September 17, 2019
Were You Arrested after You Acted in Self-Defense?
It is beyond your darkest nightmare. You are well aware that facing charges for criminal homicide could rob you of the life you planned. Yet, you insist that your actions were justified. Can you make a claim that you acted in self-defense?
As it turns out, criminal homicide in Pennsylvania is actually a pretty broad term. Obviously, you already recognize that law enforcement authorities are charging you with killing someone. However, 18 Pa.C.S.A. Crimes and Offenses § 2502 breaks down murder in three degrees:
- First degree – Intentional killing
- Second degree – Murder occurred when the defendant was engaged as a principal or an accomplice in the perpetration of a felony.
- Third degree – Any other type of murder
Meanwhile, there’s also the possibility that you are charged with involuntary or voluntary manslaughter. If the victim did not die from his or her injuries, you could be attempting to avoid an assault conviction.
Is it possible to say that you acted in self-defense? It’s something that you need to review with an experienced criminal defense attorney. You may be interested to see how one defendant attempt to use self-defense to fight murder charges against him.
Self-Defense in Recent PA Case
Truth be told, charges for any type of violent crime come with severe penalties. Obviously, the threat of overwhelming fines in comparison to the cost of your loss of freedom.
A recent case discusses the use of self-defense as a legal defense. Commonwealth v. Queen is a non-precedential decision. This means that it does bring new law but does offer some insight on to how the court ruled concerning one defendant’s charges.
In this matter, Larry Queen was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and possessing an instrument of crime. Notably, he was not found guilty of murder, which comes with harsher penalties.
According to the history provided in the court’s opinion, Queen was performing a sex act on his partner, Troy Williams. Queen claimed that during the act, Williams pulled out a knife and tried to stab him.
Queen was able to get the knife away from Williams and ultimately stabbed Williams six times. In the end, Williams died shortly after he arrived at the hospital. Queen walked away with a minor cut on his thumb.
When Queen’s lawyer raised the issue of self-defense, it left the Commonwealth with the burden of disproving it beyond a reasonable doubt. In order to do so, the following proofs were necessary:
- Evidence that Queen did not reasonably believe it was necessary to kill in order to protect himself against death or serious bodily harm, or that the defendant used more force than was necessary to save himself from death, great bodily harm, or the commission of a felony
- Proof that Queen provoked the use of force; or
- Establishment the Queen had a duty to retreat and that retreat was possible with complete safety
While the brief history of this case might suggest Queen acted in self-defense, the court found otherwise.
Court Found Insufficient Evidence of Self-Defense
Upon review, the court determined that there was insufficient evidence that Queen acted in self-defense. For one, Queen had little injuries himself. However, he stabbed Williams several times which would seem to indicate he used excessive force.
This case offers some critical information regarding self-defense in criminal cases. However, there are absolutely times when there is evidence that supports the argument.
The attorneys at Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano have practiced criminal defense law for a number of decades. Our office can help you if you are accused of a violent crime. Contact us to schedule an appointment.