Shooter's Conviction Upheld

Discussion in 'In the News' started by gunsmoker, Apr 28, 2006.

  1. gunsmoker

    gunsmoker Lawyer and Gun Activist

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    I just took a quick glance at a summary of TRAYLOR v. STATE, decided by the Supreme Court of Georgia on 3/13/2006, and the Court's holdings in that case really disturbs me. It could really lead to the suppression of valuable, even critical, evidence of prior threats against an armed citizen which the armed citizen takes into consideration in a later confrontation with this same person.

    The Supreme Court upheld the trial judge's ruling that the defendant could not introduce evidence that on a previous occasion, the "victim" had threatened him with a gun. Nor was the defendant allowed to try to bring up evidence that the "victim" was known to carry a handgun. The defendant argued that because the "victim" had threatened to kill him before, and because he knew this person often carried a gun, these circumstances made it more reasonable for him to fear for his life when this "victim" and a few of his buddies approached and confronted the defendant. (The second confrontation ended with the defendant using deadly force against this "victim" and his buddies).

    Now obviously the defendant could be lying. He might never have been threatened by this person before, and the victim might not have ever threatened anybody with a gun, and maybe the victim didn't even own a gun. If the jury had heard the defendant's evidence on these points and rejected it as self-serving testimony, giving it no weight and assigning no credibility to the defendant as a witness, fine. I think that should be the jury's call to make. But what bothers me is that the court did not even allow the defendant a chance to tell his side of the story to the jury, because apparently "the law" in Georgia is that such prior difficulties between the parties is irrelevant, or the small amount of relevance is outweighed by the large amount of prejudice to the State's case when the victim is accused of having threatened to kill, and assaulted, the person who eventually kills him in a later confrontation.

    When the State is wanting to introduce "prior difficulties" evidence AGAINST a defendant, to help show that he entered a confrontation with somebody already intending to hurt them and not intending to behave civilly, the courts allow it. No problem there. Why shouldn't the defendant have the same right to offer such evidence in his behalf?


    Question to everybody on this forum: If you were confronted with somebody who was behaving badly toward you, would you take into consideration this person's reputation in the community as to his temperament? Would you take into consideration his criminal history, or lack of same, if you knew something about his past (or heard it from a credible source?) Would it affect your decision as to whether you needed to draw your weapon to protect yourself if you remembered seeing this guy before in the possession of a deadly weapon? And would it matter to you, in your assessment of the level of the risk you faced or the seriousness of the threat against your safety, whether or not the guy confronting you had publicly announced his desire to see you dead?

    If these things were reasonable for you to take into consideration when you made the choice to respond to the threat with deadly force, why shouldn't a jury be allowed to hear about it when the State asks them to declare that you DID NOT act reasonably and that you had CRIMINAL INTENT rather than SELF-PRESERVATION on your mind when you acted?
     
  2. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    What is the rule to be applied in Georgia when a battered spouse finally has enough and shoots her husband?

    Is she allowed to bring up evidence of past abuse?
     

  3. USMC - Retired

    USMC - Retired New Member

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    I guess it would really depend on if the shooter had ever filed a complaint against the "victim" concerning past threats, assaults etc. If you allow someone to threaten or assault you without reporting it to the proper authorities then you have no proof that anything has occured in the past no matter if it is allowed in court or not.
     
  4. Sharky

    Sharky New Member

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    Same Situation in a way

    I had the exact situation a while ago, which led me to get my CCW and my first firearm.

    I had a "freind" who had made threats through text message! He worked at a very large air carrier in the ATL Airport. I was threatened due to a social event that was none of his business or related to him in anyway. He decided to get involved with personal opinions.

    I filed my complaint with company security contacts, airport security, Local PD. There is a papertrail a mile long about this and proof submitted to all parties. Why he decided to use a text message attaching him to the threat I will never comprehend. Emotions always rule it seems on some people.

    I agree with USMC- If you are threatened a report can at least be made. After talking with an attorney on my end, reports only help me defend myself if I am confronted, especially if I know this person to have in their possesion devices to be used against me to infllict bodily harm.

    If there is a papertrail, it helps your case greatly! Time consuming but the end result is worth it if the situation has no other choice but to use force. A juery you hope sees the papertrail as every means attempted before deadly force.
     
  5. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    Re: Same Situation in a way

    Failed to invite him?

    :lol:
     
  6. Sharky

    Sharky New Member

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    HA HA

    No even worse than that! Girl meets guy(me) kind of thing. Very immature and pathetic on his part to get involved!
     
  7. gunsmoker

    gunsmoker Lawyer and Gun Activist

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    Paper Trial

    Sharky -- I like the idea of establishing a "paper trail" or otherwise documenting the prior difficulties you have with somebody, just in case one day you end up in a confrontation with them that turns bad and you have to use deadly force.

    That's what gets me about this court case I'm referring to-- the Supreme Court of Georgia apparently is forbidding your "paper trail" from coming into evidence. The judge is not supposed to let the jury know about what kind of history there is between you and this other dude, and what he's threatened to do to you in the past, or his reputation for being violent, etc. The Court seems to think that each time you see this person, you should start off with a clean slate and not take into consideration anything from the past-- so the only way you could be justified in using deadly force is based on what the guy did and said right then and there, in front of you, minutes or seconds before you end up drawing.
     
  8. jrm

    jrm Sledgehammer

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    Gunsmoker,

    As I read the court's opinion, it does not absolutely forbid the paper trail from coming into evidence. Rather, it requires that you first make a showing that the dead guy was the aggressor and you were the victim of his aggression. In the case at bar, Traylor could not make such a showing. The facts cited by the supreme court said the dead guy and his "associates" did not even enter the yard where Traylor stood, they displayed no weapons, and they did not charge at Traylor. Based on those facts, as the court noted, Traylor cannot make out even a prima facie case of self-defense, so the character evidence of the "victims" stays out.

    While I would not want to see that line of reasoning carried much further, I don't necessarily disagree it. On the flip side, if the defendant always gets to bring in character evidence of the dead guy when there is a claim of self-defense, a defendant could claim self-defense as a reason to introduce evidence of the lousy character of the dead guy. Thus, one could use self-defense as a ruse to raise the non-existent (but potentially jury convincing) "he needed killing" defense.
     
  9. legacy38

    legacy38 Active Member

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    That does seem like a bad ruling. To me, such evidence would definately mae a person's actions more justifiable. You can bet a police officer would trying to introduce known past violent acts against by a perp in such a case.
     
  10. Sharky

    Sharky New Member

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    Many good opinions here. Its almost sad how you talk to one LEO get one opinion, judge and get another opinion, Lawyer you get a thesis, and then a jury is supposed to have their opinions!

    Guess its one of those things its better to have than not have. Kind of like your sidearm. Better to have it than not have it!