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Armed or Unarmed

REP

Switch Blayde made a comment in another thread that reminded me of an ethical question that occurred to me some time back.

We all know that killing someone who is trying to kill you is self defense. I was thinking about the legality of shooting an 'unarmed' man who hires 'armed' men to do his killing for him.

Does 'armed' mean you have to be in possession of a weapon? Does having control over an 'armed' man make you an 'armed' man?

If Person A wants to kill you and orders others to commit the act, would your killing Person A when they aren't in possession of a weapon be self defense?

If you think Persons A controlling 'armed' men makes him an 'armed' man, then if you were to kill Person A's hired guns, would he now be an 'unarmed' man?

Ernest Bywater

The laws vary between legal jurisdictions on how directly responsible the paymaster is for their orders to his killers. How safe you are to shoot the paymaster will vary with legal jurisdiction, and with how close to the action they are. In some cases if the person is right there and they order their men to kill you it would be self defence to kill all three, provided the paymaster wasn't the last one. In other cases it would be against the law to kill the paymaster unless he was armed.

In most legal jurisdictions the paymaster is held guilty of conspiracy for what happens as a result of their orders.

robberhands

Legal self-defense is dependent on the immediacy of the threat. Your theoretical example is a bit dubious. How does an unarmed man control armed man? Is he their 'boss' or 'customer'? In legal terms that's incitement, whereas 'control' would mean an indirect perpetrator, acting through a third person. The third person in such a situation has to be someone unwitting or unconscious of what he/she is doing.

Switch Blayde

@REP

I believe the guy doing the hiring will be convicted of conspiracy to murder or something like that. But you can't kill him. That would not be self-defense. It would be murder.

Even if the person was armed, you can't just kill him. Your life has to be in physical danger like if he attacks you or points the gun at you. I think one exception is if he breaks into your house, but not sure about that.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@REP

In my novel, as well as in my first novel, many of the killings are in fact murder. It's the genre. A vigilante, like Charles Bronson in "Death Wish," is breaking the law when he kills his victims. In the first Jack Reacher movie, Reacher kills the Russian in cold blood at the end of the movie.

In my first novel, a cop is seeking revenge on men who raped his little sister. He's hunting them down and killing them. That's murder in the first. In my current novel, my character has no qualms putting a bullet through an unarmed man's head. That's murder. But my hope is the reader will be glad he did it rather than hold it against him. As I said, it's the genre.

Replies:   Jim S
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

Your life has to be in physical danger like if he attacks you or points the gun at you. I think one exception is if he breaks into your house, but not sure about that.


In the US, this is a state law issue and it varies considerably from state to state.

There are only a handful of states where the use of lethal force to protect property is legal.

However, contrary to your suggestion that your own life has to be in immediate danger, the majority of state allow the use of lethal force to defend against threats to another person.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Dominions Son

However, contrary to your suggestion that your own life has to be in immediate danger, the majority of state allow the use of lethal force to defend against threats to another person.

In German law, there is a distinction between self-defense and emergency relief.

awnlee jawking

@robberhands

emergency relief


Germany has a 'Naked In School' program? ;)

AJ

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@awnlee jawking

Germany has a 'Naked In School' program?

Certainly, it's called communal showers.

Dominions Son

@robberhands

In German law, there is a distinction between self-defense and emergency relief.


There generally isn't in US law. In the US, the legal term is justifiable homicide, not self defense.

In the majority of states, justifiable homicide covers protecting any human life, and a very small number of states extend justifiable homicide to protecting personal property against theft or destruction.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Dominions Son

German self-defense is much wider. You're justified to defend your property by force if no other opportunity exists. There is a famous case of a wheelchair user who used his hunting rifle to shoot a boy out of his apple tree. He killed the boy but was justified by self-defense.

Replies:   REP  Dominions Son
REP

@robberhands

Overall I like Germany's laws, but you do have a few laws I find odd. Such as, Incitement to Steal. The example I was given was, the act of leaving something valuable in plain sight within a locked car.

Does that law apply to merchandise left in a store's display window after the store is locked for the night?

robberhands

@REP

The example I was given was, the act of leaving something valuable in plain sight within a locked car.

I don't know who gave you that example but I can assure you the implication is wrong. Something stolen out of a car, visible or not, is a case of theft. If the car is locked, it's a case of theft and additional a qualification with a higher penalty. What you called 'incitement' is only a question asked for the individualized sentencing.

Replies:   REP  awnlee jawking
Jim S

@Switch Blayde

In my novel, as well as in my first novel, many of the killings are in fact murder.

I think this whole question boils down to one simple one -- just because it is illegal, is it also unjust? I think that is the question that the whole genre seeks to answer.

Using justice as a yardstick, i.e. you are responsible for your actions, Charles Bronson's character in "Death Wish" becomes a unjust killer once he takes the revenge beyond the perpetrators of his wife and daughter's death and rape.

But, then again, Kate Steinle's family would be well within justice's borders if they took out the architects of San Franciso's Sanctuary City policy.

Imbalances like this is what makes the genre so lively.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

In German law, there is a distinction between self-defense and emergency relief.

Like bringing meals to those breaking in?

Crumbly Writer

@REP

Does that law apply to merchandise left in a store's display window after the store is locked for the night?

Absolutely not. In fact, there's is NO law holding the owners of property responsible for the theft of their property by others (unless of course they pay someone to steal it for insurance fraud).

"Incitement to steal" is a legal concept much like "incitement to violence" where a third-party suggests your house as a handy place to rob. If the second parties do rob you, the person suggesting it could be help as a co-conspirator and receive the same punishment, include life-time incarceration if a gun is used, or even death if someone is killed during the theft.

While living in Manhattan and downtown Chicago, we always drove crappy cars without expense extras, just so there'd be no reason to steal them. But one day, we left an empty cardboard box in it, completely open so you can look inside and see it was empty. When we returned, it was the ONLY car we ever had stolen for all the time living in those cities.

And, no, the insurance never held it against us, although the police never had a clue who ripped us off.

Replies:   REP
Crumbly Writer

@Jim S

Using justice as a yardstick, i.e. you are responsible for your actions, Charles Bronson's character in "Death Wish" becomes a unjust killer once he takes the revenge beyond the perpetrators of his wife and daughter's death and rape.

While I enjoy several of that genre, I've always felt, if arrested, the 'honorable' thing is to stand up and take your punishment like a man, and not try all kinds of strange legal maneuvers to get off, since you knowing assassinated someone. There's really NO legal or moral excuse for such actions, and committing them make you no better than the very people you're attacking.

Still, the genre is popular for all those who feel defenseless in a modern society (even though our crime rate has been incredibly low for a very long time). We're hardly Mogadishu, by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, in most cases, the demands for 'vigilante justice' almost always break down into simple racist paranoia, the kind that led to the widespread lynchings in the south during the 20s and 30s. As such, I have no problem ridding society of those people!

Replies:   Jim S
gruntsgt

Just shoot the paymaster and put a throwaway pistol in his hand. Problem solved.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Jim S
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


While I enjoy several of that genre, I've always felt, if arrested, the 'honorable' thing is to stand up and take your punishment like a man, and not try all kinds of strange legal maneuvers to get off, since you knowing assassinated someone.


I agree. No wimping out.

The ideal story of setting right the murder/violation of your family is the movie "Gladiator." In my mind, there is no greater boon to be granted a person than to stare into the eyes of your family's violator as you slowly push a blade into his throat. And Maximus' death was nothing more than the exclamation point. The ending of that movie still gives me chills every time I see it.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ernest Bywater

@gruntsgt

Just shoot the paymaster and put a throwaway pistol in his hand. Problem solved.


easier, shot the paymaster with a throwaway gun and no witnesses, then leave the gun at the scene. Make sure you've no fingerprints on it either.

Dominions Son

@robberhands

You're justified to defend your property by force if no other opportunity exists.


You can in most US states as well, but the US states mostly don't extend the force allowed to defend property to the point of allowing lethal force.

Switch Blayde

@Jim S

the movie "Gladiator.


That's a revenge movie, not a vigilante movie. I love revenge movies.

In "Death Wish," he didn't go after the guy who raped his wife and daughter. That would be revenge. He went after others he thought were just like them.

In my first novel, it was revenge. The theme of the novel was revenge (both sub-plots). In my current novel, it's not revenge and it's not really vigilante. It's more taking the law into your own hands.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  Jim S
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

That's a revenge movie, not a vigilante movie. I love revenge movies.

I've never used either one. The closest I ever came is in one PA story, one of the characters, the MC's daughter, decides to simply 'do away' with the only surviving lawyer when he starts proposing returning all the previous civil rights protection, meaning the new society would be hamstrung from the very beginning.

She decides a new society is much safer without any lawyers at all. It was a very emotionally satisfying chapter! However, that's neither revenge or vigilante, it's simply a practical solution. 'D

REP

@robberhands

The way it was explained to me was the person who left the valuable item in sight could be charge because they tempted the thief to steal.

Replies:   robberhands
REP

@Crumbly Writer

Absolutely not.


You forget that other countries' laws are different. The way it was explained to me leaving something in sight was tempting a person to steal so both parties would be guilty.

Robberhands say that explanation was wrong. But don't be so certain that a country doesn't have laws that differ significantly from those in the US. That is how tourist get into trouble when they are overseas.

robberhands

@REP

The way it was explained to me was the person who left the valuable item in sight could be charge because they tempted the thief to steal.

In German criminal law, incitement is one specific form of perpetration. Sole perpetration, complicity, abetment, and independent perpetration are the others. Incitement as a form of perpetration requires intention. That's the main reason the explanation given to you is wrong. There are others as well but we don't need to go any deeper into the structure of German law.

awnlee jawking

@robberhands

In the UK, insurers may not pay out if you leave valuables in plain sight in a locked car. Policies are worded such that people are expected to take reasonable precautions.

AJ

Jim S

@Switch Blayde

That's a revenge movie, not a vigilante movie. I love revenge movies.

What I was getting at was the justification for the actions of the respective protagonists in both movies. As an aside, its been a while since I've seen "Death Wish" and don't really remember whether or not he got the murderer/rapists of his family. Even now, though, it feels like he did. But I accept your correction.

What I was trying to say in my post is that Bronson's character was not justified while Crowe's character was very much justified. Which is the point I tried to make in my original post here as to the distinction between law and justice.

Frankly, I don't really care about the law. I do, however, care about justice. When the two coincide, as they most often times do, all is well with the world. When they don't, justice rules. IMHO.

sejintenej

@REP

If Person A wants to kill you and orders others to commit the act, would your killing Person A when they aren't in possession of a weapon be self defense?

I would say "unlikely" unless the unarmed man, after you had dealt with the weapon users, himself attacked you, perhaps with apparent overwhelming skill. In the latter case I would agree to "self defence"

Another element; my understanding is that (and there are exceptions) murder must be premeditated otherwise it is manslaughter - a lesser crime.

Ross at Play

@REP

If Person A wants to kill you and orders others to commit the act, would your killing Person A when they aren't in possession of a weapon be self defense?

Yes! That is self-defense, in the opinion of this non-lawyer.
If the others carrying weapons kill you then all of those there will have committed murder.
You are entitled to kill any of a group once you are reasonably convinced the group is attempting to murder you.
I think the only caution would be at what point a jury would consider you reasonably knew that the attempt to murder you had been abandoned.

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej

@Ross at Play

If the others carrying weapons kill you then all of those there will have committed murder

The law in England seems to have changed. There was a case of a group who killed a policeman and one of them - who took no direct part - was found guilty of murder and executed. I think he has recently been exonerated (or whatever the right words is) because he took no direct part. ISTR that he was unarmed and the killing was not premeditated

Dominions Son

@sejintenej

There was a case of a group who killed a policeman and one of them - who took no direct part - was found guilty of murder and executed.


The US states have what is called the "felony murder rule".

Any death that occurs during the commission of a felony crime, even one not directly caused by the felonious act, is murder and everyone who participated in any way in committing the underlying felony is guilty of that murder.

Four guys decide to hold up a bank.

During the robbery one of the bank tellers dies of a heart attack and one of the robbers is shot and killed by a bank guard.

The three surviving robbers and their get-away driver who never entered the bank are all guilty of two counts of murder under the felony murder rule, one for the teller and one for their accomplice killed by the guard.

Ross at Play

@sejintenej

exonerated {because} not premeditated

That I could understand. The reversal of a verdict, even posthumously, suggests it was concluded the original verdict was incorrect - so it would not suggest the law has changed.
The question REP posed was very different. The unarmed man would already have committed at least a conspiracy to murder.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

The reversal of a verdict, even posthumously, suggests it was concluded the original verdict was incorrect - so it would not suggest the law has changed.


In the last few years, the UK's Supreme Court 'changed' the law on joint enterprise in a way that excluded the criteria used in some previous convictions. Whether that is relevant to the case sejintenej mentioned I have no eye deer.

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

Whether that is relevant to the case sejintenej mentioned I have no eye deer.

I'm sure it is not relevant. Retrospective acquittals would be as abhorrent to Rule of Law as retrospective convictions.

Replies:   sejintenej  robberhands
sejintenej

@Ross at Play

Retrospective acquittals would be as abhorrent to Rule of Law as retrospective convictions.

Then how would you rate a guilty verdict being overturned in the appeal court (which is really what happened in the case I was thinking of)?
As to retrospective convictions we have the concept of no double jeopardy BUT a case can be heard a second time if based on evidence not available in the original trial.

robberhands

@Ross at Play

Retrospective acquittals would be as abhorrent to Rule of Law as retrospective convictions.

Wrong.

Replies:   Ross at Play
docholladay

@REP

Is it an open or closed contracted hit. If its an open contract where anyone can collect the money after doing the hit. How do you know who to watch out for. In that case the only way to cancel the contract is to kill the contractor thus shutting off the payment. But you would have to prove that contract or else there is no defense. The law might be one thing, but a jury has to convict. You would have to convince a jury that it was the only option available to protect yourself.

Replies:   REP
Ross at Play
Updated:

@robberhands

Wrong.

I may have written my last comment poorly.

I meant that new laws being enforced retrospectively, for actions before the laws existed, is abhorrent to Rule of Law. Actions should always be judged against the laws in existence at that time.

Replies:   robberhands  sejintenej
robberhands

@Ross at Play

I meant that new laws being enforced retrospectively, for actions before the laws existed is abhorrent to Rule of Law.

A guilty verdict requires an action illegal at the time it was committed as well as at the time of the trial. Keeping someone legally imprisoned requires a legal justification during the entire time of the imprisonment. A relevant change of law would make a continued punishment illegal, even if the law later would be reversed to its previous state.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@robberhands

A relevant change of law would make a continued punishment illegal

I'm not sure, but I doubt that is so for Westminster-style governments.
My guess is that Parliaments are entitled to pass laws that explicitly quashed past convictions. If they do not, then past convictions for something that is no longer a crime would stand.
I doubt, in such circumstances, any government would resist the political pressure to set free anyone imprisoned for something that was no longer a crime, but I don't think there would be any legal obligation to do so. I'd expect a government to choose a form of release which did not constitute an admission of a wrongful conviction, which would then make it liable to pay compensation.
It would be different if a law was ruled unconstitutional by the courts. I expect a government would then be obligated to release anyone and be liable for compensation.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Ross at Play

I'd expect a government to choose a form of release which did not constitute an admission of a wrongful conviction, which would then make it liable to pay compensation.

A relevant change of law doesn't make a previous conviction illegal, it makes a continued punishment illegal. A verdict based on a no longer existent law has to be revoked, it isn't nullified from the time it was rendered.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@robberhands

A verdict based on a no longer existent law has to be revoked

I don't think that is so in Westminster systems. For them, Parliament may do anything the courts do not rule unconstitutional.

I can think of an example of a retrospective law in Australia ...

I believe these are the relevant details. A man named Ivan Milat was convicted of multiple murders. At the time of his conviction he would have been eligible for parole after many years, about 30 years. While in prison he vowed that he would commit more murders after be was eventually released. The State Parliament passed a law that only affected him. It made him ineligible for parole, ever. He could only be released if he was granted parole by the Crown.

If a Parliament is entitled to do that, I don't think it could ever be obligated to release someone who was correctly convicted of what was a crime at the time a person committed an offense.

However, in practical terms, I cannot imagine any government keeping someone in prison for something that is no longer a crime.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Ross at Play

I believe these are the relevant details. A man named Ivan Milat was convicted of multiple murders. At the time of his conviction he would have been eligible for parole after many years, about 30 years. While in prison he vowed that he would commit more murders after be was eventually released. The State Parliament passed a law that only affected him. It made him ineligible for parole, ever. He could only be released if he was granted parole by the Crown.

That doesn't make much sense to me. Parole isn't an enforceable right. The parole decision falls on state officials, usually a commission or a judge, and it's based on a danger prognosis of the convict. A convict's believable statement to commit more murders would make him 'ineligible' for parole.

Ross at Play

@robberhands

That doesn't make much sense to me.

But, it was the law at the time he was convicted.
Parliament had to pass a new law to keep him in prison.
There must be a Wiki entry about him if you doubt me.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Ross at Play

There must be a Wiki entry about him if you doubt me.

That's what I found on Wiki:

Milat was convicted of the murders 27 July 1996 and is currently serving seven consecutive life sentences, as well as 18 years without parole, at the maximum-security Goulburn Correctional Centre.

Replies:   Ross at Play
awnlee jawking

@robberhands

Parole isn't an enforceable right.


That's a controversial issue in the UK. Our laws allow for whole of life sentences without parole, but they're been superseded by Human Rights Legislation which guarantees the right to be considered for parole.

AJ

Replies:   sejintenej  robberhands
Switch Blayde
Updated:

Some guy with a prosthetic arm pointed a gun at me. I wrestled it away from him, but in the scuffle his prosthetic arm came off too. The gun went off and it killed him.

I pleaded self-defense. I lost because he was … wait for it …
unarmed.

Happy New Year

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
REP

@docholladay

I developed a scenario as the central premise for a story I later decided to not write.

The scenario I envisioned is a socially prominent man wants me dead. The man is basically a coward. He is always unarmed and will not personally commit an offensive act against another person - he orders and pays his bodyguards to commit that type of act.

The man has used his bodyguards in the past to eliminate personal and business enemy's. The execution scenes were selected so there would be no witnesses. The police and community in general suspect he is behind the deaths of these people, but there is no known motive, there is no proof that he gave the orders, and no proof his people committed the murders. He has people around him all the time, so he has ironclad proof that he was at his home at the time these people died. He and his house staff swear he and his bodyguards were at home in a private meeting behind closed doors at the time of the murders.

The man's bodyguards fail in an attempt to kill me and in defending myself, I kill them. I know the man sent them, but he will deny any knowledge of the attack. He can hire more bodyguards who are willing to do anything if the price is right. Therefore, my life is still in danger.


There is the law and then there is survival. The law is about the punishment inflicted on a person who commits the crime, but that is after a crime is committed. In the above situation, I would opt for survival for the law will not keep me alive.

The man is willing to make multiple attempts on my life if I permit him to do so. My answer would be to kill him even if he does not physically have a weapon on his person. Weapons come in many different forms, and a person does not have to be in physical contact with his weapon to use it to kill. To me, his bodyguards are his weapons. I would not consider him to be unarmed.

Replies:   docholladay
sejintenej

@Ross at Play

I meant that new laws being enforced retrospectively, for actions before the laws existed, is abhorrent to Rule of Law. Actions should always be judged against the laws in existence at that time.

I would like to agree with you but ....
I have just received an electricity bill; the French government has decreed that their set prices three years ago were too low and is demanding payment of the excess.

sejintenej

@awnlee jawking

That's a controversial issue in the UK. Our laws allow for whole of life sentences without parole, but they're been superseded by Human Rights Legislation which guarantees the right to be considered for parole.

True but in cases where they want "whole life" they are now simply fixing the number of years at a high figure so that parole becomes unlikely. Also I understand that the original judge is quietly consulted by the Parole Board. I suspect they are also aware of any public pressure

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

I pleaded self-defense. I lost because he was … wait for it …
unarmed.


nah, ya lost because ya disarmed him before it went off.

Replies:   Centaur
Centaur

@Ernest Bywater

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

I pleaded self-defense. I lost because he was … wait for it …
unarmed.

nah, ya lost because ya disarmed him before it went off.


Yea he was hARMless

Ross at Play

@robberhands

That's what I found on Wiki:

I may have got the facts wrong. He is now serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. I think I recall a political controversy because of the possibility he could someday be released - but I'm not certain, and I can't find anything suggesting what I thought happened is correct.
Sorry, if I have misled you.
Can I drop this subject now, please?

Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

Thud!

Did you hear about the dyslexic man who was arrested for mounting machine guns on the wildlife in Yellowstone National Park?

He thought he had the right to arm bears. :)

richardshagrin

Talk about laws changing. In the United States it is against Federal Law to sell marijuana. It used to be against state law, as well, but many states have changed the law and now license vendors. And tax them. There are people in jail who were convicted for selling or using marijuana. It appears they are going to have to serve out their sentences. They should have bought from a licensed vendor, although there were none when they were convicted.

docholladay

@REP

In other words a situation where the MC would not be able to tell who was trying to do the hit. In that situation definitely kill the one paying for the hit. No money means no hit man/woman will bother to do the job. Does not matter if the person wanting the hit done has a gun or not in my opinion, its still self-defense. Just make sure the jury knows he was putting a bounty on the MC's life.

robberhands

@Ross at Play

Can I drop this subject now, please?

You didn't need my permission to make a comment and you don't need it to drop the subject, either.

robberhands
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

That's a controversial issue in the UK. Our laws allow for whole of life sentences without parole, but they're been superseded by Human Rights Legislation which guarantees the right to be considered for parole.

That's a different matter than the question I commented and you used as a quote. Parole as an enforceable right would mean if a convict proves he fulfills the requirements to receive parole, then he has to get parole. Parole isn't an enforceable right, though. It's a decision of administrative discretion, which means the parole board, or whoever is in charge of the decision, is basically free to decide.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@robberhands

My understanding is that Human Rights Legislation means that convicts can insist on a parole hearing, although that won't necessarily guarantee parole.

So yes, we were talking about slightly different issues.

AJ

Replies:   REP
REP

@awnlee jawking

Human Rights Legislation means that convicts can insist on a parole hearing,


If that were true, every prisoner would insist that they have a parole hearing and that would overwhelm the Parole Board.

The UN's 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights' contains 30 Articles. Article 9 addresses arrest. Articles 10 and 11 address a public hearing. I didn't find the subject of parole addressed.
http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

Individual countries have passed legislation addressing Human Rights. Perhaps the UK legislation addresses parole.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@REP

I'm a bit hazy on the subject but I think it's European (but not EU), not UN. It's the thingy the Tories keep threatening to leave because its version of Human Rights doesn't balance that with responsibilities, making it seem that terrorists and other criminals have more rights than honest citizens.

AJ

Replies:   REP
REP

@awnlee jawking

making it seem that terrorists and other criminals have more rights than honest citizens


Once apprehended, they do have more rights than their victims. Defense lawyers walk all over criminals' victims in a court, but god help us if the prosecutor impugns the criminal.

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