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Old January 24, 2010, 07:11 PM   #51
Frank Ettin
Join Date: November 23, 2005
Location: California - San Francisco
Posts: 6,914
Originally Posted by C Philip
...It would be like saying causing an deadly auto accident going 100mph in your Ferrari is worse than causing a deadly accident going 100mph in your Toyota Corolla. Either way you were speeding and killed someone....
But that's not really an apt analogy. Let me try to explain it this way.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the physical evidence in your auto crash case was, for some bizarre reason, equivocal as to the speed you were traveling at the time of the crash. (I know this would be highly unlikely to be the case in the real world -- it's just for the purposes of illustration.)

You are claiming that you were traveling no faster than 60 mph, within the speed limit and a safe speed under the conditions. Therefore, you were not at fault, and the crash was the result of the other car suddenly changing lanes in front of you.

The prosecutor, however, puts on an expert witness who testifies that from the physical evidence he has concluded that you were traveling at least 100 mph. So now the prosecutor argues to the jury that they should believe his expert witness and find that you were driving your car at an unlawful and indeed reckless speed and that they should, therefore, find you guilty of involuntary manslaughter (or whatever that particular crime is called in that jurisdiction).

Now, don't you think that whether you were driving a Ferrari or a Toyota Corrolla might affect which story and which evidence the jury believes?

Here's how self defense works at trial.

Ordinarily, in a criminal prosecution the state must prove the elements of the criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt. So if the crime charged, and for which the defendant is on trial, is manslaughter, the state must in general prove to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) the defendant was there; (2) the defendant shot the decedent; and (3) the defendant intended to shoot the decedent. In defending the charge, the defendant merely needs to create a reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors as to any one of these elements. The defendant can try to cast doubt on the state's claim that he was there (alibi defense); that he pulled the trigger (some other dude done it) or that he intended to shoot the decedent (the gun went off by accident). But all of that is completely inapplicable when the defendant pleads self defense.

If you claim self defense, the prosecution doesn't have to prove, at all, that you were there, that you shot the decedent or that you intended to shoot the decedent, because you will have admitted each of those element of the crime of manslaughter. If you are claiming self defense you necessarily must admit that you (1) you were there; (2) you shot the decedent; and (3) you intended to shoot the decedent. You have made a prima facie case against yourself for the prosecutor, and he doesn't have to prove any of the things he ordinarily would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. You have admitted it all.

Your defense is that your act of violence on another human being was legally justified. The allocation of the burden of proof burden of persuasion between the prosecution and defense in a self defense case varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. But you will at least have to put forward evidence establishing a prima facie case of justification according to the standard applicable to the use of lethal force in self defense in your jurisdiction.

The prosecution will seek to discredit, consistent with the applicable standard of proof in your jurisdiction, your claim of justification. Facts, like your having alerted your gun in certain ways, facts that might incline your neutral, but unsophisticated about gun matters, jury to think you might be a reckless, trigger happy gun nut obsessed with making your gun the most efficient instrument of violence possible will help the prosecutor in those efforts. And Suzi Soccermom, as she and her other jurors decide whether to believe your story, wonders why the gun as it came from the factory wasn't lethal enough to satisfy your pervert blood lust.

Originally Posted by C Philip
...What I'm trying to say is that you can't logically conclude that weapon X makes a justifiable homicide any less justifiable than weapon Y....
But we know from post verdict interviews of jurors that factors like that can have an effect on how they evaluate the defendant and evaluate the evidence.
Originally Posted by fiddletown, post 26
...We know, from post verdict interviews of some of the jurors in the Harold Fish case (in gun friendly Arizona), that some of them were bothered by his use of a powerful gun (10mm) and JHP ammunition. (Fish was convicted of manslaughter and went to prison. He did win his appeal, and is now free. But the point is that the gun and ammunition affected how his jurors evaluated the evidence.)...
Glenn Meyer, a research psychologist, has participated in studies that indicate that weapon type has an effect on jurors.
Originally Posted by Glenn E. Meyer, post 23
...There is a large body of research on what influences juries. Weapons issues have been shown to influence mock juries....
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