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    Author: Andrew Branca

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    Andrew Branca

    Andrew F. Branca is in his third decade of practicing law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He wrote the first edition of the "Law of Self Defense" in 1997, and is currently in the process of completing the fully revised and updated second edition, which you can preorder now at He began his competitive shooting activities as a youth in smallbore rifle, and today is a Life Member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and a Life Member and Master-class competitor in multiple classifications in the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA). Andrew has for many years been an NRA-certified firearms instructor in pistol, rifle, and personal protection, and has previously served as an Adjunct Instructor on the Law of Self Defense at the SigSauer Academy in Epping, NH. He holds or has held concealed carry permits for Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania, Florida, Utah, Virginia, and other states.

    It's hard to believe, but my first post here at Legal Insurrection was on June 5, 2013. Naturally, it was a post covering the murder trial of George Zimmerman, after Professor Jacobson noticed some of my comments on his own posts and kindly invited me to contribute to the site. I ended up watching every moment of the trial and reviewing every piece of evidence, and wrote about the trial and surrounding events rather extensively.

    When I tell you that you must assume that everything the news media has to say about self-defense law and events is 100% wrong until proven otherwise, this is why: CNN: "What you need to know about 'stand your ground' laws". The errors on "Stand-Your-Ground" in particular and self-defense law in general, whether these errors are borne of ignorance or malice, are almost too numerous to count. But let us make the effort, shall we?

    Every once in a while a federal court in the 9th Circuit hands down an opinion consistent with the actual meaning of the Second Amendment, and the Universe threatens to lose its mind. (Generally, of course, any such 2A-favorable decision is shortly reversed en banc, c'est la vie.) One such decision was handed down yesterday in Young v. Hawaii, (embedded below) in which a 3-judge panel for the 9th Circuit correctly held that Hawaii’s extraordinarily restrictive gun laws were an unconstitutional of the Second Amendment under any level of scrutiny. (Indeed, it is this author’s humble opinion that all pre-emptive gun control laws are facially unconstitutional as applied to adult, law-abiding, mentally sound American citizens.)

    I’m often asked to describe the most common way people screw up their self-defense claim. The truth is there isn’t a single most common way. Too many people manage to find an apparently infinite number of ways to step outside the bounds of the law. Often, there were a bunch of exits off that jail-bound freeway that they could have taken, but didn’t. For most normally law-abiding people this is not done out of malice, but ignorance. I mean ignorance not in a derogatory sense, but in a technical sense--they didn’t know where the legal boundaries were, and stepped over them without even knowing it.

    “I can’t believe I got arrested for self-defense!”

    In their minds they acted lawfully. “I can’t believe I’m being prosecuted for self-defense,” may be amongst the most common statements I hear from clients.

    This week’s case is a recent criminal trial sentencing out of Connecticut that purportedly involves principles of “Stand-Your-Ground,” but that in reality, of course, has nothing to do with “Stand-Your-Ground” at all.

    Three-on-one Attack Ends With Defender Convicted

    The defendant in this case was Jeffrey Sumpter, 21 years old, who was working his job at a Dunkin Donuts coffee shop when he was assaulted by three attackers (or “juveniles,” as the media labels this gang of aggressors). Sumpter ended up stabbing one of the attackers in claimed self-defense. He was charged with felony first-degree assault, found guilty, and just days ago was sentenced to 18 months in jail and three years probation. (All as reported per the CTPost, and other sources.)

    Law of Self Defense Case of the Week is a new weekly series by Andrew Branca _____________________________________________ This case of the week involves the recent murder trial of a Texas man, Terry Thompson, who got into a barehanded fight with a drunk, John Hernandez, in a Denny’s parking lot. Thompson choked Hernandez to death, and was tried on charges of murder, manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide.  That trial ended days ago in a mistrial when the jury couldn't arrive at a unanimous verdict.  The prosecutor has announced he will re-try the case.

    The Supreme Court just handed down a police use-of-force decision, Kisela v. Hughes (pdf.)(full embed at bottom of post), the most notable characteristic of which is the gutting of a typically nutty Ninth Circuit court of appeals ruling and a typically silly dissent by Sotomayor (joined, unsurprisingly, by Ginsburg). The legal issue in play is whether a woman who was shot by a police officer should be permitted to sue that officer personally.

    Last week Idaho’s Governor Butch Otter allowed a substantive change to the state’s self-defense law to take effect, albeit without his own signature, reports the Idaho Spokesman-Review and other sources. Although Senate Bill 1313 (embedded below) mostly just summarized in statute form Idaho’s already existing self-defense law, one provision, in particular, troubled the Governor enough that he withheld signing the bill.

    Former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager has been sentenced to 20 years after pleading guilty to Federal civil rights charges in the April 2015 killing of Walter Scott, reports ABC News and other sources. The sentence was based upon Slager's pleading guilty to a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242, Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law.  The maximum sentence for this offense is life in prison.

    Attorney Alan Gura has scored another huge win for civil rights in today's Wrenn v. DC decision out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal District of Columbia Circuit (you know, the one Harry Reid blew up the fillibuster for in order to load it up with Progressive judges amenable to Obama's "pen-and-a-phone" style of governance). Wrenn v. DC, decided today, was a 2-1 decision by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The decision invalidates the District of Columbia’s prohibitionist “good reason” constraint on the lawful carry of arms in public for purposes of self-defense.

    Two years ago tomorrow University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing, who is white, shot and killed black motorist Sam DuBose during a traffic stop. The stop, DuBose' attempt to drive away while dragging Officer Tensing down the road, and the fatal shot were largely captured on Tensing's body-cam.  Today, after trying Tensing twice and achieving only two hung juries, Prosecutor Joe Deters announced that he is not seeking to try Tensing a third time, reports WCPO news and other sources.

    “Stand-Your-Ground” was back in the headlines against over the just-concluded Independence Day weekend, thanks to a 14-page decision by Miami-Dade Circuit judge Milton Hirsch that recent legislative changes to Florida’s self-defense immunity law were unconstitutional, reports the Bradenton Herald newspaper and other sources. (That decision is embedded below.) Specifically, the recently signed law switched the burden of persuasion on pre-trial self-defense immunity from the defendant to the state, and changed the standard of evidence required from a preponderance of the evidence to one of clear and convincing evidence. (We wrote about these changes more extensively here: “Florida Changes Burden of Proof of Self-Defense Immunity.”)

    Yesterday, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into a law a modification to the state's self-defense immunity statute, according to Reuters and other news sources. The self-defense immunity, generally mis-identified by media as a "stand your ground" law, provides for criminal and civil immunity for a use of force that is determined to constitute lawful self-defense.
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