suggest “anything other than acting in legitimate defence of his property and person”. In addition, Rae had suffered only pellet wounds to his lower leg.

Rae suffered “only pellet wounds to his lower leg”. So, although charges against Mr Faulkner had been considered, they were not brought. Had it been worse, it would also have been far worse for Mr Faulkner, is the clear implication.

The final google headline that I harvested yesterday went like this:

Housebreaker accepts victims have the right to fight back

How very sporting of him. The idea that you need the moral assent of your burglar before you may counter-attack him is ridiculous, not to say contemptible. Although come to think of it, I suppose that in the debased criminal justice culture of this country just now, it probably counts as news that this particular burglar has no plans to sue his victim for the crime of resisting. As is the fact that a judge is saying this kind of thing too. His Lordship does at least seem to have confused matters sufficiently for the Guardian to go on to say this:

Yesterday there were calls for clearer guidelines. Victim Support spokesman Andrew Buckingham said: “The Home Office itself says there is a lot of confusion. When there is confusion to what reasonable force is, coupled with residents’ anger at being targeted, it makes for a very complex set of circumstances.”

Ah yes. Where would we all be without those “calls for clearer guidlines”? How about a guideline that says: If there is any doubt about the reasonableness of the force used against a burglar, the benefit of it goes to the burglee rather than to the burglar.

I do not object to the principle of only ‘reasonable force’ being allowed in cases like this. The trouble is, it depends what you mean by reasonable.

Tony Martin shot someone in the back who would almost certainly have returned to attack him again, as the attacker already had half a dozen times, and after the police had proved utterly incapable of doing anything about these attacks. If that was not a reasonable thing to have done, then the word reasonable has lost all meaning. This is like saying that anti-aircraft gunners should only be allowed to shoot down bombers over their country if the bombers have yet to drop their bombs and are still coming rather than going.

And just to emphasise the limits of reasonableness in these matters, here is report in today’s Telegraph:

Police chiefs have urged householders not to confront intruders, but to call 999 and lock themselves in safely until help arrives.

Their advice was issued last night after a judge defended the actions of a retired man who shot an intruder who had returned for the third time to break into his isolated country home.

The judge’s comments were hailed by victims’ groups as the first sign of “common sense” on the rights of householders to defend their property.

However, the police counselled caution – while admitting that the public had little faith in their ability to turn up in time.

The only really good news here is that there at least reports of all these various pronouncements, which means that not everyone has given up on the idea that reasonableness should be reasonable.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

67 comments to What is reasonable force?

  • Brooks Imperial

    This is how Colorado handles the subject.

    C.R.S. 18-1-704.5. Use of deadly physical force against an intruder.

    (1) The general assembly hereby recognizes that the citizens of Colorado have a right to expect absolute safety within their own homes.

    (2) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 18-1-704, any occupant of a dwelling is justified in using any degree of physical force, including deadly physical force, against another person when that other person has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, and when the occupant has a reasonable belief that such other person has committed a crime in the dwelling in addition to the uninvited entry, or is committing or intends to commit a crime against a person or property in addition to the uninvited entry, and when the occupant reasonably believes that such other person might use any physical force, no matter how slight, against any occupant.

    (3) Any occupant of a dwelling using physical force, including deadly physical force, in accordance with the provisions of subsection (2) of this section shall be immune from criminal prosecution for the use of such force.

    (4) Any occupant of a dwelling using physical force, including deadly physical force, in accordance with the provisions of subsection (2) of this section shall be immune from any civil liability for injuries or death resulting from the use of such force.

    This is generally referred to as the “Make My Day” law.

  • Verity

    I read yesterday (can’t remember where, but it may have been The Telegraph) that a relative of the burglar, who preferred not to be named, said this judgement “sent out the wrong message” – yes, Brian, along with “calls for clearer guidelines” we have to be sure the guidelines don’t “send out the wrong message”.

    “Are we saying that this means everyone has a right to shoot burglars?” she demanded.

  • “Are we saying that this means everyone has a right to shoot burglars?” she demanded.”

    No – you need a gun to do that…..

    Tempting though….very tempting

  • Richard Thomas

    But what right can you have to defend ‘your own property’ when it is not your property, but the property of the state?

    Back in your boxes, serfs.

    Rich

  • Richard Easbey

    I like the Colorado approach very much. Almost enough to consider moving there! Up here in the People’s Republic of Oregon, I doubt we have such a common-sense law on the books…

  • Andrew Robb

    Let me get this straight. I live somewhere in the British Isles and someone breaks into my house. I brain him with my trusty baseball bat that is kept hand for just such an occasion (I keep the guns locked away since the baby started walking). He dies. I go to jail? Am I understanding this? I go to jail? WTF? Color me an ignorant yank but I never knew about that kind of crap.

    Seriously, I believe that if someone violates your rights they forfeit their own to a greater degree. In other words, like the fine people who drafted that bill in Colorado, I think you should be able to shoot burglars.

    What’s more I am sicked by the advice of British police to victims. Even the best police forces will take some time to arrive. I think you not only have a right but a responsibility to defend yourself and your family, be you man or woman, married or single. Get a gun, get some pepper spray, find a big stick, something. At the least take some kind of self defence class. Don’t just sit there and then blame the police for not showing up soon enough, sheesh!.

  • Mike

    Andrew – pepper spray = illegal in the UK (it has a very similar status to a machine gun)…

    I hope this sheds a little light on our world…

  • Andrew Robb

    Mike,

    Wow! I’m dumbfounded, really, at a loss for words. And that’s rare (just ask the wife).

    Thanks for the tip.

  • Andrew Robb

    I should add that I am a big proponent of every woman, and men if they feel a need to, carrying pepper spray. The stuff works pretty well and is mostly non-lethal which means that often there is less hesatation to use it. Only one out of 100,000 suffer a possibly lethal allergic reaction to it. I just can’t understand banning it.

    If you hadn’t guessed I get accused of a “saftey through paranioa” mentality quite a bit.

  • My understanding is that the Faulkner case is very typical; householders injure and occasionally kill intruders, and the CPS will look into it but not normally bring charges, and charges would not normally be successful.

    The Tony Martin case was very atypical. As Brian says, Martin was not in any immediate danger from the intruder, but claimed that he would be in danger in future. My impression is that this defence was rejected on the “Appalling Vista” principle: The state says that if you are under a threat which is not immediate, the police will protect you. Even if this is provably false, a court is never likely to accept that the only way to protect yourself from future attacks is preemptive killing. (I doubt a US court would accept this either).

    A further complication is that while it is legal to defend yourself from immediate threats, the police would much rather you didn’t. They will therefore always advise the public against defending itself, rather than informing it of the actual legal position.

    The final complication is the law on weapons. Carrying any object in public for the purpose of using it as a weapon — even to defend yourself — is illegal. The effects of this law were seen in a well-publicised case in about 1991. A householder, seeing a thug in the street vandalising cars, went out to remonstrate with him, carrying a hammer. The thug killed the householder with a Swiss Army knife, and was aquitted of murder on the grounds of self-defence. As the householder was breaking the law by carrying the hammer, the antagonists were effectively on equal terms, legally.

  • Verity

    And Andrew, don’t dream of using your baseball bat as the police will judge that “unreasonable force” if it turns out you didn’t realise in the heat and panic of the moment that the burglar wasn’t also carrying a baseball bat. You will be charged with assaulting the burglar.

    You clearly weren’t one of the Americans following the Tony Martin (an elderly farmer in a remote farmhouse who had been victimised by the same two burglars around a dozen times) case. He shot and killed a burglar who had 30 previous convictions (not charges; convictions), was imprisoned for murder and refused parole because if free he would be “a danger to burglars”. Yes, those were the words the parole review board used.

    As Mike says, I hope this sheds a little light on today’s Britain. (Mike didn’t say it, but I would add, under the socialist one-worlders).

  • Andrew Robb

    “a danger to burglars”.

    Good God!

  • toolkien

    Police chiefs have urged householders not to confront intruders, but to call 999 and lock themselves in safely until help arrives.

    This has a very similar ring to the advice our Federal Government gave to airline passengers through 9/10/01.

  • Verity

    Andrew – the second Andrew – Martin was in fear of his life. He had been bullied and victimised by an entire clan of gypsies for a couple of years and his home broken into a dozen times. He always called the police, but they seldom bothered to turn up. This time the two cousins were there at midnight and he heard them at the foot of the stairs. He had no way of knowing whether this time, they would kill him, or whether they were armed.

    The surviving cousin (37 convictions at the time, now up to 39) sued Martin, of course, claiming the gunshot to the leg he’d suffered had made him crippled, but during the case, he was photographed having a vigorous workout on a brand new mountain bike he’d stolen and the case had to be abandoned.

    When Martin, who is elderly, was finally released, the British police were going to spend (pounds sterling) 500,000 ($800,000) relocating him against his will to Australia because the gypsy clan was vowing revenge. They knew exactly who was making the threats on Martin’s life … (maybe it was a Guardian columnist being ‘ironic’).

  • Verity, I do agree Martin was very badly treated, I just think it’s rather a different question. The first question is: should you be permitted to defend yourself from attackers, and the answer is that you are, though unfortunately not by carrying weapons in public. The question for Tony Martin was: are you permitted to take action against those that you reasonably expect to attack you in future, and the answer in law is no, the police will do that for you. I’m OK with that answer, but the problem in the Tony Martin case was that the police had totally failed to play their part, which is indeed a massive problem. The verdict went the way it did because judges tend to assume that the Police can be trusted to do their job, even when the evidence is to the contrary.

  • Verity

    Andrew McGuinness – With respect, I take issue with you because you are not allowed to defend yourself in your own home in Britain. You are expected to divine what weapons they have brought in with them, and somehow have those very weapons magically to hand for yourself. Instead of exterminating them and saving everyone time, you are only allowed to use “due force”. In a moment of blind fear, you are expected to decide what is due force force.

    And given that most burglars in Britain seem to favour baseball bats (knives and guns also being great favourites), you are supposed to calmly judge what they are holding in their hands. If there are two burglars, how is one person supposed to beat two of them off with a baseball bat (and how likely is it there would be a baseball bat in a home in Britain where the game of baseball is unknown)? And if that householder is a single woman?

    All this calm, rational thinking to take place when you have just woken up to find intruders in your bedroom, as most burglaries in Britain are “hot” burglaries, undertaken when the householders are at home and asleep.

    The whole concept is absurd and is laid down for the sole purpose of iron-fisted police and government control over individuals. The police warn citizens not to “take the law into your own hands”. Well, why not? As they are citizens, it is their law. Why shouldn’t they take it into their own hands?

  • Verity, I think you’re wrong. The reason Martin was convicted was not because he was better-armed than the intruders, it was because he shot them in the back as they were running away. I am fairly sure that if that had not been the case, he would have been aquitted (if charges had even been brought).

    Fromt he first link below: “A pensioner in Derbyshire who fired a shotgun towards an intruder on his allotment was charged with wounding, but acquitted by a jury. ”

    I remember a case before that one where a barmaid fired a shotgun at an unarmed robber, and was sent a reward by the magistrate. These cases are relatively common — the Tony Martin one was the exception.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/719292.stm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/791064.stm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/717511.stm

  • EddieP

    Here in Georgia, a jury would never convict a man for defending his own property. In Kennesaw, GA every household is required to posess a gun, this is well advertised. They have an extremely low crime rate!

  • Verity

    Britain has the highest incidence of “hot” burglaries in the world. I wonder why.

    BTW, Andrew McGuinness, as I read it, Martin did not turn the lights on when he got out of bed, took down his gun and walked to the head of the stairs. I read that he shot into the dark intending, as always, to scare them off – until they came back again another night. It’s just that on that particular night, he got lucky.

    Andrew, please tell us why you are defending the status quo – that of a disarmed British citizenry, an all powerful police force (remember them keeping the ambulance crews out of that barbecue last summer for over an hour until everyone was dead?), and an infestation of socialist judges whose interest is in the welfare of the perp.

  • zmollusc

    Evening falls, I lock myself into my house. Later, I hear my door being kicked down! Crikey! What to do? Well, I can’t grab my gun as I am not allowed one, so what is the form? Oh yes “Police chiefs have urged householders not to confront intruders, but to call 999 and lock themselves in safely until help arrives.”
    Erm…. locking myself in safely has failed. There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza…………………….

  • Verity,

    I’m not defending the status quo; I’m trying to correctly identify what the problems are. The main ones are the following:

    1 People are encouraged not to defend themselves, even when they can legally do so.

    2 People are denied the right to carry weapons for self-defence, or to own firearms (with negligible exceptions).

    3 The police and criminal justice system frequently fail to do their most basic job — defending the most helpless (like Tony Martin) from known habitual criminals.

    Part of point 1 is that the police are happy for people to believe that they are not allowed to use force in self-defence, but that is a false belief, and I don’t like to see it perpetuated.

    I think that in the context of the events of that night, the jury were entitled to conclude that Martin had reacted unreasonably, whether he was firing at a retreating burglar or firing blind at a noise in the dark. In the wider context of the breakdown of order in that area at that time, his actions take on a different character, but I would put more emphasis on the fact that that situation would never have been reached if the state had performed its most important task, than on the unfairness of the victim being blamed.

    The fact is that whatever the laws on weapons and defence, an old man living alone with no friends, family or connections is always going to be at the mercy of a gang of lawless thugs unless the state can do its most basic job. The case got the publicity it did, above the more common cases where householders injure or kill intruders legally, because it was such an extreme situation.

  • RonG

    Andrew
    You only go to jail if you decide to tell someone about it.

  • ADP

    Is the UK government’s hostility to self-defense a recent phenomenon? Hailing from the other side of the pond, I find the notion extremely strange.

  • Pete_London

    Verity, Andrew:

    I get the feeling you’re broadly agreeing. If not do forgive me as four large glasses of fine smuggled French wine (whoops! don’t tell the Chancellor) are beginning to take a nice toll.

    However, Andrew:

    I think that in the context of the events of that night, the jury were entitled to conclude that Martin had reacted unreasonably, whether he was firing at a retreating burglar or firing blind at a noise in the dark.

    Not if I was a juror. After learning of Colorado’s ‘make my day’ law above its rapidly moving up the list of US states I’m targetting for a move.

    Verity – nice to get back to agreeing with every point you make.

  • John Thacker

    Durham, North Carolina had a similar case a while back with a burglar being shot in the back while fleeing. It made the papers, and the homeowner was sued. They had a trial, got a mistrial, since no jury would vote to convict. Then they didn’t try again.

  • John Thacker

    There’s a saying that a conservative is a liberal who got mugged. One of the Guardian’s writers apparently got mugged, or at least burgled.

    Imagine, a Guardian article approving of the use of force against burglars.

  • Jason

    Burglary does not deserve capital punishment, whether the punishment is delivered by the state or by any random maniac “house owner” with a gun.

  • Jason

    Breaking and entering does not deserve capital punishment; this is many times more true when the punishment is applied not in a court of law but by a random idiot with a gun.

  • craggy_steve

    Jason,

    Self-defence against an illegal intruder who has unknown intent reasonably presumed malicious because his intrusion is illegal is not, never has been, and never will be, “capital punishment”. It is not punishment of any kind, it is self-defence against a malicious intruder, and if a small proportion of illegal intruders get shot and an even smaller percentage get killed – so be it, they intruded in the wrong place.

  • Jason

    (Sorry for the duplicate comment. For some reason the first comment didn’t show up for several minutes after posting.)

  • Robert

    I always thought ya’ll were talking about ex-Black Sabbath throat Tony Martin. Turns out I was wrong.

    Which is good cause I always thought Tony Martin was a damn fine vocalist. Cross Purposes is the shit!

  • Jason

    Your presumption of violent intent is nonsense – breaking and entering does not imply a threat against the person. Some of those intruders will have violent intent, but so will some of the people who look at you funny in the street.

    By saying “so be it, they intruded in the wrong place” you are saying that anybody who commits this crime is fair game for summary execution. At least be honest and call this what it is; capital punishment for the crime of illegal intrusion.

  • ThePresentOccupier

    A burglar who breaks into an occupied home does so in the full knowledge that the housholder may confront them. Do you think they are going to quietly surrender to the legal owner of the property they are trying to steal?

    Honestly?

  • Jason – I agree in principle, but when you lock your door at night, that is the first — and in many cases the only significant — line of defence of your person.

    An intruder who breaks down the only effective protection their victim has is threatening the person in a completely different way to someone looking aggressive in a public place, whatever the actual intention

  • zmollusc

    So long as it is common knowledge that intruders will be shot at then it is up to the intruder himself whether or not he takes that risk.
    If I decide to stoop to burglary to subsidise my Lemsip addiction then Mr Blair’s house is full of things that could be profitably sold to the newspapers, do I burgle his house which is guarded by armed police or some nobody with a £50 telly and no means to defend himself?

  • Jason

    ThePresentOccupier; I think a large proportion of burglars will run away on being confronted, if they can. As zmollusc says, why would you risk a confrontation when you can bugger off and try again somewhere else?

    zmollusc; If it’s common knowledge that intruders will be shot at, then intruders will also carry guns. Great! Now in every burglary that ends in a confrontation, whoever pulls the trigger slowest dies. Mmmm, much better.

  • craggy_steve

    >> breaking and entering does not imply a threat against the person

    So what does the intruder expect to happen if he finds the premises occupied? Is he going to a) run away empty-handed, b) shout “it’s a fair cop” and give himself up to the unarmed householder, or c) threaten the householder with violence to obtain the valuables?

    Face it, the reality in many burglaries is c). It is the burglars’ expectation that there is a strong possibility that they’re going to encounter occupiers, and that unless they are prepared to subdue the occupiers their attempt at burglary will be worthless, It would be irrational for any burglar to expect that all occupiers are going to hand over their worldy goods without struggle, so anyone entering a domestic premises without having observed it for a long time to establish that it is unoccupied has already accepted that they may need to use intimidation or violence against any occupiers they might find.

    Anyone who gives me a funny look in the street is probably thinking “who’s that bloke?”, but whatever they’re thinking they haven’t commited and action against me or mine. A burglar has by definition already assaulted mine in breaking into my premises, and I have no reason to suspect that the assault might not also include me.

  • Slowjoe

    Regarding the Tony Martin case, the facts were extremely unfavourable to Mr. Martin.

    Among other things:

    * he had previously had his shotgun license withdrawn, and shotgun seized. The gun he had was totally illegal.

    * A number of witnesses testified that he had threatened to kill the next burglars he encountered.

    * He testified that he waited for the burglars.

    * His testimony was discredited because it was not possible for the shooting to taken place in the way he said. Essentially, he was wrong about the firing position.

    Otherwise, he would probably have gotten off.

  • zmollusc

    Jason: “If it’s common knowledge that intruders will be shot at, then intruders will also carry guns”

    Suits me. A lawbreaker can have a gun if he wants right now. It is only the victim who is disarmed.

    Burglars are rational people, they want to obtain the things they desire with the minimum risk and effort. Hence the relative low proportion of burglaries of police stations, minister’s properties, banks etc. Allowing an armed response to intruders will change the risk/reward calculation and they will choose their victims differently. Keep raising the stakes and working for a living may become a viable alternative to robbery.

  • SLJ

    Jason:
    Breaking and entering, with intent to commit burglary, with a very high probability of the householder being present (if asleep) therefore strongly indicates a willingness to do violence against the householder.

    This DOES deserve summary execution, if that is what the householder deems necessary in self-defence, including the possibility of later returns to the scene.

    Maniac or not, idiot or not, I would be prepared to use such means as I felt necessary at the time.

    If the perpetrator has a posthumous complaint that I was a random maniac/idiot , I should reply (via a convenient medium):
    “You shouldn’t have picked me then, chum. Tough s***.”

    And were I on a jury I would never find a person who had done so guilty, regardless of what the law says, past, present or future.

    For any such law is unjust.

  • SteelCoder

    Jason, you have a point, but yet you miss the point. In the cold light of day, it may appear that the armed household resident is acting as judge, jury and executioner. This is completely incorrect. There are very few crimes which a reasonable person would think that the death penalty is a fitting punishment.

    However, a burgular (turned robber) being shot by an armed resident is not a punishment: this is a consequence. Does the robber deserve to die? Probably not, but that may well be the consequence of his actions.

    In this example that has spawned these comments, it appears (rightly or wrongly), the legal resident is on trial with little emphasis on the perpetrator of the crime: what the heck was he doing in the house in the first place?

    In the UK, the government controls what (rights) people may or may not have. The US law is based on certain inaliable rights. It is no wonder that such things mystify many Americans, and confuse so many Brits.

    Stephen J Whiteley

  • James

    Having just spent my first 3 weeks here in the U.S., I’ve already been to a gun show. Just as I suspected, that Glock 19 with two 15 round magazines fit very neatly in my hands. I would forget to bring my wallet though, wouldn’t I? *Doh*

  • llamas

    Jason – good luck to you in your attempts to inject some common-sense and civilization into this recurring discussion here.

    I’m the last guy that tried, and I have better things to do with my time. Just bear in mind that folks who talk gleefully about ‘exterminating (intruders) and saving everybody time . . . .’ and ‘summary execution’ are not actually here to discuss the matter at hand – they’re here to parade their prejudgements and pander to the ‘kill ’em all, let God sort ’em out’ mindset.

    Colorado residents, have a care – the ‘Make My Day’ law cited above does not give you carte-blanche to shoot any intruder you find and walk away scot-free, the wishful thinking of some here notwithstanding. Read it with care, not with hope. It means what it says.

    llater,

    llamas

    llater,

    llamas

  • Pete_London

    Slowjoe

    The thieves would not have been shot, both would be alive instead of one and no-one would have heard of Tony Martin if they had not tried to break into his property. The consequences of what happened that night should be theirs to bear, not Tony Martin.

  • Alan G

    Out of interest – does anybody know how the law in the UK treats (or would/might treat) an instance where a householder confronting an intruder is trained in martial arts e.g. karate? If the inruder suffered severe injuries or even died from a well struck blow, the defender might argue that in the heat of the moment he/she just “lashed out” or that it was a lucky hit but the CPS might take the view that anyone trained in the martial arts should have enough control to moderate their use of force. Is it therefore possible that the use of martial arts as a form of defense could also be deemed to be “unreasonable use of force”?

  • Andrew Robb

    Llamas,

    You are correct in your statement that the Colorado “Make My Day Law” does not give a homeowner the right to blast away regardless of circumstance at any intruder.

    However, I disagree with you on just about everything else. On an abstract level I stand by my comments above, you violate my rights and you forfeit your own. On a practical level the news is filled with stories of rapes and murders that could have been prevented by some sort armed resistance.

    Often, in break-ins and burglaries, there’s little time to recconoiter what’s happening and discover the burglars intentions. The old addage of “they’re only posessions, just let them go” often fails when burglars have the idea to remove withnesses.

    I will shoot first, I will strike first, I will not allow any person who frocibly enters my home to take one step further than where I stand. I do that not with psycotitc glee, but with the grim knowledge that my wife and two year old son are sleeping mere feet away.

    Later,

    Andrew Robb

  • Mike

    Llamas — you’re arguing a straw man. People determined to defend themselves and their property aren’t goons seeking victims to abuse. They’re people determined not to be the victims of those goons.

    When you are awakened at 2:00A by an intruder in your house, you can be absolutely sure of one thing: he’s there to commit a felony, or felonies, at the expense of you and your family. If you consider this conclusion an unwarranted “prejudgment”, then I submit you’re out to lunch. I agree with Andrew. Any intruder I find in my house is going to deal with me, Mr. Heckler, and Mr. Koch before he has a chance to lay a hand on my family.

  • Rebecca

    Seems to me that in the UK, if you kill someone who’s got into your house and is threatening to hurt you, the right thing to do is bury him in the garden and never tell anybody he was there.

  • llamas

    Andrew Robb – at the risk of getting drawn back in but, oh, what the heck.

    By all means, if rape or murder, or even lesser violence, is in the wind, drill the intruder, plumb-center. Twice. May I hold your coat?

    Trouble is, that’s not what you and others are saying here. What you’re saying is that the mere presence of an intruder is justification enough to shoot him dead. Not because of what he has done, but because of what he might do. By your lights, because intruders are sometimes rapists and murderers, you want to be accorded the absolute, unchallengeable right to assume that any intruder is a rapist or a murderer, to deal with him as though he is (by shooting him dead), and to be held harmless when you do so – whether or not he actually was. In other words, you want carte-blanche to shoot any intruder because of what he might do, not because of what he does. You want to be judge, jury and executioner – with no appeals.

    To be sure, the judgement as to whether an intruder is a threat to life and limb may be a difficult one which must be made in a split second. But we ask difficult, split-second decisions about life and death from people all the time, and we do not hold them harmless for poor judgement. If I run over and kill some child on the way home tonight, I will have no defence to say ‘well, I made an error of judgement, it was a split-second decision, I guessed wrong, but I bear no responsibility.’ That may all be true, but does not excuse the consequences of what I did. Why should you be excused for killing someone in your home, if it turns out that you had no real justification to do so?

    I contend that, in order to be held harmless for using deadly force against an intruder, you should be held to a standard which is well-defined in the so-called ‘Make My Day’ law. You should have to show a reasonable belief that the intruder was in your home unlawfully AND you should have to show a reasonable belief that he had committed or was going to commit another crime AND you should have to show a reasonable fear that he would commit physical violence. Incidentally, I have no problem whatever with the ‘no matter how slight’ clause in the Colorado law. In other words, you should be held to account for what you do, and pay the consequences if what you do is unreasonable or outrageous to the conscience.

    Anything less is mere vigilantism. The three ANDs are critical, and mostly overlooked by those who want the law to mean, what they want it to mean.

    llater,

    llamas

  • llamas

    Mike wrote:

    ‘When you are awakened at 2:00A by an intruder in your house, you can be absolutely sure of one thing: he’s there to commit a felony, or felonies, at the expense of you and your family.’

    That is exactly what you can NOT be ‘absolutely sure of’. As others here have already mentioned, it may be very hard indeed to figure out who an intruder is or what he is doing. What you want is to be allowed to assume absolute certainty about something which any reasonable person knows may be a very uncertain situation – and to be held harmless if you are wrong. Are you so scared of your own lack of judgement when the chips are down that you want a get-out-of-jail-free card – in advance?

    I could take the time to snow you under with newspaper accounts of innocent persons shot and killed because they were mistaken for intruders bent on robbery and murder, but I won’t – you know these things as well as I do, and there’s no sense in piling on.

    Note again, if you please, the braggadocio – me, and Mr Heckler and Mr Koch, indeed. You’ve watched one too many Dirty Harry movies, I think. This sort of flip, unthinking, one-size-fits all mentality belies the person who has not actually thought very hard about what he is saying. Yet I’m the one who is ‘out to lunch’. Indeed.

    llater,

    llamas

  • SteelCoder

    Llamas, your three points are the cause for problems, and we have such confusion. Unlawful Break in AND Committing/will commit another crime AND reasonable fear of violence. These are essentially interpretations of the laws as it stands in the UK. Thus, if you shoot someone with a gun (illegal or otherwise) you would be technically within the law.

    However, the US also matches the same requirements, but the unlawful break-in is enough of a crime to satisfy your second point (since presumably, somone is at home, burgulary is now robbery – a much more serious offence), and the fact that someone has broken in automatically puts the homeowner in fear (no matter how slight) of physical harm.

    As I said previously: it’s NOT Judge, dury, executioner – it is consequence of actions; both homeowner and robber. In addition, you may see bravado (Mr Heckler and Mr Koch: indeed), but when one has a threat to ones life, that threat cannot be seen in human terms – it is simply a threat that must be stopped. Whatever terms an individual puts their frame of mind into to perform such a duty is what you are seeing. Within everyone, there is fear of fear itself.

    No one is denying that the consequences of the shooters actions will not be brought into the forefront. It is, in every case (even if the evidence is, ahem, buried). Soldiers and policemen often need significant counceling after taking the life another human. False bravado? perhaps. Even so, the majority who respect the lives of others need tools to defend themselves from those who don’t.

    But here’s a premise: should a burgular break in to your house, and you dial 999/911: the police turn up in uncharacteristic haste, are confronted by the burgular who is shot dead. Whos hand is covered with this ‘victim’s blood?

    Stephen J Whiteley

  • Mike

    Llamas — Nonsense. Your presumption that anybody who has posted here (of those I’ve read) would open fire at the sound of a pin dropping is the product of an “unthinking, one-size-fits-all mentality”, to borrow an expression. Only an idiot, or a caricature erected by you, would open fire without verifying that the target was, first, an intruder, and not a friend or family member, and second, an apparent threat. The reasonable perception of threat is the key element. It doesn’t have to turn out, on Monday morning, to have been a real threat. The kind of metaphysical “certainty” you seem to be demanding before deadly force is used can be hard to come by, especially in the middle of the night. But US laws don’t require certainty, just a reasonable belief that one is in danger.

    As you point out, “innocent burglars” are occasionally killed. These accidents are a tragedy for all concerned. But the rate of these accidents is highly misleading when stripped of perspective. For every such “accidental burglary”, there are orders of magnitude more cases of criminal home invasions, where homeowners have been robbed, raped, or killed. For every “innocent burglar” killed, there are orders of magnitude more criminals who have been shot while trying to commit crimes against the property or persons of armed homeowners.

    With the odds an intruding stranger is innocent of criminal intent lying somewhere south of 1000-1, it’s not “hard indeed” to reasonably conclude, in the middle of the night, that the intruder one is facing is a menacing felon. That’s all the law — and for that matter, morality — requires.

    In the face of arguments, you respond by slinging the same shopworn insults you probably always use when confronted with “a certain kind of person.” Perhaps you should re-examine your own evident prejudices, rather than indulging them? Just a thought.

  • limberwulf

    I would agree with Llamas that a “get out of jail free card” is a bad idea. Any killing should be investigated. What I find ridiculous is that the testimony of a surviving burglar/robber is beleived in some cases over that of the property owner. If conditions are sufficient to ascertain that the person who has broken in is not friendly, (i.e. not your teenage son sneaking in after some underage drinking) yet not sufficient to ascertin whether the burglar is armed, armament should be assumed on the basis of generl historic principle. The burglar was willing to disregard property laws, there is no evidence supporting the idea that he would respect weapons laws or intent to harm laws. Since the property owner does not know the individual, his or her own personal record is irrelevant.

    If conditions were such that the property owner was able to ascertain that the burglar was not a threat, nd was merely shooting out of anger or frustration, then, and only then, should the shooter be prosecuted. Consider, however, that while you or I may be able to confront a burglar and have a reasonable chance of frightening them, it is unlikely that someone of lesser stature or presence would have the same effect. The presumption that a burglar enters a house at risk of life and limb, with little chance of retribution or action being taken against the property owner is a good thing. This presumption, along with a high chance that weapons are in the possession of the occupants, is what will often protect those otherwise incapable of handling a potentially physical confrontation.

    The level of police action capable of ensuring that there be no need for self-defense would be both unrealistic and undesireable. The invasiveness of such police presence would be phenominally forbidding. On this basis alone, self-defense should be argued for. Self-defense, without the proper means of enactment, is a pointless concept. There is no evidence to support the idea that criminals would have greater access to weapons if there were more freedom. Legally purchased guns are almost never involved in criminal acts, yet there is still a push to restrict them further.

    Of course there is the risk that fools who shoot first ask later will be in the mix, but the deterent for this is the investigation. Persons are not free to kill indescriminately, but intruders are assumed guilty untill proven innocent by virtue of the fact that they are already proven guilty. A man who would break in and steal would not necessarily kill, but he is more likely to be willing to do so than someone who has broken no laws. This is why felons are not permitted to own guns. A proven disregard for the law causes them to be put in a category of presumed guilt. I do not see this as a bad thing, it is a perfectly logical presumption.

    The presumption of force is what grants the police power. They have authority, but if there were no assumption of enforcement of that authority, there would be little respect for that authority by most individuals who found themselves desiring to do something against the laws which the police have the authority to enforce. This same presumption should be granted to the individual, so that respect for the authority or right of the property owner to his own life or property is maintained.

    If an intruder enters my house, I am likely to meet him with a knife or axe, because those are my weapons of choice in dark conditions. I do not trust my night vision beyond that. I might also simply have a blunt object of some sort, or even nothing at all, depending on what was at hand. I do think that most burglars would likely as not run. I think, however, that my attitude would be quite different if I had a child or wife in the house, as I would be far less willing to take the risk of whether or not the intruder has violent intentions or capabilities. If you desire to take a less violent approach to defense, I salute you. In fact, I join you, but I will likely cease to join you in the event that I find myself responsible for more than my own neck and property. Many police would likely be less quick to draw a weapon if it were only their own neck at risk. As it stands, however, they are responsible for the defense of many. The paramedic looks to his own health first, as a victimized paramedic is only part of the problem. Those I see desiring to take a more pro-active role in defense have a tendency to have far more at stake than their widescreen tv or even their own life, most see their responsibilites as far more reaching.

  • eoin

    I think it should be noted first that the laws applying here are not recent innovations, but based on centuries of common law precedent. Hayek would admire them for that.

    The facts of the Tony Martin case were that he shot a 16 year old in the back on his property but not in his house. At least that is where the body was found. He then skampered off to a hotel. To hide.

    If he had set the dog on a 6 year old ( also a minor) looking for his football it would have been the same issue of law: An intruder found dead on Tony Martins property, killed by Mr Martin. Just a whole differnet tabloid frenzy.

    He probably would have shot a pregnant woman walking up his pathway after going into labour in her car, or whomever, that day. Got off lightly.

  • Mike

    I’m not aware of any US jurisdictions where a homicide — any homicide — would go uninvestigated, nor of any sentiment that there should be a “get out of jail free” provision. Police departments in most (or all) states will normally grant a homeowner the benefit of the doubt unless there is actual evidence that leads them to believe the killing was not defensive.

    Tony Martin would probably have been prosecuted in most US jurisdictions, if I understand the facts of the case. While Americans favor the right to use deadly force in self-defense, an equally large majority would view shooting a burglar in the back after chasing him across the yard as an act falling outside the boundaries of self-defense.

  • Andrew Robb

    Llamas –

    You spoke of injecting common sense into this disscussion in your first post and although this point has been made already in this disscussion I feel obliged to spell it out plainly.

    If you are awoken by a stranger in your home at any time of day, and he has forced his way in, common sense says that he is not there to make you a sandwich and tuck you in at bed time. So you can safely assume that at the least he is there to deprive you of property. Wile this is not justification for deadly force the rise in home-invasion (“hot” burglaries if your from the UK) is frightening. The willingness of a criminal to enter a home that they know to be occupied suggests that they are willing to commit violence if they meet resistance. That in my opinion IS justification to fire. How do you determine if the criminal had prior knowledge of you being home? There is no sure way but startled burglars often flee.

    If you re-read my earlier post you will notice that I currently do not use a gun for defence of my home. Gun + toddler = really bad idea. I have a baseball bat, multiple knives (stored safely but accesably) and my favorate (the non-lethal and unfathomably banned in the UK) pepper spray. So I will not be shooting blindly into the dark.

    Nor would I even if I still kept a pistol available. I do have some experiece and training in armed combat and urban warfare (USAF) and I, as every responsible gun owner should, would accuire a target (with a bright flashlight) and pay attention to what’s behind the intruder (possibly family members).

    Will I warn the intruder before the light comes on? Not if I can help it. I’m not giving them any advantage in case they are armed.

    The up-shot of all this is that I would be given ample opportunity NOT to fire, an opportunity to allow a non-violent intruder to flee and still be protecting my home and family better than if we locked ourselves in the closet.

    This has all been said by others in this disscussion, but I felt it needed to be addressed in context and said plainly.

    Andrew Robb

  • Andrew Robb

    I should have added that a startled burglar who does not flee implies the same willingness to commit violence and an intruder with prior knowledge.

    Why does either case imply violence? Criminals in the act of a robbery are at least aware of the possibility that the police will be called to apprehend them, many of them are nervous or terrifed by the thought. If they, upon finding out that their sheild of secrecy has been compromised, do not flee then obviously they belive that they can prevent the police from being alerted.

    So either they have cut your phoneline (I’d shoot).

    Or they feel they can overpower you before you can make the call (I’d shoot twice).

    If it’s the latter then they will most likley act as soon as they spot you, so you should be armed and ready to fire before you confront them.

    Andrew Robb

  • Robert Schwartz

    This topic connects to the Guardians recent fiasco of trying to instruct American’s on how to vote in next Teusaday’s election. The Tony Martin Case was cited by Richard Dawkins in his letter to the Citizens of Clark County Ohio explaining why they should not vote for Bush:

    Now that all other justifications for the war are known to be lies, the warmongers are thrown back on one, endlessly repeated: the world is a better place without Saddam. No doubt it is. But that’s the Tony Martin school of foreign policy [Martin was a householder who shot dead a burglar who had broken into his house in 1999]. It’s not how civilised countries, who follow the rule of law, behave. The world would be a better place without George Bush, but that doesn’t justify an assassination attempt. The proper way to get rid of that smirking gunslinger is to vote him out.

    Nothing could so clearly reveal the cultural gap between the British Chattering Classes and the good citizens of Clark County as the Martin case. I am from Columbus, Ohio 40 miles to the east where I was born and raised. I can assure you that in Ohio, Mr. Martin would not have suffered the way he did in what we thought was the craddel of our liberty.

    Unlike Colorado, Ohio relies on Judicial rulings to define its law of self defense. In Ohio, you have the right to use deadly force to defend your family and your house.

    For the insatiablely curious I present a highly edited extract of a fairly recent Ohio Supreme Court case on point:

    State v. Williford (1990), 49 Ohio St.3d 247:

    Williford, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Carter. The conviction was reversed by the court of appeals and the state appealed.

    The conviction arose from an altercation between Williford and Carter, initiated by Carter. Carter, a large man, who lived on the same street as the Willifords. The month before the altercation, Williford’s wife and Carter had a dispute over a dog.

    On the night of November 8, 1986, Carter had been drinking. Carter and a co-worker, were driving down the street. Carter saw Williford in front of Williford’s house. He stopped the van. Carter accused Williford’s wife of “calling the police on me.” The two men went up onto Williford’s front porch.

    Williford testified that Carter threatened Williford’s wife, saying “I’ll shut her goddamn mouth permanently.” Williford ran upstairs and retrieved a .38 caliber revolver from his bedroom. He came back down and found Carter in the front room of the house. Williford displayed the gun and forced Carter out, onto the porch. When Williford asked Carter to leave, Carter grabbed his gun hand. Williford fired a warning shot. Carter shoved Williford against the porch railing. Williford testified that he shot Carter when Carter attacked his wife, who had come out onto the porch.

    On cross-examination, Williford was asked, “Do you think he died from the bullet wounds you gave him to the chest when he was lying on the ground?” Williford answered, “Yes, I do.”

    Diana Williford, Williford’s wife, testified that she saw Carter pushing Williford over the porch railing, and was afraid that Carter was breaking Williford’s back. She ran onto the porch and jumped on Carter’s back. Carter turned and “picked me up like I was a five pound bag of potatoes, and * * * slung me down hard.” While she was trying to get away from Carter, she heard one shot, then “a couple more.”

    The trial judge charged the jury on murder and the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter. The judge gave the standard instructions on self-defense, but he did not instruct the jury that Williford had no duty to retreat from his home, or that there is a privilege to defend members of his family. Williford’s counsel objected to the omission of the “no retreat” instruction.

    The jury convicted Williford of voluntary manslaughter with a firearm specification. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial. The state appealed.

    H. BROWN, J. In the instant case, we must determine whether the failure to instruct the jury on retreat and defense of family was error, and, if so, whether the errors were preserved for appeal. We answer these questions in the affirmative and affirm the decision by the court of appeals. Under Ohio law, self-defense is an affirmative defense. To establish self-defense, the defendant must show “(1) [he] was not at fault in creating the situation giving rise to the affray; (2)[he] had a bona fide belief that he was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that his only means of escape from such danger was in the use of force; and (3) [he] must not have violated any duty to retreat or avoid the danger. ” The defendant is privileged to use that force which is reasonably necessary to repel the attack. “If the defendant fails to prove any one of these elements by a preponderance of the evidence he has failed to demonstrate that he acted in self-defense.”

    Williford argues that there should have been a further instruction that he was privileged to defend the members of his family, and that he was under no duty to retreat from his home. Ohio law has long recognized a privilege to defend the members of one’s family. (“It is conceded that parent and child, husband and wife, master and servant would be excused, should they even kill an assailant in the necessary defense of each other.”); As the court of appeals stated, if Williford, “in the careful and proper use of his faculties, in good faith and upon reasonable ground believed that his wife and family were in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm . . . [he] was entitled to use such reasonably necessary force, even to the taking of life, to defend his wife and family as he would be entitled to use in defense of himself.” Williford presented testimony that Carter was threatening Mrs. Williford with physical harm from the beginning of the altercation. A properly instructed jury, if it believed this testimony, could have found that Williford was acting in defense of his wife throughout the altercation. The failure to instruct on defense of family was error.

    In most circumstances, a person may not kill in self-defense if he has available a reasonable means of retreat from the confrontation. However, “[w]here one is assaulted in his home, or the home itself is attacked, he may use such means as are necessary to repel the assailant from the house, or to prevent his forcible entry, or material injury to his home, even to the taking of life.” Implicit in this statement of law is the rule that there is no duty to retreat from one’s home.

    In the instant case, there was testimony that the confrontation took place inside Williford’s house and on Williford’s porch. Because the jury was not instructed on this rule, it might have believed that Williford was under a duty to retreat from his home. It was therefore error for the court to fail to give this instruction.

  • Andrew Robb

    Possibly it’s just due to my insomnia but I have followed the advice given to read the text of the Colorado “Make My Day Law” very carefully. I found this interesting –

    “….. any occupant of a dwelling is justified in using any degree of physical force, including deadly physical force, against another person when that other person has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, and when the occupant has a reasonable belief that such other person has committed a crime in the dwelling in addition to the uninvited entry, or is committing or intends to commit a crime against a person or property in addition to the uninvited entry, and when the occupant reasonably believes that such other person might use any physical force, no matter how slight, against any occupant.”

    What I find interesting is the term “person or property”. As I said, if they have forced their way into your home you can safely assume that they intend to steal something, that is a crime against your property. Or possibly they could simply intend to vandalise your home, again a crime. The only case in which the literal interpretation of that law would not apply would be in the event that a person broke in to your home and simply stood there blinking, or perhapse had decided to take shelter from the elements.

    So it seems that the law assumes violent intent because it narrows the times when a person is not allowed to shoot an intruder to the most unlikley circumstances.

  • Andrew Robb

    Limberwulf,

    excellent post

    “Those I see desiring to take a more pro-active role in defense have a tendency to have far more at stake than their widescreen tv or even their own life, most see their responsibilites as far more reaching.”

    couldn’t agree more.

  • The facts of the Tony Martin case were that he shot a 16 year old in the back on his property but not in his house

    shooting a burglar in the back after chasing him across the yard

    No. No. No. No. No, and furthermore no.
    Whatever you think about Martin’s actions there is no suggestion at the trial that Barras was ‘running away’ nor that he was shot outside the house – even by the prosecution.
    Barras was shot in the back, but the entry wound was in a downwards direction. Consistent with kneeling over a bag that the intruders had brought with them to take away Martin’s property.
    Barras was shot in the house by shots fired from within the house.
    If you think Martin did wrong then fine, but please do not just make up ‘facts’ to make it look worse.

  • llamas

    Mike & Andrew Robb – fair enough, I exclude you from my ‘one-size-fits-all mentality’ description, with appropriate apologies. But I remind you that my quotes regarding ‘summary execution’ and ‘exterminating intruders . . . .’ were lifted directly from previous posts in this thread, and they, and the sentiments which accompanied them, described the excat mindset which I was trying to define – that of those who wish to have the absolute right to use deadly force against intruders and be held harmless in any case for doing so. If I included you in that mindset thoughtlessly, then I apologize – thank you for making your positions more clear.

    Contrary to some assertions, I am NOT demanding a standard of absolute certainty before justifying the use of deadly froce – as I repeatedly said, the standard must be one of reasonable belief in each of the three elements defined. I’m not the one demanding an absolute standard here.

    Robert Schwartz’ link to an Ohio judgement on the use of deadly force is interesting, but only in terms of what it shows about acceptable parameters. In that case, on the evidence, there could be no question in the mind of a reasonable person about any of the three elements – unlawful intrusion, credible threat of further crime, and credible threat of physical violence.

    Andrew Robb – regarding the ‘person or property’ clause of the CO ‘Make My Day’ law, what you say is true as far as it goes, but it’s the next ‘and’ that qualifies. All 3 elements must be met, to a reasonable-person standard, before the blanket justification for the use of deadly force can be invoked.

    Limberwulf hits the nail on the head and I thank him for an excellent post. As I’ve said in past discussions on the topic, I think that the law should grant the homeowner the reasonable benefit of any doubt in the interpretation of the use of deadly force, and, once again, I am absolutely in favour of the use of deadly force for the protection of life and limb – no exceptions. What I cannot stomach are strident calls for homeowners to be held harmless for any and every use of deadly force, such as those we have seen here and in the past from some contributors.

    llater,

    llamas

  • DieDee

    My life was saved by the fact that I carried pepper spray. I was with, what I naively thought, was a “harmless old man”. Well, when we crossed a deserted parking lot, he tried to overpower me and rape me.

    I sprayed his face, kicked him in the balls, and ran to the nearest store and called the police. Apparently he normally killed his victims afterwards.

    I’ve thought about it. He didn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, and he was only on the street–I thought, at first, that he was trying to steal my purse. I had no reason to assume that he was trying to kill me.

    If I hadn’t carried pepper spray, then I’d be dead. I am uncomfortable at the idea of a state that values the life of a purse snatcher or potential rapist over mine–a simple, law abiding homemaker who was, perhaps, a little too trusting of a man who asked me to help him carry groceries to his car. I’m glad I live in a country, and state (Virginia) that allows me to protect myself, and I am horrified for the plight of women in these countries.

    If I lived there, I’d be dead. This man didn’t even try to break into my house–I had even less reason to try to protect myself than Mr. Martin. And if they had their way, I and my naive sisters would be dead, to protect the safety of “innocent purse-snatchers”.

    I don’t slather at the idea of killing someone who breaks into my house. I have nightmares about it. But I would shoot to kill the instant they were there, because I learned the hard way that they *don’t* deserve the benefit of the doubt.

    It was a month before I could leave the house by myself after that. And I am much more cautious in offering to help strangers.

  • Andrew Robb

    DieDee,

    I’m glad to hear that you’re okay and thank you for sharing your story with us. I think you bring up an excellent point in this issue not being limited to just home invasions.

    Llamas,

    I really don’t think our veiws are that far apart. I just don’t consider the “summary execution” types a reason for restricting the right to self defence. Those who express that veiw are mostly braggarts and people who honestly beleive a simple trespass should result in death are few and far between. If I seem a bit callus by not worrying about the random nut with a gun, please excuse me, but I feel that the protection of innocents or allowing their self protection should take precedent over the protection of criminals.

    To take a long detour from the subject at hand I beleive that Westerners, especially Americans, are far too dependant on the state and that the state (no matter which one) encourages it. Coming back to the point self defence laws such as the UK’s and the advice of police to stay locked in a closet and wait for help only pepetuates this problem. Self reliance is key to self defence.

    As far as the AND cases in the CO “Make My Day” law I see the third clause as weak and easily argued around in court. It would bevery hard to prove that your random nut did not believe “that such other person might use any physical force, no matter how slight, against any occupant.” It’s the no matter how slight bit that makes that entire clause worthless. A jury might not see it this way but you could use the argument “he was going to scratch me” and be within the law.

    Andrew Robb

  • Mike

    Llamas — it sounds like we’ve been in agreement on the major points all along. What a dismal end to an argument.

    I don’t think there are very many people who really believe homeowners should be free to shoot intruders without risk of prosecution. Anyone who sincerely believes he has a “license to kill” any trespasser on his property is a dangerous nut.

    Mark — thanks for the clarification on the Tony Martin case. As I said in my post, the conclusion he did not act in self-defense was contingent on the accuracy of my understanding of the facts. If your version is true, then he would not have been prosecuted in many (maybe most) US jurisdictions. Not many juries would have convicted him either.

  • Tony Martin did not act in self-defence and probably would have been convicted in most US jurisdications as well. If you want the full story you can read the judgement here. I have links and summaries of a whole pile of self-defence cases in the UK, as well as what the law says here.

  • Sarah

    The whole concept is absurd and is laid down for the sole purpose of iron-fisted police and government control over individuals. The police warn citizens not to “take the law into your own hands”. Well, why not? As they are citizens, it is their law. Why shouldn’t they take it into their own hands?

    Couldn’t agree more.

    Most non-Americans seem to have no problem with the idea that the state de facto owns them — the state decides how and when (if at all) your life and your property will be protected. The idea in America is that the state recognizes the right of citizens to defend themselves and their property at all times. The police are under contract by “the people” to protect those who cannot, or are unwilling, to protect themselves. The police are our employees, not our masters. They’ve no business telling us how and when we may defend ourselves, especially when they have a proven track record in many places (Britain and Canada, where I grew up) of arriving late on the scene if at all.

    Burglary does not deserve capital punishment, whether the punishment is delivered by the state or by any random maniac “house owner” with a gun.

    Well, there’s a simple solution to this. If you value your life, stay out of other people’s homes. Once a burglar forces his way onto private property he has already decided for himself that his life is cheap.