An attorney has spoken out about what elements go into a successful self-defense case. It all started recently with a shooting in Milton, Wisconsin, in which a 21-year-old shot his friend at home during an argument. Jason Kraayvanger shot Zachary Barrett, who was arguing with his wife at the Barrett home. Kraayvanger had been staying at the Barrett home at the time of the incident. Five children aged between 1 and 14 were in the home at the time of the shooting.
Things got serious when the wife called 911 and Barrett put on a bullet-resistant vest and armed himself with an AR-15. Barrett told Kraayvanger that he was getting ready for the cops to arrive. Barrett also had a 9 mm in a holster on the vest. According to the report, Kraayvanger tried to talk with Barrett as they went outside, but Barrett pointed the rifle at Kraayvanger and told him to leave multiple times. Kraayvanger knocked the rifle away, and that angered Barrett even more. When Barrett pointed the rifle at Kraayvanger’s face, Kraayvanger grabbed the 9mm off the vest and shot Barrett once in the head.
An attorney in Wisconsin who wasn’t associated with the case went on the record about the elements of the self-defense claim. Here are the questions that the attorneys and judges will need to answer to consider whether there is enough evidence to convince a jury that a shooter did or did not act in self-defense:
- Did the shooter have an actual fear for their own safety or their own life?
- Did the shooter believe that to get rid of that fear, or terminate that fear, to terminate the threat?
- Did the shooter believe they had to do something about the threat that would cause harm to another person?
- Is the shooting victim an aggressive person, a volatile person, or a person they have a reason to believe is planning to do something violent?
- The same questions as in number 4 above may be applied to the shooter. Is the shooter known to be aggressive or volatile? Has the shooter ever done violent things before?
- Could the threat have reasonably been avoided in some other way not involving the shooting?
- What happened after the first shot was fired?
- If the shooter shot one time and neutralized the threat, did they continue firing? The shooter may have a valid claim to self-defense for the first shot, but not if they continue firing multiple times uneccesarily.
It all comes down to this:
Did the shooter reasonably believe they were in danger? Did the shooter reasonably believe they had to defend themselves? Did they defend themselves in a reasonable manner?
The self-defense laws in your state could be very different from those in Wisconsin. If you carry, or you have a gun at home for protection, make sure you understand the legal requirements of self-defense in your state, or wherever you happen to be if you are traveling. Some states, like Wisconsin, are “stand your ground” states. Even in stand your ground states, the laws may require that a shooter’s ability to retreat or not retreat be factored into the decision over whether the shooting was reasonable or not. In other words, whether you can run away safely from the threat and chose not to may be considered against you.
Bottom line . . . Have a gun. Know how to use it safely. Pull it out only when absolutely necessary. Carefully think through your actions. Follow up in a legal manner.