Justifiable Homicide: Hero or Criminal
Imagine hearing your daughters scream. You run frantically to the barn and find an acquaintance molesting your daughter. You protect her by repeatedly punching him in the head. After several hits he dies. Was it justified or did you commit murder? In Shiner, Texas, this scenario occurred. The Christian Science Monitor states, “there’s little doubt among residents that a 23-year-old man who reportedly killed a man he found molesting his 5-year-old daughter in a horse barn should be hailed as a hero, not denounced as a criminal. Some legal experts have questioned why the father has not been charged yet,” and continued saying, “vigilante justice, no matter how the circumstances come about, can’t be tolerated in a civil society.” What is Justifiable Homicide?
Merriam-Webster - a homicide (in self-defense, in preventing a felony involving great bodily harm, or in defense of one's home or members of one's family) justified or excused by law for which no criminal punishment is imposed.
A sharp increase in justifiable homicides appears to coincide with the introduction of “Stand Your Ground” laws in 2005. The increase is shown below in an infographic, courtesy of livescience.com. The recent case in Texas is only one of many regarding justifiable homicide and “Stand Your Ground” laws. Take for instance, the case of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. In this case, according to The Washington Post, “Stand Your Ground” laws — are the same kind of legislation that authorities cited for not arresting a neighborhood-watch volunteer after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed in Florida in February.”
Both cases are up for debate on whether or not the killings were justified and The Christian Science Monitor says that, “as the Trayvon Martin case has taken twists and turns, it’s become clear to many legal experts that the Stand Your Ground concept has many inherent ambiguities, undermining faith in the justice system in the process.” As for the father in Texas, The Christian Science Monitor on MSNBC quoted James Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project in an interview with Foxnews.com saying, “Assuming it’s true that this guy was molesting the daughter … he would then have the right to defend her and hit him enough to have him stop. But you cannot summarily execute him, even though I can understand the anger he would have.”
He continued saying, “The question is: When does it move beyond self-defense?”