November 7, 2017
Interesting local verdict in case that reads like an exam question
Though we are moving on from our self-defense discussions to other defenses, I think it useful to know and notice that defensive use of force is the most widely invoked and widely litigated of all the classic basic criminal law. As but one example of its importance, today on the CrimLaw professor list-serve there has been an (academic?) accounting of whether and how, under Texas law, it would be defensible for citizens in Texas to have been trying to kill the mass church shooter once he was in his car and fleeing the scene.
As another more local example of self-defense doctrines in action, consider this Columbus Dispatch article in today's paper. The article is headlined "Jury acquits man in fatal shooting during street brawl," and here are the details:
Earl M. Lindsey testified that he feared for his life when an unarmed man threw a punch at him and a large group of people, some with guns, surrounded him in a South Side intersection.
So, Lindsey said, he pulled a handgun and fired a single shot into Rashawn M. Wilson’s chest. Wilson, 18, died six days later. “I didn’t have any other option,” Lindsey told a Franklin County jury last week.
On Monday, the jury acquitted him of murder, determining that he acted in self-defense.
Wilson’s mother responded to the verdict by cursing at Lindsey after the jurors had been excused. “You put a bullet in my son,” she shouted as deputies hustled her from the courtroom.
Lindsey testified last week that he saw at least three people with guns and heard two gunshots as a crowd converged on him during a street brawl at the intersection of East Gates and Ann streets on May 23, 2016. Wilson “swung on me,” Lindsey said, but he never saw a gun in Wilson’s hands.
To shoot Wilson under those circumstances was “extreme, unnecessary and unjustified,” Assistant Prosecutor Mark Wodarcyk told the jury Monday in his closing argument. “At most, Rashawn was going to engage in a fist fight.”
Seconds after Lindsey shot Wilson, a neighbor fired at Lindsey from a nearby front porch, striking Lindsey in the side of the neck. The bullet remains lodged near Lindsey’s spine and left him with some paralysis. He wasn’t able to fully lift his right hand when he was sworn in before testifying.
The neighbor, Aaron Mahan, wasn’t part of the confrontation in the street. He testified that he fired when Lindsey pointed the gun in his direction after shooting Wilson. “I shot the guy who shot the kid,” he said.
Mahan, who said he is a concealed-carry instructor, was not charged in the case.
Testimony established that the fatal encounter began with a fist fight among several young women. Lindsey said he was trying to separate the combatants when a large group of people, some with guns, began to close in on him. Wodarcyk called it “a simple neighborhood fight” and said Lindsey “decided to put himself in the middle of it with a loaded handgun.”
Defense attorney Byron Potts argued to the jury that Lindsey was justified in using deadly force because he was surrounded by a large crowd that included “multiple people with guns.”
Based on this description of the case, is anyone surprised that Earl Lindsey was acquitted here in Ohio. If the case was tried in Oliwood, do you think the outcome might have possibly been different?
Also, is anyone surprised or troubled that neighbor Aaron Mahan was not charged with any crime?
In regards to Mahan, it might depend on whether "in that person's residence" extends to the porch. If he was on the porch, it seems like he has an easy and safe retreat right in the door...at least a question that the prosecutor might be inclined to put to the jury. Although the facts and jurisdiction are different, the Peterson case from handout 3 would indicate that the no duty does not extend outside the house. Perhaps the prosecution thought that Mahan was trying to stop Lindsey from shooting others in the crowd?
It seems from the fact that he charged Lindsey and not Mahan that the prosecutor likely thought that Lindsey was at fault for provoking or escalating the affray. This probably is why he exercised his discretion in not prosecuting Mahan, he thought Lindsey deserved what he got for putting himself in that situation (retributivist prosecutor). Or maybe he wants to discourage people from jumping in to break up fights (utilitarian prosecutor).
Posted by: Adam Kennett | Nov 7, 2017 10:09:34 PM