The Legal Unicorn of the “Stand Your Ground Defense”

It never ends.  A shoot out at the Iowa City Pedestrian Mall resulted in the death of Kaleek Jones and the charging of Lamar Wilson (pictured above) with murder, and various other assorted bad things.

As it happens, Iowa is also the most recent state to adopt both “Stand-Your-Ground,” meaning that there is no duty to retreat before acting in self-defense if one is in a place they have a right to be and is not engaged in illegal activity, as well as civil and criminal self-defense immunity.  These positive changes became effective in Iowa on July 1, 2017.  This shooting occurred on August 27.

Naturally, the media gets it all wrong in reporting on this story.  The Daily Iowan newspaper, for example, reports:

Court documents obtained by The Daily Iowan said Wilson will use the “stand your ground” defense in his Nov. 7 trial. He also, according to the documents, will claim self-defense

My faithful readers will recognize, of course, that these statements amount to legal nonsense.  First, there is no such thing as a “stand your ground” defense, and one does not “claim Stand-Your-Ground.”  The relevant defense for an allegedly justified use of force against another in self-protection is simply self-defense, and “stand your ground” merely serves to lessen the number of elements that must be present in order for a use of force to qualify as lawful self-defense.  Relieved of the element of avoidance, the self-defense claim nevertheless requires the elements of innocence, imminence, proportionality, and reasonableness.

The newspaper also reports:

The “Stand-Your-Ground” law allows individuals who feel they are in imminent danger to use deadly force against those threatening them.

To the extent that this statement has any relation to accuracy at all–and at best it’s a very distant relation–it was already true before Iowa adopted “Stand-Your-Ground.”

But it gets worse:

When a defendant uses “stand your ground” as a defense, he or she claims by using deadly force instead of retreating, he or she protected and defended others in attention to themselves.

I don’t even know where to begin disassembling this word salad of nonsense, but I do feel obliged to note that the “journalist” apparently doesn’t know how to spell “addition.”



Law of Self Defense Podcast: September 20, 2017

Topics covered include: Rossiter v. Alaska, an appellate case in which a murder conviction was overturned because the appeals court determined that neither the defense attorney, the prosecutor, or the trial judge properly understood Alaska self-defense law. Critically important to know those stuff for yourself.

Also, the acquittal of another police officer in a case involving the use of deadly force by the officer against a non-compliant, armed, black suspect.

You can view this video podcast either on the Law of Self Defense Patreon Channel.

CANCELLED: EVENT! “Legal Knowledge: The Missing Tool”

IMPORTANT: The participation of Law of Self Defense in this event has been cancelled. Further, we do not anticipate working again with The Complete Combatant in the future. (Updated 10/9/17)

Hey folks,

Next month I’ll be trying out a new kind of event format, in collaboration with Brian Hill over at The Complete Combatant, in Marietta GA.

This will be a three-hour law of self-defense class, conducted in a split format.  Brian, a graduate of the Law of Self Defense Instructor Program, will teach the first 1.5 hours of the class, covering substantive Georgia self-defense law in a general educational context, and then I’ll join in via Skype to teach the second 1.5 hours and do Q&A.  I’ll be “live” in the sense I won’t be pre-recorded, but I won’t actually be in the classroom.  Also, this class is “online” only in the sense that I’ll be joining via Skype and won’t be there in person, but you need to be physically present in the class in order to participate.

That class is taking place on Friday, October 27th, 2017, from 6:30PM to 9:30PM, at The Complete Combatant facility in Marietta GA.  It costs $99/person.

For more information and to register, point your browser here:


When the Entire Court Room Is Wrong on Self-Defense Law

I came across an interesting, if horrifying, appellate court decision out of Alaska last week that reinforces the absolute need for each of us to have a robust working knowledge of self-defense law, and which highlights the risk of leaving yourself wholly dependent on the purported self-defense law expertise of lawyers and judges. In this particular case it is apparent that neither the prosecutor, nor the defense attorney, nor the judge understood the law of self-defense of their own state, while working a second-degree murder self-defense trial.

The case is Rossiter v. Alaska, and the decision is embedded at the bottom of this post. It’s only nine pages long and not too full of legalese, so I do encourage you to “read the whole thing,” as they say. Here I’ll just briefly summarize.

Continue reading When the Entire Court Room Is Wrong on Self-Defense Law

St. Louis Officer Stockley Acquitted of Murder of Alexander Smith

Last Friday St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley was acquitted at a bench trial of first-degree murder charges in the 2011 shooting death of Alexander Smith.

Stockley is white, Smith was black.  The shooting occurred after Smith led Stockley and other officers on a high-speed chase following an apparent parking lot drug transaction, and as Smith reached for a gun after crashing to a stop.

The acquittal, as per SOP, has led to professional and amateur rioters engaging in their usual masturbatory ultra-violence in St. Louis. CNN and other sources reported on the “mostly peaceful” protest, including breaking the windows out of the Mayor’s house:  “St. Louis ex-officer acquitted in fatal shooting of black driver.”

One benefit of a bench trial from an analysis perspective is that the trial judge typically writes an opinion explaining the rationale behind his verdict, something jury trials do not produce.  Judge Timothy Wilson’s opinion is embedded below:

Law of Self Defense Podcast: September 6, 2017

Hey folks, welcome back! Today’s podcast is a replay of my interview by German N24 News Television, in February 2014, immediately following the Zimmerman trial and much raging about Stand-Your-Ground in particular and American gun and self-defense law generally.

It’s had over 10,000 views on Youtube, which for a small-town lawyer feels kind of impressive.  Just learned that view count today, which prompts my re-presenting it to all of you.  I know that I found the German perspective on US self-defense and gun law & culture to be fascinating.  I hope you enjoy it!

As usual, keep a pencil and paper handy to write down the “hidden” 20% discount code we’ve embedded at some point in the podcast. That code is good for 20% off ANYTHING at the Law of Self Defense web site. But it’s only valid for one week from the date the podcast was broadcast! So this particular code will be valid through September 13, 2017.

You can view this video podcast either on the Law of Self Defense Patreon Channel.

Law of Self Defense Podcast: September 4, 2017 LABOR DAY SALE!

NOTE: This is not our typical podcast in which we cover substantive use-of-force law. Rather, this particular podcast is to inform our listener/viewers of our Labor Day 50% Discount Sale on our “Law of Self Defense LEVEL 1 Class” DVD sets. We will return with our usual substantive podcasts later this week.

The 14 Duty-to-Retreat States

Feel free to share the list below, I don’t claim any ownership of it, I merely made the effort to build it. That said, if you’d care to cite as the source, that would be greatly appreciated!

The 15 14 Duty to Retreat States (as of 6/17/18):

New Jersey
New York
North Dakota
Rhode Island
Wyoming (became SYG effective July 1, 2018)

That’s the list. That said, don’t forget my default advice:

Anyone who actually HAS a safe avenue of retreat and doesn’t take advantage of it, rather than go hands on, is an idiot. The moment you go hands on, you’ve immediately incurred a greater than zero risk of death and a greater than zero risk of going to jail for the rest of your life. There ought to be few circumstances that justify taking on such risks if you could simply safely retreat instead.

Also, keep in mind that in most of the 36 “stand-your-ground” states, there is no legal duty to retreat before acting in self-defense, but the prosecutor can still argue to the jury that they can consider whether the defendant could have safely retreated in evaluating whether the defender’s use of force was reasonable. A half-dozen states are “hard” stand-your-ground states in retreat is taken completely off the table and such an argument by the prosecutor is not permitted, but they are in the minority.

Law of Self Defense Podcast: August 30, 2017

Just posted up a new Law of Self Defense Podcast, which covers my debunking of the famous Youtube video by law Professor James Duane, “Never Talk to the Police.”

It also includes the usual “hidden” 20% discount code for everything at Law of Self Defense–but you have to listen to the podcast to get the code!

If you’d prefer to listen to this file in audio-only format, click here to download that file.

Here are sources from which you can subscribe to our occasional podcasts and videocasts: