Crying Wolf: Criminals Claim Self-Defense, Too, But Cops, Prosecutors Not Buying It

by Tommy Grant

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While self-defense is a justifiable claim when a person is forced to literally protect themselves or others from imminent death or serious bodily harm from the hand of another, a person can’t just claim self-defense and expect everyone around them to accept it. But plenty of people in the wrong try.

For every article in the news about a legitimate self-defense claim, and there are plenty, there’s probably another where someone claimed self-defense, but it was allegedly anything but.

Take last week’s case of a 63-year-old Wellington, Florida, man, who killed both his neighbors in a dispute over a basketball hoop and whether that hoop hung over his property line or was on his neighbors. Norman Scott is facing two counts of first-degree murder for his actions according to The Palm Beach Post.

Scott is charged with killing Taylor Glenn Jones and Tara Marie Jones. While Scott claimed he and his neighbors had gotten into an argument over the basketball hoop and the boundaries, he told 911 dispatchers when he called them that “he shot his neighbors when they attacked him,” the Post reported.

Investigators told the Post, however, that surveillance camera footage of the incident contradicted his story. According to the footage, Scott initiated the argument, Scott was “aggressively and belligerently waving his hand in front of Taylor Jones’ face and after Taylor Jones responded with what investigators called “nonthreatening” hand gestures, Scott retrieved a pistol, pointed it at Taylor Jones who began to back away with his hands up, and proceeded to shoot him multiple times, including standing over him and firing as he lay helpless on the ground. He then turned the gun on Taylor’s wife, Tara, and shot her multiple times even as she reportedly retreated. He then fired more shots at the husband as he lay on the ground as he walked back toward his home. A spokesperson for the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner’s Office reported both victims were shot three times each. They leave behind four children, ages 13 to 7.

A witness who attempted to render aid to the victims reported that Scott, after going inside to call 911, came back outside and when asked if he had seen what happened, replied, “Don’t worry, I shot them both.” The shooting appears from other news reports to have taken place in a fairly nice neighborhood in Florida. This isn’t your garden variety shooting in the hood or the trailer park.

It is also clearly not self-defense, and while Scott has pleaded not guilty, there’s a good chance he’ll ultimately get to ride the lightning, but most likely in the form of potassium acetate coursing through his struggling veins.

This isn’t the only recent case:

  • In Akron, Ohio, 21-year-old Thomas Ellis, who took breaks during his trial to read scriptures from the Bible, was found guilty of shooting 33-year-old Dominic Gray after the two apparently got into an altercation of Gray’s physical attacking of a woman, who ran off prior to the altercation and shooting. Prosecutors said Gray was actually fleeing the scene when Ellis shot him.
  • A jury recently found 29-year-old Francis Rose, guilty on two counts of homicide. The incident occurred in Alexandria, Virginia, where he allegedly broke into an ex-girlfriend’s apartment and then killed two men, a father and stepson, who were working construction at the apartments when they apparently confronted him. Rose claimed the two men attacked him and he shot them in self-defense. After shooting them however, he fled the area, tossed the gun, stripped down naked and was found by police hiding in another apartment that he also broke into.
  • Christina Christian, 35, has been charged with first-degree domestic assault, armed criminal action and illegal gun possession after her and her boyfriend had an argument in which he allegedly suggested they break up and “threatened to kill her with a metal pipe.” The woman claimed she was defending herself and didn’t actually mean to shoot him. She merely intended to “shoot his direction” to scare him off the property. Court documents, however, reveal the victim had allegedly packed his bags to leave and was walking to the driveway “about 100 feet away” when he was shot.

And there are plenty of others. This has all just been in the last five days. The one thing all of these cases have in common where their self-defense claims fail is that none of them were in “imminent” danger. They may have feared something bad could happen in a little while or even at a later time, but that does not  a good “self-defense” claim make. In virtually every state, this is going to be the case.

In some of these cases, the person claiming self-defense, also created the situation for the confrontation to also occur. That is another no-no in self-defense claims. You can’t start fighting somebody, they start winning and then you shoot them and claim self-defense. It doesn’t work that way either.

So, should you find yourself in a bad situation or really needing to defend yourself, make sure you didn’t start the confrontation and definitely make sure death or serious bodily injury is about to occur to you at “that moment.” Not later, not in a little while, not next week sometime. In those situations, it’s usually going to be charged quite simply as murder.

In these cases, it’s always best to just walk away. Say nothing, call police if you have to, but just walk away. The choice is yours. Make sure you make the wise one.

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