The concept of self-defense has been through the sociocultural wringer during the past few years, with stand your ground
laws being blamed by many for allegedly encouraging confrontation. The Trayvon Martin case, of course, galvanized America into separate camps. It seems that every few months a controversial case of self-defense hits the news cycle, making us debate anew whether or not citizens, particularly homeowners, have the right to engage in certain, allegedly defensive, actions.
An already complex issue is made infinitely more complicated by the addition of age, gender, and race as factors. Actions justified in the name of self-defense must pass the reasonable person
standard: Would a "reasonable" person have thought it necessary to perform that action to protect himself or herself from death or serious injury? While we bend over backwards in society to strive for racial and gender equality, must we acknowledge that what a "reasonable" woman considers a grave threat may be different than what a "reasonable" man considers a grave threat?
Enter the Long Beach, California burglary case: According to the Associated Press
, a man and a woman were burglarizing the home of an 80-year-old man when, after his collarbone was broken in an assault, the homeowner managed to get his gun. The two assailants tried to flee while the homeowner fired after them, with the female burglar apparently calling out that she was pregnant.
The homeowner continued firing and killed the woman, while the male suspect escaped and was later apprehended. Currently, the homeowner has not expressed sadness or remorse over the killing. An autopsy has revealed that the woman was, in fact, not pregnant. As anyone can see, this case is full of complexities in determining whether or not the homeowner should be considered culpable for shooting at the fleeing female attacker. I believe that the homeowner is justified in his actions and should not be charged with a crime.
First of all, the homeowner's advanced age and the presence of multiple, violent attackers made him vulnerable to renewed assault, justifying the use of force even as the attackers were apparently fleeing. The homeowner was 80 years old while his attackers were in their twenties, broke his collarbone, and he may have justifiably feared their return. In addition, the homeowner had apparently been robbed thrice before, understandably increasing his fear and anger, particularly after the brazen assault.
Secondly, the brutal assault on the homeowner justifiably overrode any rational mental overview of acceptable use of force. The 80-year-old man was subjected to a continual barrage of blows and was "body-slammed" to the floor, which broke his collarbone. The battery only ended when the male suspect left to help the female pry open a safe, which meant the elderly homeowner could have feared that the battery would continue, perhaps even leading to death, once the safe was open and the criminals did not want to leave a witness. Understandably, the battered homeowner was probably not thinking "gee, since I am no longer being actively pummeled I should avoid trying to retrieve my firearm, since strong defensive actions at this point could be construed as excessive..."
Third, gender should be no excuse for criminality. The female home invader was, according to accounts thus far, a very active participant in the assault and the robbery. She was no dainty maiden. Suddenly crying out for leniency on account of her sex should earn her no reprieve. She wished to engage in criminality and found herself insufficient to the task when the victim was able to defend himself.
The woman's false claim of pregnancy indicates that she knew mentioning such a status could make the homeowner think twice about shooting, revealing a dangerous precedent if the homeowner is charged. Women criminals would start crying "I'm pregnant!" to deter strong defensive actions, especially if they knew they could later sue for assault. "I told him I was pregnant and he still tackled me to the ground," female suspects could pout. I'm sorry, but gender equality is gender equality: You want to grunt up with the big boy criminals, you're gonna get taken down like a man when things don't go as planned.
The courts should treat the death of the home invader as if she was a man. And, I'm willing to bet, no charges would be brought against the elderly homeowner if he had shot a violent male assailant, so no charges should be brought in this case.