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Before we talk about self defense justification in a case, let us take a real life example. Way back in 1984 December, a man called Bernhard Goetz, aged 37, got into a subway in Bronx. Along with him, there were four African American youths also in the train.

        These four were on their way to rob video game machines in Manhattan and were carrying screwdrivers that were sharpened. One of the youths demanded Goetz to give $5, which he refused. On this the youth threatened Goetz with the screwdriver he was carrying.

        Goetz, who had been mugged and injured a few years ago, was afraid of getting hurt again. So, he pulled out a .38 pistol and fired four rounds. The rounds found their targets, while the fourth youth escaped being hit. However, Goetz fired another round and this ended up severing the young man's spinal cord.

        The Grand Jury indicted Goetz for attempted murder, possessing an illegal firearm and assault. In his trial, Goetz's attorney claimed self defense. The jury found Goetz not guilty two counts, but convicted him for possessing an illegal firearm. He was sentenced to eight months of imprisonment.

        In most jurisdictions in the US, the law clearly states that a person can use force when he or she believes that it is necessary in order to defend themselves. This force can only be used by a person when he or she believes that the aggressor is going to use physical force against them. However, if the person is the aggressor, then he or she cannot use the self defense justification. So, a person can use deadly force only if he or she believes that another person is going to harm him or her or going to commit a crime like rape, burglary, robbery or kidnapping.

        Usually it is quite difficult to prove self defense. Because a human life is valuable, invariably the jury will vote in favor of the person who has died, the aggressor. However, an attorney who is skilled and knows how to present the case can still convince the jury that the defendant was right in killing or assaulting the aggressor.




The Self Defense Justification

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