There is perhaps nothing more terrifying that literally fighting for your own life – except maybe soon after that, fighting for your freedom.
Our Birmingham homicide defense lawyers know this was the situation in which one Birmingham man recently found himself, enduring trial for the 2009 shooting death of another man. The defendant had always claimed self-defense in the homicide, saying the alleged victim had drawn his gun first.
In the end, the jury believed him, handing him a not guilty verdict last month.
The case started four years ago. According to court records, the alleged victim had been involved in a verbal altercation with the defendant’s cousin just prior to the shooting. During this alleged argument, the defendant was down the road, talking with some people at a nearby apartment complex. He says he had no knowledge whatsoever that there had even been an argument.
When he crossed the victim’s path, he had no idea that this other man was upset with him or his relatives. Yes, he was carrying a firearm, but he had a concealed carry permit. The alleged victim, upon spotting the defendant, quickly grabbed for something in his waistband.
The defendant guessed it to be a firearm, and he was later proven correct. However, the gun apparently got caught in the fabric of the alleged victim’s shirt. He wasn’t able to pull it out in time. The defendant reached for his gun and fired a single shot.
The defendant never denied he was the one to have shot the man. But he says he only did it to protect his own life. A gun was found at the scene where the victim had been shot. He died later that day.
However, the defendant wasn’t arrested until almost two years later.
The defendant’s attorney maintained from the beginning that the fight between the alleged victim and the defendant’s cousin had absolutely nothing to do with the defendant. With no knowledge that it had even occurred, he had zero motive to shoot the other man, let alone kill him.
Other witnesses described the victim as “a man whose blood was boiling.” He was eager to get back at someone for whatever slight had been meted upon him by the defendant’s cousin.
Forensic evidence and witness statements would reveal the defendant shot at the alleged victim while he was running away. As his attorney put it, “My client was fleeing for his life.”
The evidence apparently bore that out, as the jury ultimately freed him.
Some people would characterize this as “getting off easy.” However, you have to bear in mind that in self-defense cases, the defendants never asked to be in this situation in the first place. This young man did what he had to do to defend his very survival, and then had to fight another four years to maintain his freedom.
The outcome was ultimately in his favor, but that doesn’t mean he deserved to endure this ordeal.
As this case shows, self-defense is not always easy or simple to prove. But Alabama does have a “stand your ground” self-defense law, similar to the one in Florida we’ve been hearing so much about in the wake of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case. The measure passed in Alabama in 2006, and allows an individual to claim self-defense in the use of deadly force if he or she reasonably believed his or her life to be in danger.