David Hardy has a proposal on legislation governing the use of reasonable force. Basically, he wants to allow for introduction of evidence not available to the defendent at the time of their actions, such as the past criminal history of the alleged victim in a breaking-and-entering case. I don't think it's quite right. First, decisions should be evaluated based on what you knew at the time -- If you allow introduction of evidence outside of that time, it goes both ways, and the trial becomes a question not of whether the defendent acted reasonably in the situation as he understood it to be, but whether the alleged victim was actually guilty of a justifying offense (ie, in the course of a felony B&E, etc). That's not fair to either party.
For a good example of where this sort of thing breaks down, consider a typical gang shooting. Career criminal A is on his favorite streetcorner, guarding a stash of drugs, and shoots career criminal B, who is trying to steal the drugs. Both A and B have a string of priors as long as you care to imagine. It would be unfairly prejudicial to allow either individual to introduce the other's criminal history.
I agree there is a certain benefit to the proposal when a career criminal is breaking into the home of an honest citizen, but I don't think that situation usually results in dramatically poor outcomes -- aside from the legal costs of defending charges from an overly-aggressive prosecutor.
This entry was published Sun Apr 16 14:55:05 CDT 2006 by TriggerFinger
and last updated 2006-04-16 14:55:05.0.