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Thread: Man doesn't get benefit of the doubt in self defense case because previous crime

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

    This doesn't really fit here, but it does have to do with the how courts of law can handle alleged self defense cases.

    The fact that this story was between two teenage young black men with guns selling marijuana, and probably not up to any good, is besides the point. If you are willing to look past that, there are some legal principles at play.

    Just wanted to tell you that up front, in case any of you will feel like you will be wasting your time reading this.

    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 (Holley) tried to rob him, the boyfriend (Smith) 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.

    121181_1.PDF (kscourts.org)
    Supreme Court reinstates murder conviction for man who claimed self-defense (wibw.com)

    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.
    Last edited by kazenatsu; 05-22-2022 at 12:56 AM.

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    I find it surprising that the oppressed man was found guilty at all.
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    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. 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.
    So I think this comes down to principles versus utility and pragmatism.

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