Man doesn't get benefit of the doubt in self defense case because previous crime - Politics | PoFo

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Crime and prevention thereof. Loopholes, grey areas and the letter of the law.
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This man probably deserved what he got, and the court's decision is the right one, but there is a very small chance it could have been self defense and he did not commit murder.

A witness (Reed) claimed a young man (Holley) tried to rob her boyfriend (Smith), shooting him dead. Allegedly, after the young man tried to rob him, the boyfriend pulled out a gun, but the young man shot him.

Holley claims a different version of events happened.
He claims that Smith tried to grab a wad of cash out of his hands when he was about to pay him, that there was a struggle and Smith managed to grab Holley's cell phone. Allegedly, Smith then reached for a gun, and Holley tried to smack the gun out of his hands. The gun jammed, and Holley then fired a shot and Smith's arm which was holding the gun to try to slow him down, but Holley then had to shoot Smith in the torso.

So this might appear to be a "he said, she said" case. Except for one major thing.
A month previously, Holley had committed armed robbery, in a separate but very similar incident.

So if Holley had previously committed armed robbery, it is very likely that he was the one committing the robbery in this situation too.

Armed robbery is a serious thing. It's not as serious as murder, but because he previously committed that crime not long before, he does not get the benefit of the doubt in this alleged self defense case either.

He was sentenced to life in prison, for first degree murder.

Holley probably was acting in "self defense" when he shot Smith because Smith pulled out a gun. But a person cannot claim "self defense" if they are acting within the situation of a robbery that they are committing. That is not a legal defense to murder (although it can be a small mitigating factor).
The big legal question that matters is whether Holley was committing a robbery in this situation.

Another thought, if he had killed the witness, he would likely also still have been convicted. It's very hard to make the argument that it was self defense if he had to kill two people, including a female. I think the fact that the witness was a female played a significant role in his conviction. Since females are seen as less likely to commit violent crimes like armed robbery, and a male and female together would be less likely to try to commit a robbery than one male, or two males together. So I think that is an interesting aspect to this too.

Supreme Court reinstates murder conviction for man who claimed self-defense ( ... dangerment. ... 1181_1.PDF

The defense won an appeal that the jury should have been instructed by the judge to consider self defense, but the Illinois Supreme Court overturned that appeal.

I know someone made the stupid claim in another thread that "all cases are objective". This is obviously not really the case here. We do not know with 100 percent certainty that it was a murder, but we have still (rightly) decided that this person committed murder.

(Also, before any of you object, most parts of the United States have very different views about justified self defense than in the UK. Whether Holley was involved in the commission of a robbery when he had to shoot and kill Smith is a huge huge issue and is the determining factor whether it is considered a murder or not)
wat0n wrote:At least your source says the Kansas (not Illinois) Supreme Court decided against instructing on self defense because it was a felony murder charge. So what's the Kansas felony murder law?

It seems they were dealing with marijuana. Is it legal there? Does drug trafficking fall into the KS felony murder law?

That's an example of the legal minefield that defendants can end up in. Prosecutors just present lots of evidence and let the jury decide if that is adequate evidence to convict the defendant of several different laws the prosecutor is charging them with.

I don't think the prosecutor specifically made the argument that the jury should convict him of murder because he was involved in selling marijuana, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility that some of the jurors might have believed that was adequate enough reason to convict him of murder, even if he hadn't actually been committing a robbery.

States like Kansas would have some pretty strict and harsh felony murder laws, and public views about how felony murder should work, so it is not inconceivable.

I don't know. I totally would disagree with that view, so it's hard for me to say how likely it is other people might.

To clarify for everyone else: If that was the case, then he would have no right to shoot in self defense, because selling marijuana is a "dangerous felony" when the participants in that situation are likely to have guns. He would be seen as completely responsible for the killing, because he brought a gun and tried to sell illegal marijuana.
wat0n wrote:That's the thing. If marijuana sales are included in their felony murder law, it's not really surprising and has nothing to do with this guy's past history but what their transaction was about.

Felony murder laws can be interpreted all sorts of different ways. That's one of the reasons I really do not like this whole concept.

It should be limited to situations where the person who commits the killing is in the middle of armed robbery or threatening someone with a gun as part of another serious crime.

I don't think this person was convicted primarily because he was involved in a marijuana sale, but that is not to say it couldn't have been a contributing factor in the jury making their decision.
If any members of the jury were not sure about whether he had actually been committing a robbery, the fact that marijuana was involved may have pushed them over the edge to be willing to vote guilty. It could have altered the whole attitude and feeling in the jury deliberation room.
Personally, I'm not sure that I agree with the state Supreme Court. While the facts were clearly very adequate to find Holley guilty of first degree murder, that wasn't really the specific question the state Supreme Court was considering. I think the judge probably should have instructed the jurors to consider self-defense. This is because if any of the jurors had adequate doubt in their mind that Holley had been carrying out a robbery, they might have still considered it a "murder" even if Holley had only shot after the other man pulled out a gun. (The jury might have still blamed him for the death for several other reasons) They might not have been able to draw a distinction between "murder" and "first degree murder".

Although the jury should have made the decision they made, the decision is still ultimately up to the jury and it is their decision to make. The judge is supposed to help them understand the law so they can make the right decision. It's common for juries to be confused by complex details and misinterpret the meaning of the law all the time in certain types of situations.

But if the Supreme Court had ruled that the jury should have been instructed, it would have created the need for a new trial all over again, which would have been a waste (it takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money to carry out a jury trial).
So I think this comes down to principles versus utility and pragmatism.
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