My Trial in PA 1980

Discussion in 'Strategies, Tactics, and Training' started by marsofold, Aug 4, 2020.

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  1. marsofold

    marsofold Member

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    On April 30th, 1980, I shot and killed a man in defense of my oldest friend Bill.
    He was getting a divorce from his adulterous wife, and hard feelings existed over bruises seen on the two year old son that had not existed before the boyfriend moved in with the mother. That night, the mother was due to pick up the son at my house as she had done many times before without incident. Myself, my brother, Bill, and his two year old son were all sitting on my front porch awaiting the wife.
    Without warning, two well muscled males jumped the railing of the front porch and began swinging a baseball bat and a tire iron. My brother and I retreated into the house, and Bill stood alone cornered on the porch with his little son. I grabbed my Ruger 10-22 rifle loaded with CCI Stinger HPs. I heard Bill screaming, so I ran to the storm door and saw him huddled in the corner bleeding with blood profusing running down his face. At the door, perp#2 had a raised tire iron daring me to step out. So I kicked the storm door open with my right foot and shot the guy with the bat as it was raised to connect with Bill's head. Batboy dropped on the spot and his partner in crime jumped the railing and disappeared into the night.

    I called the police, leaned the rifle into a corner of the room, and sat in a folding chair in the middle of the living room awaiting their arrival. Ten minutes later the police arrived. To the officer on the scene I declared "I shot him with that gun", and refused to speak further. The EMTs arrived and pronounced him dead. I was arrested and charged with first degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter.

    What happened next permanently lowered my opinion of police officers. One of the two officers angrily and relentlessly pressured me to make a statement, which I refused. When I was taken downtown to the Allegheny county jail, I asked about the upcoming procedures and was told by the same officer to shut my mouth if I knew what was good for me. At Allegheny county jail, I was allowed to make my first (and only) phone call. With a black police officer at my elbow, I called my father and told him the total story. After the call, the black police officer, who had listed in to the entire call, took pity upon me and suggested that avail myself of the services of who he considered the best lawyer in Pittsburgh (Edgar Snyder). That man is the main reason that I firmly choose NOT to be racist today.
    In jail, when I went to make my daily call, I had to fill out a form, which immediately after I had filled it out, the scumbag in charge of me crumbled it up in front of me and told me to return to my cell. I went to trial, and the judge, hearing all of the evidence, said that he would dismiss all of the charges based on some law that said that a person in Pennsylvania has the right to use deadly force in place of another who had that right. Except that nobody had ever won a case on that law to be used as a precedent. So it had to go to the jury. So it went to the jury.

    My lawyer said that if they reach a decision in one hour, they've decided to convict. If they reach a decision in fours hours, their likely going to confict. Four and a half hours later, he was looking ashamed, and I was feeling doomed. Five hours and fortyfive minutes later the jury had reached a decision. NOT guilty on all counts. The judge had each member of the jury polled to verify their decision, then ordered the police to return my weapon and ammunition.

    My lawyer told me that my case would afterward be the legal precedent in Pennsylvania for a third person using deadly force in defense of another (Thompson vs Commonwealth). So I feel good that have strengthened the 2nd amendment freedoms in Pennsylvania. What have I learned from this? That all officers of law are not honorable. And that some of them, ARE, totally honorable and keep their moral oath. My parents lost their life savings paying the lawyer who successfully defended me. That the childhood friend who I saved, was unworthy of the risk I had taken, having mockingly suggested that I should have tried to use the rifle as a club to beat off the attackers.

    I was 26 when this happened. Now at 67, I still think of it. Killing someone is not a little thing, even if you're right. You will never forget it. May God forgive me on my last day.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 5, 2020
  2. Obturation
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    Obturation Contributing Member

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    You don't need to seek forgiveness , you're justified. I hope I never get in a position where I need to take a human life, the day many of us prepare for and the wise among us dread. Even if legally justified the moral demons to follow I'm sure are no small thing.
    I'll always defend my friends and family to the best of my ability and I hope that doing so won't cost me my freedom, whatever happens I pray I can keep evil at bay.
    Thanks for the story, helps keep it all in perspective.
    God bless you and yours .
     
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  3. Armored farmer

    Armored farmer Member

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    Dont worry brother, forgiveness is yours for the asking.

    Thanks for the lesson.
    Taking a life should be our last resort, as it was for you. I dont care if your friend second guessed you. You dont give up your friends.
    You did the right thing.
     
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  4. 1942bull
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    1942bull Contributing Member

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    You did right. No man can do better than that. The jury confirmed that you did right. When a person takes a stand against evil most of us understand it. The poor souls who do not are lost souls.
     
  5. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

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    Let’s keep the conversation on topic. ST&T isn’t the place to discuss the morality of an action. We can discuss the legal implications, we can discuss the tactical lessons to be learned but it not on topic at THR to discuss if an action was morally right or wrong.
     
  6. Phaedrus/69

    Phaedrus/69 Member

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    It sounds like your friend would have died that died if the perp hadn't. In retrospect it seems obvious that you were legally right but I guess someone had to be the test case. I'm sorry for all it cost you but I'm glad you prevailed and helped everyone who might someday follow.
     
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  7. Kleanbore

    Kleanbore Moderator Staff Member

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    Verdicts in trial courts do not establish precedent.
     
  8. Phaedrus/69

    Phaedrus/69 Member

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    I didn't mean to imply that it did. Sorry for any confusion.
     
  9. marsofold

    marsofold Member

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    I am not a lawyer, but before this thread gets shut down, I would like to say that both my attorney and the judge in the case (Ralph Cappy, who in 2003 became the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania) both seemed to have a different opinion from yours on the legal significance of my case. I would at least hope that others in Pennsylvania would benefit from what I had to go through.
     
  10. LNK

    LNK Member

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    Also not a lawyer, as you say they don't establish precedent, however, can this case be used in any way as an aid in a defensive use of force case? Curious layman is all I am.
     
  11. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

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    Glad it worked out.
     
  12. Dunross

    Dunross Member

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    Was the other intruder charged in the incident?

    How about the mother and her boyfriend?
     
  13. Matthew Temkin

    Matthew Temkin Member

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    Luckily in NYS deadly force can be used in defense of others.
     
  14. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    A sad account.
    Something to think of when we read of law and precedent and evidence and witnesses and all the official stuff.
    The government has effectively unlimited resources and can ruin you without convicting you.
     
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  15. Frank Ettin

    Frank Ettin Moderator Staff Member

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    I am a lawyer.

    And no, what happens at a trial court is not precedent. The word "precedent" in law is a technical term which means:

    There are a couple of ways a decision in a trial court might be helpful in other cases:

    • At least in some States notable trial court verdicts are tracked and information about those verdicts is published.

      So I'm handling a case and notice a couple of favorable verdicts in cases that sound very similar to the one I'm handling. I might call the lawyers who handled those cases and talk with then about their cases and how they were able to get good results. That might give me some good ideas. (While some lawyers can be "closed mouthed" about such things, others are happy to talk about their skills and how they were able to win a tough case.)

    • Sometimes when a trial judge makes a ruling on a question of law he will write an opinion explaining why he made that particular ruling. While that isn't strictly precedent, insofar as it isn't binding in other courts in other cases, if the trial judge is respected and his opinion is well reasoned it can be influential.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2020
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  16. marsofold

    marsofold Member

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    Thanks, Frank, for the clear explanation. Late in my trial, the judge removed the jury from the room and said that he would have dismissed the charges if he had found a prior case utilizing the existing Pennsylvania law. He said that In the absence of such, he had to allow the charges to go to the jury. The jury was then brought back into the room and the trial continued. That was the basis for my assumptions.

    The boyfriend was the deceased. Neither the mother nor the 2nd assailant were ever charged with anything, although both were grilled pretty hard on the witness stand. I used to be bitter about that, She had brought both assailants to the house with their baseball bat and tire iron in hand, knowing that violence was the plan. After the incident (front page news in the local newspaper), she remained in the area with everyone knowing what had happened, never again had another boyfriend, and is a hard core alcoholic today. So I guess that in the long run she paid a pretty high price too
     
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  17. SSN Vet

    SSN Vet Member

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    Serious, sober and sad story... thanks for sharing it.

    Getting sucked into other peoples trauma and drama is never a good thing.
     
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  18. Frulk

    Frulk Member

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    Very interesting background story and informative thread. Hope to never be in the same situation were I have to make that call.
     
  19. bdickens

    bdickens Member

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    The whole thing is absolutely horrifying.
     
  20. Kleanbore

    Kleanbore Moderator Staff Member

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    All shootings and their aftermath are absolutely horrifying

    The event has been outlined, along with a discussion of the aftermath. The questions of law have been addressed.

    We are now repeating peoples's reactions.

    That should finish this one. A new thread may be started it there is anything worth discussing.
     
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