How your gun looks - in court


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Roadwild17
June 10, 2006, 05:15 PM
It has often been said that when you add tactical do-dags and all to a gun, and then have to use it to defend yourself/another, the tactical do-dags will actually play against you in court. The way the story goes, your in court for ***** (inset wrongful self-defense charge here) and if you have a gun that "Looks more dangerous" to the probably anti-gun or gun-dumb jury, it make you did something wrong or were maby looking for trouble. Ex. if you have grandpa's old pump shotgun, you or it is not as "dangerous" as a short HD shotgun with mag extension, heat shield, laser, ghost rings, weapon light, ninja-mutant targeting device, pistol-grips or whatever. I'm sure this does have some truth to it, but are there any documented cases in which this has been proven, or does anyone else have any more information on the subject?

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longeyes
June 10, 2006, 05:18 PM
I think to someone with a gunphobia even "grandpa's old pump shotgun" looks like Satan's toothpick.

Mannlicher
June 10, 2006, 07:15 PM
so roadwild, show us a verifiable incident where what a gun looked like made any difference at all in court.

Sistema1927
June 10, 2006, 07:17 PM
Can anyone point to even one case where the shooter in an otherwise "clean" shoot ended up with extra legal grief because of some characteristic of his weapon?

Richard.Howe
June 10, 2006, 07:22 PM
I would be interested in hearing the evidence as well -- my personal decision has been not to use my Colt 6920 as the primary home-defense firearm for precisely the reasons discussed above, even though it would be the most ideal alternative for my home/neighborhood/family.

Rich

armoredman
June 10, 2006, 07:26 PM
Interesting idea. I, too, wait for some legal light, although the extent of modifications to my HD gun is a set of Hakan grips, and brass grip screws...

longeyes
June 10, 2006, 07:29 PM
Maybe it's me but I don't see any gun as having anything warm and fuzzy about it--and I don't want it to. To those of us who are into guns the gun is a dangerous but comforting tool, and it makes us feel not afraid but more secure. To those who are not into guns any gun spells trouble and inspires loose bowels and lightheadedness.

C96
June 10, 2006, 07:40 PM
IANAL or LEO, just a retired engineer. But in the past 45 years I have been in court,
civil, criminal and military, as plaintif, defendant and juror. I can tell you that the
lawyers will bring up anything and everything they can think of that might sway
a jury. It won't be nice, it won't be pretty and it won't, most likely, look like
anything on Law&Order.

I will have on my firearms anything that might make them better able to do their
task, but nothing more.

There is no reason to bring extra baggage into the courtroom.

allan

Bartholomew Roberts
June 10, 2006, 07:43 PM
I'd say that such stories are mostly speculation. First, semi-automatic longguns are involved in only about 3.2% shootings (http://www.guncite.com/gun_control_gcassaul.html). To give one example, in three years worth of homicides, the state of Florida found semi-automatic longguns used in only 17 out of 7,500.

Now take that tiny number and only count the ones that were a justifiable self-defense. At this point we are starting to talk a really small number of cases; but we aren't done yet. We now have to take THAT miniscule number and reduce it to the number of cases where it was ruled a justifiable homicide on the criminal side, didn't involve law enforcement, AND resulted in a civil suit.

At this point, we are already at a level where there are probably so few cases that it would be very difficult to extrapolate any larger trends from them. By the time we start worrying about "tactical" accessories on the actual weapon, we are pretty much into the realm of "nobody knows."

In any criminal prosecution or civil suit, is someone going to point to whatever firearm you used in self-defense and try to make it look as evil as humanly possible? Absolutely. That is what lawyers get paid to do. Will it make a difference in the case? IANAL; but I would be surprised that it would have any significant effect unless the facts surrounding the shooting were already pretty bad for you.

benEzra
June 10, 2006, 07:56 PM
The only case I'm aware of that the type of gun resulted in a conviction for an otherwise justifiable shooting, was the case in which the registered owner of a Title 2/Class III Ruger AC556 (think full-auto mini-14) was pursued and attacked, and happened to have his AC556 in his truck. The details are in a thread here on THR somewhere.

In a nutshell, he dropped the attacker with a full-auto burst, it should have been a clear case of self-defense, but he apparently had a poor defense lawyer and the prosecution made a HUGE deal about his shooting the guy with a machinegun. I think he got jail time for manslaughter or somesuch, and lost his RKBA for the rest of his life. But even in that case, it SHOULD have gone the other way.

Personally, I think that if you have thought through the issue ahead of time, and can elucidate why the gun/features were a rational choice, choice of firearm shouldn't matter at all.

FWIW, the last time we had a major "bump in the night" type episode (my car alarm went off in the garage one night, and then there was a commotion like something fell or got knocked over), I checked it out with the mini-14, which wears a Butler Creek folder. I very deliberately chose that gun and its ammunition (40-grain VMAX) to limit wallboard penetration, could elucidate that to a grand jury should it ever be necessary to do so, and can document competence with that gun. My wife backed me up with a Glock 26 and a 15-round mag, a combo that she also came to after much thought, and which she can rationally justify.

marklbucla
June 10, 2006, 08:06 PM
A cop in Pell City, AL told me that he wouldn't even use the Mossberg 500A Persuader because of the scary name. Being a cop, he said that he does know for a fact that stuff like this can hurt you. Will it make a difference in the end? Maybe not.

A Swat cop in Huntington Beach also told me that "all kinds of crazy verdicts can come back in Los Angeles."

I don't know if either opinions are based on actual cases or if it's just speculation. It does appear to be sound advice and in my hands, any gains to be had by using a "scary" gun are likely to be minimal and will probably be outweighed by the negative appearance in court.

My personal choices for HD are an 870 and Taurus 905 Revolver.

Soybomb
June 10, 2006, 08:38 PM
I think people like to find things to worry about. If someone wants to bring up how evil your gun looks they're going to talk about how you chose cop killing hollow point bullets to maximize the amount of suffering of your poor victim, how you spent hours and thousands of dollars in training to learn to be a more efficient killer and wield a gun like only elite military units do, how every time you go to the range you shoot a silhouette target to satisfy your bloodlust, how you paid hundreds of dollars for a belt and holster meant to conceal your leathal weapon most effectively and yet draw it quickly so your poor misguided victim would never even see it coming, how you have thousands of rounds of live ammunition stockpiled at home, how you chose a 17 round magazine for your gun so you could shoot your victim the most times before reloading when 10 round magazines were available, how you spent hours reading about wounding and ammunition tests to pick the most lethal.

See my point? You can worry about everything, but if you shot someone theres always going to be plenty of stuff like that someone could try. Your lawyers job is to defend you against crap like that. Do whatever you think will give you the greatest chance of survival and don't worry about what-ifs.

atlctyslkr
June 10, 2006, 08:43 PM
I don't care how it looks. I hope whatever gun I use if a life or death defensive situation arises does the job. Since when do the police have to justify the tools of the trade, why should I? I think if a couple of these snotty 20 something associate DA's got mugged in the parking garage on the way to their BMW that their daddy bought for them their tune would change.

Telperion
June 10, 2006, 09:25 PM
In a nutshell, he dropped the attacker with a full-auto burst, it should have been a clear case of self-defense, but he apparently had a poor defense lawyer and the prosecution made a HUGE deal about his shooting the guy with a machinegun. I think he got jail time for manslaughter or somesuch, and lost his RKBA for the rest of his life. But even in that case, it SHOULD have gone the other way.Ben, your information is incorrect. Gary Fadden was acquitted on all charges.

http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0BTT/is_168_28/ai_112685749/print

SteveS
June 10, 2006, 09:30 PM
I am sure that if it ever reaches the trial stage that whatever gun you used will be brought out for the jury to see. As will the ammo, etc. If the opposing lawyer decided to make a big deal about the gun, hopefully you will have a lawyer that has some knowledge of guns and they can bring in an expert witness to shoe how your "tactical" gun that has an attached light, special sights, etc. was chosen because you were concerned that if you ever had to use a gun you wanted to make sure it didn't injure any innocent bystander (because of cheap sights) and that you wanted to make sure that the intruder was really represented a significant danger and was not someone that you knew (attached light).

Prof. A. Wickwire
June 10, 2006, 09:33 PM
If this is a concern, a possible solution would be to find out what your local juristiction issues to it's police force. If you have the self same firearm and ammunition (or as close as a civilian can), then many of these tactics would be removed from the prosecuting attorney's arsenal.

Just my $0.02.

Sincerely,

Prof. A. Wickwire

Standing Wolf
June 10, 2006, 10:33 PM
I'm not willing to live in fear of criminals, my own government, or lawyers. Sorry if that's a bit repetitive.

Soybomb
June 10, 2006, 11:16 PM
If this is a concern, a possible solution would be to find out what your local juristiction issues to it's police force. If you have the self same firearm and ammunition (or as close as a civilian can), then many of these tactics would be removed from the prosecuting attorney's arsenal.
Nah then you're just trying to be play cop, you were so obsessed with your cop fantasy you went out and bought the same guns and ammo as the police use and couldn't wait to use it. :neener:

Thin Black Line
June 10, 2006, 11:44 PM
Ben, your information is incorrect. Gary Fadden was acquitted on all charges.

But the guy still went through court which would be emotionally and
financially difficult. Major suckage even for an acquittal.

My m-4gery with all the bells and whistles would be my primary choice
for protection on my acrage outside my rural home. The light is for positive
id, the laser for psychological deterrence, and the foregrip.....well that's to
keep things comfortable for me until back-up arrives. I think I have more
rail room for a cup-holder now that I think about it......:cool:

Diamondback6
June 11, 2006, 12:18 AM
So, how would WWII milspecs (or clones thereof; in pistol, rifle or shotgun, my preferred weapons) appear?

PMP: "These MILITARY weapons..."

Me: "These weapon, which thousands of men like my grandfather entrusted the defense of their country and their own lives to..."

I know, some call this an "Ayoobian Myth", but when you're talking life and death (sometimes former worse than latter), it is only prudent to be conservative. Besides, if you know people are going to bet their lives on YOUR advice, wouldn't you be a little overcautious too?

vanilla_gorilla
June 11, 2006, 01:47 AM
I cannot imagine using a less effective weapon for fear of something so stupid. But then again, I live in the relatively gun-friendly state of Florida and in a rural, conservative county.

I will use the most effective weapon I possess for my defense, whatever it is.

Mortech
June 11, 2006, 02:41 AM
Thank goodness for rural living , my SHTF weapon is my WSAR-10 ak clone with folding stock and a 30rd drum mag handy ... police response time is about 40 minutes .

CAnnoneer
June 11, 2006, 02:48 AM
I refuse to live by the rules of ambulance-chasers. My guns are not tricked out because I find the utilitarian aesthetically pleasing, not because of jury fears.

Clipper
June 11, 2006, 07:25 AM
...For years Ayoob and others have been detailing ways to avoid being labeled as 'blood thirsty killers awaiting a victim' in court. I believe in not borrowing trouble. So I tend to stick with DAO carry guns "So you carry that .45 caliber Colt cocked and ready to fire on a hair trigger, eh?", and use the visual impact of a subcompact in substantial caliber ( imagine how much larger that .45 cal hole looks in a small pistol) instead of a laser, and avoid stuff like expensive custom grips, or skull & crossbones, etc...

Keep in mind, that if you use it, your gun WILL be taken as evidence, and even if you get it back, it will likely have been sitting, uncleaned, in a damp property room for who knows how long. I'm not willing to maybe lose a high-dollar show piece when I know a reliable cheapie and good tactics is all I need.

CSA 357
June 11, 2006, 08:17 AM
come on now! dont you want a set of those grips with the grim reaper on them for your 1911?:neener:

benEzra
June 11, 2006, 09:06 AM
Telperion, thanks for the clarification and the link. I'm glad to hear it turned out OK.

In that case, it seems then that even the use of a MACHINEGUN didn't result in a wrongful conviction, although it did appear to result in an unjust and vicious prosecution for an otherwise clear-cut case of self-defense. And had the guy not been able to hire a good lawyer, it could have turned out differently.

Erebus
June 11, 2006, 11:08 AM
I find it hard to believe that a jury is going to care too much what your gun looks like in an HD situation. It's going to be hard for an ADA to convince the jury you were looking for a victim in an HD situation. It would require you being responsible for the burglar being in your house in the first place. Unless he can show that your doors were left chalked open and the pizza and beer in your fridge was there as bait he ain't got much to go on. What weapon is minor compared to why it was used.

Out on the street it could be very different. Skull N' Crossbone grips may send the wrong message in court.

TooTaxed
June 11, 2006, 12:01 PM
A defense lawyer, paid specifically to get his client the best deal possible, is going to put into play anything his fertile mind can dream up. And that will include you, your gun, and your actions. ESPECIALLY those...:eek:

There has been some fine advice offered here...check (right now!) to see what the local police...and others...carry, and make sure your own lawyer is well versed in defending "you, your gun, and your actions." Rehearse with him, and work to fill in the weak spots.;)

Manedwolf
June 11, 2006, 12:47 PM
This is one of the reasons why it's been suggested that a lever-action magnum-pistol-caliber carbine is not a bad idea for home defense.

It has stopping power, and in court, all the lawyer can hold up is a brass-and-wood "John Wayne's gun" whose overall look is associated with BB fights and heros. :)

Roadwild17
June 11, 2006, 01:22 PM
No, I don't have any proof of such an event happening, that's why I asked but are there any documented cases in which this has been proven, or does anyone else have any more information on the subject?


Anyway, here's an example of what I'm talking about;

You use a ******** (insert AR, AK, Beretta CX4 Storm, or any other "evil" :evil: black gun) to defend yourself from an armed intruder. In court the weapon will more than likely be brought in and paraded to the jury as a killing machine with no purpose other than to take a like (totally leaving out the fact that this gun had previously been used for hours fun planking with the kiddies and had also saved your life/entire family's life). I tend to believe that would have a lasting impact on a probably gun-dumb jury.

A jury is just a bunch of average joes, some are hard headed and some just think all guns are evil. I do believe a large percent of your future in this care wold lye with the draw of the jurors. You can bring in a million gun experts and if the experts aren't capable of swaying the jury's mind from the words of prosecution, then it just going to get ugly.

Until I find a few documented cases of this happening around my area, I will continue to use whatever weapon I find necessary to ensure my safety/ safety of my loved ones.

Just my $.02

YellowLab
June 11, 2006, 01:42 PM
Most court cases are won in the jury selection process.

The defense just has to get 1 person who will see it your way.... but more the merrier.

I've been on 2 juries and selected for 4 'seatings'... and you can tell by the questions they ask who they are looking for.. its not as obvious are the retards on Law & Order etc but the defense wants people already 'in thier court'. The prosecution, on the other hand, does not.

Both verdicts were not guilty... one becuase the LEO OBVIOUSLY framed the guy (yes, it was obvious... all 12 jurors had the exact same comment after the first vote was unanimous.... was like a 30 minute deliberation). The second was a guy taking pics of his stepdaughter for a modeling agency. But when the prosecutor handed him a phone book of the city he said they were in, he didn't even open it and said it was not in there. Plus more BS like that.

One old friggen lady kept voting 'not guilty' because she was upseet about about the pervert not seeing his stepdaughter (whom he loved dearly). We tried to get her kicked off but the judge said no, you have to convince her... man did we lay into that old hag... for two days. He still got off. One of the jurors told the pervert that he should buy that old lady dinner cause she was the only one keeping his ass out of jail.

hoji
June 11, 2006, 06:13 PM
One juror voting not guilty would have made it a hung jury, not an an acquittal.

Mannlicher
June 11, 2006, 06:23 PM
as I said earlier, I have yet to see credible case on this where the gun used was a factor in the case. In the age of "FindLaw.com", lexus-Nexus, Google, etc, if there is a case it should be easy to find.
Here is a link to a story that involves my old friend Harry Beckwith. He too used a sub machine gun to foil a robbery. This did not even make it to trial.

http://www.afn.org/~guns/ayoob.html

brickeyee
June 11, 2006, 06:55 PM
Self defense is an 'affirmative defense'.
This means you admit to having fired the weapon that resulted in someones death, but that under the laws you had a legal right to do so.
The actual weapon would not need to be produced for any reason.
You have admitted the shooting.
The argument will be over if it was the response of a reasonable person, and that said resonnable person would be in fear of death or grave bodily injury.
Some states have more statute law than others covering self defense shootings. If you live in such a state you should have reviewed these laws, and any cases that have been decided using them.
In other states (Virginia is one) the self defense law is all case law (AKA 'common law'). It is slightly harder to review this, but any major library should have a copy of both the state code and the court reporter volumes that detail the case law decisions.
You can also pay for a few hours of a good attorneys time to provide a summary to you and answer questions. They have additional law books that summarize case law and lay out the durties of the state to prove a case.

evan price
June 11, 2006, 09:05 PM
With the exception of improved grips (So that I can assert EVEN BETTER control over my gun) or a +1/+2 mag floorplate (So that I can shoot paper targets more without having to reload) or a rail-mounted Streamlight (So that I can positively identify any target's threat level before engaging) I leave my guns stock. No lasers, no custom work, no Pictinny rail mounted pistol bayonets, nothing.

Zundfolge
June 12, 2006, 02:22 AM
Nobody here seems to be taking into account the most important element; jurisdiction.

A self defense shooting with a "Tacticool" tricked out pistol in rural Texas or Idaho is likely a non issue. But an honest to God self defense shooting with a blue snubnose .38 is going to get you dragged before a vicious anti-gun DA in places like Miami or Seattle.

So far the only evidence given is a guy using a MACHINE GUN in self defense (and killing his attacker) recieving a bit of over zealous prosecution ... a full auto rifle is a LONG WAY from a tricked out 1911.

So if you are one of the privelidged few who is allowed to carry in a leftist hell hole of a state than yes, its wise to stick with a simple, plane jane DAO 9mm and leave your tricked out 1911 w/laser and compensator at home in the safe.


Keep in mind, that if you use it, your gun WILL be taken as evidence, and even if you get it back, it will likely have been sitting, uncleaned, in a damp property room for who knows how long. I'm not willing to maybe lose a high-dollar show piece when I know a reliable cheapie and good tactics is all I need.
Now THAT's a good reason.

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