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July 16, 2013

Notable comments on self-defense laws by Attorney General Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at great length today about the Zimmerman case in this speech to the NAACP National Convention.  Here is the heart of an interesting legal discussion about self-defense laws that most caught my attention as a criminal law professor who will be teaching a group of brand new new law students about these topics only a few months from now:

Separate and apart from the case that has drawn the nation’s attention, it’s time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods. These laws try to fix something that was never broken. There has always been a legal defense for using deadly force if — and the “if” is important — no safe retreat is available.

But we must examine laws that take this further by eliminating the common sense and age-old requirement that people who feel threatened have a duty to retreat, outside their home, if they can do so safely.  By allowing and perhaps encouraging violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety.  The list of resulting tragedies is long and — unfortunately — has victimized too many who are innocent. It is our collective obligation — we must stand our ground — to ensure that our laws reduce violence, and take a hard look at laws that contribute to more violence than they prevent.

We must also seek a dialogue on attitudes about violence and disparities that are too commonly swept under the rug — by honoring the finest traditions established by generations of NAACP leaders and other nonviolent advocates throughout history; and by paying tribute to the young man who lost his life here last year — and so many others whose futures have been cut short in other incidents of gun violence that pass, too often unnoticed, in our streets: by engaging with one another in a way that is at once peaceful, inclusive, respectful — and strong.

As we move forward together, I want to assure you that the Department will continue to act in a manner that is consistent with the facts and the law.  We are committed to doing everything possible to ensure that — in every case, in every circumstance, and in every community — justice must be done.

July 16, 2013 at 05:14 PM | Permalink

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Duty to retreat is the doctrine that enabled 9/11. Never addressed in the lawyer dominated 9/11 Commission. That $500,000 operation took out $7 trillion from our economy and killed 3000 innocent people, including many Muslims. It would have been impossible on the airline of other nations whose males had not been castrated by the big government vile feminist lawyer and its running dogs. The males on those airplanes had an affirmative duty to kill. They failed to carry it out. Instead, they carried out the duty to retreat. The cost? $trillions, and thousands of innocent lives surrendered to the lawyer client, the foreign terrorist.

The victim has a duty to retreat. The criminal does not. This is the upside down, Twilight Zone world of the VFL running dog, this traitor to the nation. Why is there a duty to retreat and not a duty to kill the violent thug? Because the crminal must be protected to generate massive government make work jobs for lawyers. Why is it better that 10 guilty men go free than to have an innocent man condemned? Because the 10 guilty men paid lawyers their fee.

In class, Prof. Berman must disclose the lawyer conflict of interest in this ridiculous bias. These doctrines are just made up, by self dealing rent seeking pro-criminal lawyers to generate lawyer fees at horrific expense to the public in money and lives.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 16, 2013 7:17:01 PM

lol what a govt fucktard!

I take it he flunked history on his way to law school. That's the only reason to explain this bit of criminal stupidity!

"But we must examine laws that take this further by eliminating the common sense and age-old requirement that people who feel threatened have a duty to retreat, outside their home, if they can do so safely."

I say that considering that up till the 20th century the odds are if you pissed off the wrong person the odds were they would simply have shot your ass an then buried you in the woods!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 16, 2013 8:25:52 PM

Since most duty to retreat rules only require retreat if one can do so with complete safety I wonder how often the issue is really litigated. Is this an issue of much importance on the ground, so to speak?

Posted by: Steve Erickson | Jul 16, 2013 8:28:59 PM

Here is a person who head up the legal arm of the Federal sovereign power. There are state sovereign powers-- fifty of them. The people have rights. The states and the feds have powers. Never the Twain shall meet, even in Cairo where Huck and Jim were headed. So, there will arise from this discussion claims for States Rights! with the exclamation point at the end. States have powers. Those powers should not be confused with the rights of persons who live in those states. Florida has the power to pass laws. Florida did pass laws on stand your ground which are not repugnant to the Constitution of the United States and are thus within the State's powers. Holder wants to dictate what laws Florida adopts. He does not live in Florida. He cannot dictate their divorce law any more than he can their criminal law. If he wants to jump in and file criminal charges against Z then he will be a persecutor of the worst breed. I guess he has political ambition when his term is up.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jul 17, 2013 1:12:16 AM

Holder pretty much depicts so many Govt officials.. All talk and no action...Maybe when he moved so "fast and furious" he got turned around and somehow is just on the wrong page...

Posted by: MidWest Guy | Jul 17, 2013 9:39:35 AM

AG Holder speaks out at length against the Stand Your Ground laws, even though Florida's SYG law was never implicated in this case. If he knows that, which he should, he is a demagogue. If he doesn't, he is an idiot.

33 states in the union currently have no duty to retreat. California not only has no duty to retreat, but the law actually authorizes you to pursue your attacker in order to kill him. Did Holder just declare war on these 33 states? Is anyone awake? Does anyone care anymore?

Posted by: Tocqueville | Jul 17, 2013 9:50:34 AM

I agree with Tocqueville above.

I add that Holder is the worst Atty General in fifty years. Is he from New York?

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jul 17, 2013 9:56:08 AM

Something used in a certain BAT office starting during the Bush Administration is "Holder's" now, huh? The SYG law was "implicated" in the case. Holder is stating an opinion. He is not trying to "dictate." All this talk, including cursing at him, for raising "discussion" and "seek a dialogue on attitudes" regarding a case where Bill Otis in a past thread noted how -- beyond the fact he was innocent under the law -- he believed Zimmerman was looking for trouble while armed.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 17, 2013 10:35:39 AM

@Tocqueville

I didnot realize that any states. much less Calif allows one to pursue in order to kill your attacker.. That seems a little too far over the top to me....If your attacker vacates, and you chase him down and injure or hurt him, your role has changed. You are now the attacker...

Clint Eastwoods movie that explains your predicament:

Hang'em, Hang'em High..

Posted by: MidWest Guy | Jul 17, 2013 10:38:19 AM

Liberty1st, you write " Holder is the worst Atty General in fifty years." Somewhat over the top. For real scumbags, consider Republican A.G. John Mitchell--a real bastard and convicted perjurer--also Republican A.G. Richard Kleindienst--convicted of obstruction. Get a sense of perspective!

Posted by: onlooker | Jul 17, 2013 11:26:00 AM

In calling for a return to the alleged good old days in self-defense doctrine, perhaps the Attorney General could state whether he agrees with the first Justice Harlan's opinion for a unanimous Court in Beard v. United States,158 U.S. 550 (1895) (reversing a manslaughter conviction because of instructional error falsely suggesting the defendant had a duty to retreat, and quoting with approval the Indiana Supreme Court saying "A very brief examination of the American authorities makes it evident that the ancient doctrine as to the duty of a person assailed to retreat as far as he can before he is justified in repelling force by force has been greatly modified in this country, and has with us a much narrower application than formerly").

Posted by: JWB | Jul 17, 2013 1:01:25 PM

JWB, the Supremes got it right when they wrote that "the duty to retreat as far as he can before he is justified in repelling force by force has been greatly modified in this country." No retreat is now required in Florida and Texas cause we are packing--and don't mess with us. If we want to stop unarmed black teens and demand to know what they're doing in the neighborhood, we will. And if they give me lip I just blow them away--just like we've always done. No retreat. No retreat. Yes, the Supremes got this one right--just like they did in Dred Scott.

Posted by: packing in Texas and Florida | Jul 17, 2013 1:40:25 PM

The NRA is right. Everyone should be carrying a weapon whether concealed or not. No one will mess you. Unless, the other guy in the bar thinks you're a wimp because you ordered ordered milk, or that you can't draw as fast, or that you cheated at poker? Or that you looked funny at his girl or guy. Wait--didn' we go through this in Tombstone? or was it Dodge City? Now those were the good old days. Let's bring 'em back.

Posted by: Bubba from NRA | Jul 17, 2013 1:46:07 PM

Without going directly to the merits of the law of self-defense, I'll just note that many liberals on the board have criticized Holder for not deferring to a number of state laws that legalize or partly legalize pot. If deference to the states is appropriate in matters of drug criminalization vel non, it should be appropriate in matters of self-defense. Indeed, it should be more appropriate, because (to my knowledge) there is no federal statute covering self-defense, while there certainly is a federal statute covering drugs.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 17, 2013 1:52:31 PM

Packing in Texas and Florida stated: "If we want to stop unarmed black teens and demand to know what they're doing in the neighborhood, we will. And if they give me lip I just blow them away--just like we've always done. No retreat. No retreat. Yes, the Supremes got this one right--just like they did in Dred Scott."

That may be the worst summary of the GZ/TM case ever. Well, at least since yesterday.

When you have to exaggerate (lie) about the facts of the case to the point of absurdity, perhaps your thesis is absurd as well.

Please provide the court evidence (e.g transcripts of testimony)showing that GZ "stopped" TM.

Please provide the court evidence (e.g transcripts of testimony) showing that GZ "blew away" TM for giving him "lip."

Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | Jul 17, 2013 2:52:26 PM

Tarls; You write "provide the court evidence (e.g transcripts of testimony)showing that GZ "stopped" TM."

I can draw reasonable inferences from the evidence and common sense. Prosecutors say that all the time, right Bill Otis?

And what's your counter-evidence: self serving statements from an accused who has every motive to lie. Don't prosecutors argue that as well, Bill?

C'mon fellow prosecutors Why on earth should we believe self-serving statements from Zimmerman? A black person wouldn't have. Oh, I forgot no blacks on the all white Florida jury. Surprise!!!

Posted by: Packing in Texas and Florida | Jul 17, 2013 2:58:51 PM

Bubba from the NRA stated: "Wait--didn' we go through this in Tombstone? or was it Dodge City? Now those were the good old days. Let's bring 'em back."

Maybe not those days, but what about 1920's Chicago? When Thompson submachine guns were ubiquitous, booze was illegal, and the murder rate was considerably lower than today.

Cherrypickin' sure is fun.

Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | Jul 17, 2013 3:02:01 PM

Packing in Texas and Florida --

1. Glad to hear that white people are the devil, especially the ones on juries. Do keep it up.

2. Neither the evidence nor a reasonable inference from it demonstrates that Z "stopped" M. The most likely scenario is that Z approached M and asked him, probably aggressively (although I don't know that and neither do you), what he was doing here. I don't know exactly what happened after that or in what sequence, and neither do you. What we do know are two things.

First, M wound up on top of Z beating the crap out of him. Do you deny that?

Second, M's wisest response after being approached by Z was this: "I'm going to my father's place, if it were any of your business, which it is not. If you have a problem with that, you're free to call the cops. If instead of doing that, you try physically to stop me, I'll call them. That's how it is. I hope we can meet again under more auspicious circumstances. Have a nice day."

If M had said that and then got shot by Z, Z would be in the slammer today, and for a long time.

Finally, you say, "And what's your counter-evidence: self serving statements from an accused who has every motive to lie. Don't prosecutors argue that as well, Bill?"

Yes they do, and will continue to. This time the jury believed the defendant's version, since it was corroborated by physical evidence and not contradicted by he government. Still, I'm glad to see that you understand that defendants lie all the time. I'm glad to hear this correct (if sudden) enlightenment on your part. I hope it continues in cases that do not fit you white devil agenda.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 17, 2013 3:32:25 PM

In California if a defendant claims self defense the jury is given the following instruction:

"He or she is entitled to stand his or her ground and defend himself or herself, and, if reasonably necessary, to pursue an assailant until the danger of death or great bodily injury has passed. This is so even if safety could have been achieved by retreating."

I wouldn't expect Joe or Midwest Guy to know this, since they are big on talk but short on experience. But for those of us in the trenches every day, we know what a farce the AG's pronouncements have made of this case. He is a clown.

Posted by: Tocqueville | Jul 17, 2013 3:57:55 PM

Evidently the Florida prosecutors trying the case against Zimmerman believe that Stand Your Ground was never implicated in the case. I wonder what those guys know that Holder and Joe do not?

See for yourself:

http://reason.com/blog/2013/07/15/zimmermans-prosecutors-did-not-think-the

Posted by: Tocqueville | Jul 17, 2013 4:01:57 PM

There are slightly over a hundred murder/manslaughter convictions in federal court per year (looking at the USSC stats), so there must be federal authority out there on how to charge the jury on self-defense, whether it's embodied in a statute or not (plus perhaps there are federal-court assault prosecutions where the jury needs to be instructed on self-defense). Some of these cases have odd jurisdictional hooks (e.g. the 1895 case I mentioned above was in federal court because the shooting occurred in Indian Country, although both defendant and decedent were white). But homicide prosecutions are so much the exception rather than the rule for DOJ that there's no reason to think that anyone there has enough relevant experience or expertise such that an opinion that the majority rule is wrong and all the states should instead adopt the present minority rule should be taken particularly seriously (even leaving aside the problem that prosecutors by nature will tend to prefer the rule that makes convictions easier). By contrast, DOJ obviously does have considerable experience and expertise locking people up for non-violent firearms offenses, and I would love to hear Attorney General Holder address the NAACP about why there's no disparate impact issue with "firearms" being the primary offense category with the highest percentage of black offenders in the federal system. (Table 4 in the USSC stats.)

Posted by: JWB | Jul 17, 2013 4:35:34 PM

@Tocquevil
Thanks for some more detail on Calif law .
The part that said, ( and, if reasonably necessary, to pursue an assailant until the danger of death or great bodily injury has passed.)

pretty much explains it clearly....So Calif really gives a person the ability to rid himself of the imminent danger and/or run off the attacker...It seems very reasonable when worded like that..
I stand corrected....Thanks again for the info..

The media has more than beaten this case into oblivian....

I see the guy from Cleveland got charged with ONLY 997 charges.

Aaron from NE Patriots is also Toast.
Too bad he wasted his life and what a glorious life it could of been.
All pro and a $40 mil contract...Priorities...???

Posted by: MidWest Guy | Jul 17, 2013 5:09:02 PM

Packing in Texas and Florida stated: "I can draw reasonable inferences from the evidence and common sense. Prosecutors say that all the time, right Bill Otis?"

Stop embarrassing yourself. There is absolutely no evidence (either eyewitness or physical) backing up your "inference" that GZ "stopped" TM. You made it up.

Further complicating your statement is that none of the 7 jurors (including the alternate) felt your "inference" was "reasonable."

And what about your absurd statement that GZ killed TM for giving him "lip?" Why did you not respond to that question? Bueller? Bueller?

You stated: "And what's your counter-evidence: self serving statements from an accused who has every motive to lie. Don't prosecutors argue that as well, Bill?"

There was also physical and eyewitness evidence that corroborated most of GZ's story. Not to mention, the testimony of the investigator who also believed GZ. The known evidence is overwhelmingly in GZ's favor.

You stated: "C'mon fellow prosecutors Why on earth should we believe self-serving statements from Zimmerman? A black person wouldn't have. Oh, I forgot no blacks on the all white Florida jury. Surprise!!!"

Wrong again. "The central Florida community of Sanford is in Seminole County, which is 78.5 percent white and 16.5 percent black, roughly mirroring the jury's racial makeup." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/20/george-zimmerman-jury-_n_3474181.html

But hey, feel free to fall into the convenient "It's the crackas' fault" (not racist because I dropped the "er" and added an "a") trap. It sure is easier than thinking.

Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | Jul 18, 2013 9:02:58 AM

AG Holder, surrounded by a bevy of heavily armed bodyguards, gives you advice: "Don’t Stand Your Ground. Run!"


Posted by: Tocqueville | Jul 18, 2013 9:20:24 AM

Essentially, Eric Holder's vision is that if anyone breaks into your house, you actually have to vacate your own house instead of harming the intruder. It is only when the intruder physically attacks you can you fight back, but if he just helps himself to all your valuables, if you try to physically hurt him or shoot him, you are the one charged for assault or murder.

(Yes, I understand this is a bit extreme, but I'm looking at the exactness of the law as defined by Eric Holder's intent to prosecute such a situation. He is more likely to prosecute the homeowner for assault than, in the absence of shooting, for prosecuting the intruder for home invasion and theft.)

Posted by: Eric Knight | Jul 18, 2013 2:01:18 PM

The concept of justifiable homicide is at least as old as Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence itself.

But the Attorney General of the United States seems to imply that justifiable homicide can be prosecuted as a civil-rights violation so long as the deceased is black but the survivor non-black, and further if the survivor is known to hold certain opinions, rather than certain other opinions, on social or scientific topics.

If that is the case, then our jurisprudence has been corrupted beyond redemption.

Posted by: Tocqueville | Jul 18, 2013 2:08:11 PM

Eric Knight: Your analysis and conclusion about Holder's point is correct.

Excluding the explanation of self-defeating madness, how do you explain his argument? He is at the top of the lawyer profession, highly intelligent, educated, and experienced. He is not insane, nor self-defeating, indeed, he is an aggressive predator. Now explain his argument. Hint. The explanation involves money.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 18, 2013 3:18:25 PM

LOL you already explained it SC. he's a LAWYER!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 19, 2013 3:54:00 AM

RS.
You are a civilian and understand the obvious without long explanations. As ambassador from earth, I was hoping to reach some of the lawyers, here.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 19, 2013 4:33:33 PM

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