Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lawyers, Guns, Money, Wives and Husbands

I've spent a good deal of time and money (as most of you have) buying and reading books that deal with the concealed carry lifestyle.  Titles such as "In The Gravest Extreme," "StressFire" and "Concealed Carry," all by Massad Ayoob and "Armed Response" by David Kenik among assorted others.

These books educate us on everything from equipment (guns, ammo and holsters) to tactics, to the physical effects that can be expected in a life threatening situation and, maybe most importantly, the aftermath of the most desperate of moments you may ever experience - the taking of another life in defense of your own life or in the defense of others.

These books, written by professionals who teach what they preach, have specific thoughts on what to do in the catastrophic event of a self defense shooting.  What they keep coming back to is this...

The Police are not your friends. They aren't your enemy either, but they have a job to do and it includes extracting statements from you at a time when your ability to form even the most mundane thoughts will be hampered not only by the sheer weight of the situation, but by the shock and physical stress the most harrowing of experiences has placed upon your body and mind, ie; Adrenaline dump, tunnel vision, fear etc.

It is recommended that we give only the basic information (He threatened to kill me and in fear of my life I shot him in self defense.  Name, address... that's it) and then tell the attending officers that you will not be answering anymore questions until you've had a chance to confer with a lawyer - And stick to it.

Massad Ayoob, one of the preeminent voices on the legal use of lethal force, trains law enforcement around the world, has been a police officer for 30+ years, an expert witness in countless justifiable homicide cases, trains attorneys in the handling of self defense shootings and teaches tactics at his Massad Ayoob Group (MAG) - knows of what he speaks.

Ayoob explains that the responding officers will press hard for a statement, explaining to you that its always best to get this information when its "fresh" in your mind.  The problem is, it isn't the best time.  Ayoob tells us that after a life threatening event, something as simple as the chronological order of events is hard to assimilate into the answer your attempting to give - and when asked the same question several times, there will be several different answers as you begin to calm down and are able to think things through.

This of course will be used by the District Attorney if the case goes to trial.  There won't be any mention of your mental state at the time of questioning, just how your answers were different each and every time you were asked.  Even the smallest mistake in wording of an answer could mean the difference between walking away and spending a considerable amount of time behind bars.

And this doesn't include financial ruin due to civil suits that will be brought against you.

I'm no lawyer and I'm not giving advice here, but I am stating my own opinions.  Take them for what they're worth.  But one gaping hole in everyone of these books, as far as I'm concerned, is... What should your spouse say to the police, if you were involved in a shooting and they were present?

I recently had a conversation about this with my wife.  I wanted her to understand that if that horrible event were to spill into our lives (in hindsight it could be a car accident or any other situation where arrests may be made or civil suits could be filed), it was important that she keep all information to a minimum.  If a call to 9-1-1 was made, all she should say is something on the order of;  "This is  ****, someone broke into our home, threatened to kills us and my husband had to shoot him in self defense."  That's it.  Nothing more.  Why?  Because the 9-1-1 tape can be used against you in a court of law.  If your husband or wife called 9-1-1, in hysterics, and then said "Some s.o.b. just broke into our house, but we're okay, my husband killed that bastard dead," well, you can see for yourself, you might cringe hearing that ringing out in court.

I've asked my wife to tell the police the exact same thing that I will.  I'm not going to answer any questions until I've had an opportunity to talk to a lawyer.  And that's that.  Even with the best of intentions, your husband or wife might dash your defense hopes with a mistaken sentence.

Imagine someone breaks into your home.  You tell your spouse to call 9-1-1, you retrieve your defense weapon and move to the nearest point of home defense that you have practiced over and over before hand.  You holler out that the police have been called, you have a gun and if the intruder does not leave the premises immediately, you will consider it an act of aggression and will shoot if necessary.  The intruder, hopped up on who knows what yells back "I'm going to fucking kill you!" And charges around the corner of the kitchen holding a .38 caliber revolver.  You respond by emptying the magazine, killing the intruder.

Your spouse, under questioning from the police, says that they heard you say "I'm going to fucking kill you!"  In the heat of the moment, in fear of their life and yours, blood pounding audibly in their ears, stress taking over their body, tunnel vision shutting down their auditory senses, this is what they think they heard.  Now, no matter what you claim, the D.A will be able to cast doubt upon what really happened.  You'll tell your side to the jury and the D.A. is going to hammer home to the jury that your own spouse admits that you yelled "I'm going to fucking kill you!'"  And its all over.  Hello prison.

Married couples can't be forced to testify against one another.  But if something is said in a statement, it can be used against the other. Something said on a 9-1-1 call can be used against you.  I think this is a conversation every married couple should have.  You aren't trying to beat the system, but you are trying to protect yourselves in one of the most emotionally debilitating situations that can occur.  Be smart.  Keep your mouths shut.

Probably the only time you can say that to your husband or wife and not get smacked.