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Cost of 8-day self-defense case: $332,000

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Cesiumsponge, May 29, 2014.

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  1. RustyShackelford

    RustyShackelford member

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    Deadly force; civil actions.....

    This is a good topic for any armed professionals or CCW license holders to consider.
    I hope the gun owner(Gail) gets the $$$ & can move on with his life.
    In my state(which is mostly pro-gun/2A supporter), you can not face any civil actions or wrongful death lawsuits if you are not adjudicated or are found not guilty of using deadly force(guns).
    That's fair IMO. You can't be risk adverse or unsure of using a firearm if you are in a critical incident.
    FWIW; The family members & lawyers of Trayvon Martin got a settlement from the Sanford Florida HOA(reportedly worth over $1,000,000.00 USD :rolleyes: ) in the George Zimmerman event(02/26/2012). The HOA quietly gave in & didn't want any protests or - media coverage. I think the Martin family lawyers saw a quick way to shake down a source related to the case for some $$$ since they(the HOA) had deep pockets.

    The media has put the cost of the entire Zimmerman court case at $360,000.00 to $900,000.00 depending on who you ask & what they factor in.
     
  2. Jackal

    Jackal Member

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    That's one expensive car.....Should have let him have it and called police. Though, the fact dirty rotten thieves, the scum of the world, get so much protection from the legal system is disgusting. Remember, horse thieving is a hang-able offense....
     
  3. Schwing

    Schwing Member

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    Same here. Utah is just a great place to live if you want to be able to legally defend yourself and/or your property.
     
  4. Kleanbore

    Kleanbore Moderator

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    This is worth reading before assuming that civil immunity laws mean what many people seem to think they mean.
     
  5. massad ayoob

    massad ayoob Member

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    In fairness to Mr. Gerlach, he was acquitted because the defense made it clear he didn't shoot the deceased for stealing his car. He shot him because as he started to drive it away, the perpetrator turned and pointed what appeared to be a gun over his shoulder at Mr. Gerlach, who then fired the single, fatal shot. What in the prevailing conditions of poor visibility reasonably appeared to be a deadly weapon, turned out to be keys. It's not surprising that a jury, educated during the trial to realize "you don't have to be right, you have to be reasonable" found him not guilty.
     
  6. Spats McGee

    Spats McGee Moderator

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    It's worth noting that even if the SD shooter wins, the financial effects can be devastating. I'd wager that very few states reimburse the defendant in the event that the defendant wins.
     
  7. RetiredUSNChief

    RetiredUSNChief Member

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    Welcome to the site!

    Protection of property (in Washington) didn't have anything to do with this. Washington still does not have any such law which allows the use of deadly force solely for the protection of property.

    Theman was aquitted because the jury decided that the act of homicide was justified under state law for the conditions the defendant was under as the jury understood them to be during the course of the trial.


    RCW 9A.16.050

    Homicide is also justifiable when committed either:

    (1) In the lawful defense of the slayer, or his or her husband, wife, parent, child, brother, or sister, or of any other person in his or her presence or company, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design on the part of the person slain to commit a felony or to do some great personal injury to the slayer or to any such person, and there is imminent danger of such design being accomplished; or

    (2) In the actual resistance of an attempt to commit a felony upon the slayer, in his or her presence, or upon or in a dwelling, or other place of abode, in which he or she is.



    Source: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=9A.16.050


    He was aquitted because the jury believed under the circumstances that it was reasonable for him to believe that the guy stealing his car was armed with a gun and and was actively taking actions to use that firearm against him.
     
  8. gun_with_a_view

    gun_with_a_view Member

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    I find it very unreasonable a defender would really think somebody stealing their automobile could shoot backwards through a rear windshield with a degree of efficacy so as to put the defender in actual jeopardy.

    That argument sounds like something the defender and his legal team cooked up in the absence of an actual compelling reason to use deadly force.

    Did the jury really buy into that convenient but lame theory, or was the reason for acquittal simply that the jury let the guy off the hook on account it believed a homicide in the course of defending property is justifiable?

    I came very close to shooting a guy once when he pinned my vehicle to a fence, got out and reached into his front pocket and pulled out what appeared to be a small chrome plated semi automatic pistol. He paused on the draw, and the next thing I see is him flipping open a clamshell cell phone that had rung on vibrate. Had I opened fire when most police would have, could I have sold my version of events to a jury, i.e., I killed a man answering his cellphone. Good luck with that.
     
  9. massad ayoob

    massad ayoob Member

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    Gun_With_A_View, you're certainly entitled to your opinion, like everyone else. However, informed opinions outweigh uninformed opinions.

    The jury had a well-informed opinion. They spent several days listening to both sides, and seeing all the evidence and hearing all the testimony. They found reasonable doubt to believe that Gerlach had done wrong.

    And they found more than that: they specifically found to a majority that the defendant's side was sufficiently plausible to warrant the side bringing the case to be responsible for paying the fees and costs of the side defending the case.

    In the personal experience you mentioned, I'm glad that you didn't have to shoot the man you were facing. I'm happy for you that he flipped open his cell phone and revealed it as such in time for you to see that. It's sad that the circumstances in the Gerlach case were such that he did not have such an opportunity.

    But tell us: if things had happened differently in your case, and you had shot your antagonist because you reasonably believed that he was pulling a gun and trying to kill you, do you think you SHOULD have been convicted and sent to prison if you had shot him?

    You don't appear to have posted to THR until this case. Do you have a personal interest in this case and its outcome?
     
  10. Lawyerattorney

    Lawyerattorney Member

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    I made it VERY clear in the Opening Statement that this case was NOT about defending property. Even Good Morning America ran that part on their clip for this case. I assure you Gun_With_A_View that this defense team did not "cook up" anything. I was able to prove that Mr. Gerlach in fact saw the driver make a threat, because the prosecutor kept insisting that Mr. Gerlach could not see any movement from the driver's area of his SUV while standing behind it. I demonstrated WHERE he was standing (which was NOT directly behind the SUV), but at an angle, and the most important part was that the driver in fact held two sets of keys in his right hand, which the State's detective conceded. The "gun" that Mr. Gerlach thought he saw was in fact those keys pointed in his direction. The SUV was fully insured, and he didn't have much use for the items in the SUV when this shooting incident happened. My Closing Argument theme was "The Keys to Acquittal," which fit perfectly.
     
  11. 40-82

    40-82 Member

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    Massad,

    "You don't have to be right, you have to be reasonable." Thank you for that nugget. I had always assumed that if you responded to a situation with deadly force no matter how necessary your actions seemed at the time, and given even reasonable fear for your life that if later information developed that you did in fact read the situation incorrectly that you would be convicted of at least some form of negligent homicide.

    I still assume that reading a deadly force situation wrong will cause trouble that will follow you for the rest of your life, but you're saying that an error made with honorable intentions based on a reasonable interpretation of the information available will not automatically lead to a criminal conviction. It is worth something to know that measures of humanity remain in the frame work of our legal system.
     
  12. Kleanbore

    Kleanbore Moderator

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    Absolutely.

    When that thug coming around your car toward you reaches into his back pocket, would you be required to wait to see the knife coming at you to shoot>

    NO!

    For those reasons, it is of little use for those who were not privy to all of the relevant evidence presented at the trial to form opinions about whether Mr. Gerlach acted reasonably, or whether any other reasonable person knowing what he knew at the time would have acted differently.
     
  13. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Member

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    We were warned in permit class (4 hours on self-defense law) that even in an acquittal on grounds of self-defense, the legal costs can be devestating.

    We do have a law that a person perpetrating a felony on someone else's property cannot sue for accidental or intentional damages resulting from their felonious act. A burglar falling through a skylight, getting bit by a dog or shot by someone with a right to be on the premises cannot sue for damages (last time I checked).

    Even if a case is dismissed by prosecutor or no billed by a grand jury, most folks would best be advised to have an attorney. Trial costs are outrageous for the innocent, but even if the case is decided at the prosecutor/grand jury level, legal costs are involved.

    We had a case of a burglar shot driving away, but the circumstances were quite different: the neighbor who tried to stop or detain the burglar had a cellphone and 911 in one hand and a 1911 in the other; the grand jury had a realtime recording of the incident and did not charge the defendant/defender. Elements included (a) a struggle for possession of the gun with the gun going off and (b) the burglar fleeing in his car swerving at the defender before being shot. It was a close call, but the prosecutor did not criticize the grand jury decision that the defender had a reasonable person fear of death or greivous bodily harm. I suspect if the case had been simply a car thief driving away with a stolen car, the grand jury decision would have been take it to a trial jury.
     
  14. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Member

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    "...some form of negligent homicide..." I believe that test is the reasonable person juror (grand or trial juror) would not find the defender's fear reasonable.

    I read that the Sanford police were investigating the Martin shooting as a possible negligent manslaughter, unnecessary killing in response to an unlawful act. Prosecuting that case as 2nd degree murder was over charging and guaranteed acquittal once the best prosecution evidence had been presented at trial. The jury had to put themselves in the position of getting punched in the nose and back of head slammed against the sidewalk and ask would they be in fear of death or greivous bodily harm?
     
  15. RetiredUSNChief

    RetiredUSNChief Member

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    An interesting mix of people responding to this!


    @ gun with a view:

    Please don't take disagreement with your opinion the wrong way. When I welcomed you in my earlier posting, I was serious.

    There are a LOT of things to learn with respect to firearms and the responsibilites which go along with them. Perhaps one of the most difficult and confusing are the differences between what "moral" / "legal" and "correct" / "incorrect". Many people make uninformed judgements on legal matters because they don't have the big picture or they fail to understand how the law actually works.

    That said, I'm NOT an attorney. I've had some experience with the legal system in both the civilian and military systems and have received a quite practical education from attorneys on how and why many things work when it comes to law. Enough so that I understand that the first thing I need to do is get a grip on what the law says and what it means in the legal system...not the layman's system.

    I value the opinions of many people in this quest, because it's important to me to have a sound understanding of the legal system when it comes to deadly force and carrying a firearm.


    I use the terms "correct" / "incorrect" instead of "right" / "wrong" because because the connotation of the latter is most often interpreted to mean "morally right" or "morally wrong" and that's not what I mean.


    Killing someone in a clear cut case of self-defense is very rarely considered "morally wrong". When it comes down to you or a violent, machete-wielding attacker, it's pretty much cut and dry: you or him.

    On the other hand, killing someone in a clear cut case of murder is very rarely considered "morally right". When it comes down to the wire and you killed someone just because you were angry with him, it's pretty much cut and dry against you.

    But the situations which lie between, where the circumstances are not always so clear, are where there is a huge, and important, distinction between "moral" and "legal". And the facts of life are rarely so clear cut, especially for people who must judge our actions with no first-hand witnessing of the actual events.


    It is not "moral" to kill an "innocent" person. However, the law recognizes that when it comes to the decision of whether to use deadly force or not, it is not always reasonable to wait until circumstances are perfectly clear with respect to the intent and actions of another person.

    Many factors go into the decision to use deadly force, so many that it's not possible to define them all or to list every possible combination of circumstances under which it is and is not allowable. Thus each case has to be judged on its own merits in accordance with the standards set forth under law. This is where it's important to understand not only what the law says, but what it means as well.

    The purpose of the jury is to look at the evidence and testimony put forth to them in court and, with an understanding of what the law says and means with respect to the use of deadly force, decide whether or not it was reasonable to use deadly force under the circumstances that existed for that incident at that instant in time.

    In this case, a crime was in progress (car being stolen). That alone, in the state of Washington, does NOT constitute a legitimate cause to use deadly force. However, when the thief also went through the motions that could be interpreted to be consistent with the use of a firearm while in the comission of a criminal act, THAT was the point where the jury had to make its decision on whether or not it was "reasonable" to use deadly force in response.

    In the eyes of the law, it does not matter whether or not the thief actually had a gun. It only mattered that the circumstances at that time caused the person who acted in self-defense BELIEVE that he had a gun and his life was in imminent danger through the actions of the thief.

    All the conjecture about whether or not the defendant might be lying is just that. Certainly that's a possibility, but the only people whose opinion count on this matter are those in the jury...and whatever evidence and testimoney they heard must have been sufficient to convince them of the veracity of the circumstances.
     
  16. Madcap_Magician

    Madcap_Magician Member

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    The facts of the case have been discussed before, but it's interesting to know what the cost to the defendant in financial terms was.

    It would also be interesting to know what the low and high end would be- i.e., what would the financial cost be of a self-defense shooting under clear circumstances that is never charged by the prosecuting attorney or grand jury in which a civil suit is never filed or cannot be filed due to state law versus what the financial cost is of a successful self-defense claim in a shooting resulting in a fatality where the grand jury indicts and the case goes to trial.
     
  17. Kleanbore

    Kleanbore Moderator

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    Almost.

    It also mattered that the jurors decided (in terms of reasonable doubt, of course) that a "reasonable person", knowing what the defendant knew at the time (as indicated by the evidence) would also have believed those things.

    And they did.

    As Massad put it, "They found reasonable doubt to believe that Gerlach had done wrong."

    That is the burden of proof, and that is as it should be.

    Should a civil trial take place, it would take place in a different court, with a different jury, under different rules. And the plaintiff's burden would be one of the preponderance of the evidence.

    As previously mentioned, in some states civil proceedings could be stopped short of a trial, should a preponderance of the evidence indicate that the defendant's actions had been lawful.
     
  18. Cesiumsponge

    Cesiumsponge Member

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    There was a witness that also saw the deceased raise his arm moments before he was shot. This collaborates with the defendant who believed the movement was consistent with raising a firearm. The jury found the argument compelling and his actions appear to be what a reasonable and prudent person would do, given the same circumstances.

    And if, Lawyerattorney was part of the defense team as the first post suggests, welcome and thanks for the firsthand report. None of us sat in the courtroom and heard all the evidence presented over the course if the week, so we're all.working with an incomplete deck. Also thanks Mas for chiming in, always nice to hear from someone that does expert witness work!
     
  19. RetiredUSNChief

    RetiredUSNChief Member

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    @ Kleanbore: Thanks!
     
  20. gun_with_a_view

    gun_with_a_view Member

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    Mas, in the event I had shot that fellow, I believe it would have been entirely defensible. A local assistant DA agrees with me. But like Harold Fish, who spent two-and-one-half years locked up in an Arizona prison, had I been prosecuted, I might not have walked until after the appeal.

    And had I shot that man and the case fallen to another assistant DA in the same office, he would have favored prosecution (a former Army AG Corps ramrod, guilty until proven innocent).

    Also, I have no personal stake in this case. I read a book once entitled, "In The Gravest Extreme" and have been a student of self defense and Second Amendment cases ever since.


    Lawyerattorney, I realize you presented this case as being unrelated to property protection. Nonetheless, I can't help but think it may well have influenced the jury, if only subliminally. Hence, the possibility of some degree of jury nullification may have played a part in the verdict.
     
  21. RetiredUSNChief

    RetiredUSNChief Member

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    ^^^^

    Both valid points.

    One thing that I have taken away from many discussions here is that no matter WHAT kind of self-defense shooting any one of us may be involved in, there are going to be some very serious effects on our lives, even if it's cut and dry with video evidence at all angles and a football stadium full of witnesses who all agree it was a perfect case of self-defense.

    Even if it never goes to court because it's so perfectly in one's favor, there are the stresses to be dealt with for actually killing another human being, the social unrest by dissodents who don't agree with it, the potential media attention, being labeled by factions of the public as a "killer", even marriage problems due to the stresses.

    And these problems become ever more radically complicated and involved for any case that is actually prosecuted...even if you end up being adjudicated "innocent" in the end.


    But that's all part of the mantle of responsibility we all assume whenever we act in self-defense, with or without a firearm. ESPECIALLY with a firearm.
     
  22. gun_with_a_view

    gun_with_a_view Member

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    Not meaning to beat a dead horse further, but consider the outcome in this case had the deceased merely shot the bird over his shoulder at Gerlach in lieu of holding up some keys. A middle finger fully extended, seen from a distance through a rear window, to most observers might strongly suggest a revolver barrel. Would this have constituted sufficient justification for the use of deadly force?
     
  23. RustyShackelford

    RustyShackelford member

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    Legal cases....

    An armed(G) security guard in my metro area, shot at & wounded a woman in a vehicle who drove past his property check-point.
    The security guard was charged by local police/state prosecutors. :uhoh:
    I think he will walk based on incidents in the same area where armed officers used deadly force with occupied vehicles.
    The police wanted to press the issue of citizens(including licensed security) not using lethal force re; subjects who flee.
    The problem I have is that many sworn LE officers have either shot at or used deadly force against occupied vehicles under the same conditions. :rolleyes:
    A DA or state's atty can't have it both ways. You can't fault a CCW license holder or security officer for lethal force but let sworn LE officers go because they are making a arrest or "defending" themselves.
     
  24. Kleanbore

    Kleanbore Moderator

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    I do not want to appear unkind, but the precise mechanics of what happened to cause the defendant to believe that the decedent had been armed are not important. A furtive movement, holding keys, texting....anyone one of those could trigger such a belief.

    And one more time, it is not what "constituted sufficient justification" that mattered, but what led to reasonable doubt.
     
  25. Frank Ettin

    Frank Ettin Moderator

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    I'm sorry I haven't been following this thread as closely as I should have the last few days. I've been off in Reno renewing my Nevada CCW.

    The details matter a great deal. Exactly how, why and under what circumstances lethal force is used against someone in a vehicle can make all the difference.

    And as noted early, Gerlach is not about using lethal force to stop a fleeing suspect. It is about using lethal force to defend against someone in a vehicle reasonably appearing to present an imminent lethal threat.

    Mas, thanks for joining the discussion and providing that vital information.

    And thank you for joining the discussion and offering important "primary source" material.
     
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