Investigating Claims of Self Defense
The 9-1-1 dispatcher takes the call about a homicide, and the caller claims self-defense.
At that point, the mindset changes for investigators responding to the scene.
“Anytime self-defense is asserted, there has to be a reasonable and an honest belief of an imminent risk of death, great bodily harm or sexual penetration,” said former assistant county prosecutor Brett Gardner.
Once investigators arrive, they analyze the crime scene, speak to any witnesses and interview the person suspected of committing the homicide.
“It is within the discretion of the police to make the call to leave the individual there and conduct a full investigation and then submit it to the prosecutor,” said Gardner, who is also an adjunct professor at Cooley Law School. “There does not have to be an arrest. “
With that information in hand, detectives will then look into the criminal histories of the parties involved.
“If the person has a past of being abusive and assaultive against the person who was ultimately killed, that`s something the police and prosecutors are going to take into consideration, as to whether or not self-defense should come into place at all,” Gardner said.
Of course, the same is true for the deceased. If that person has a history of abuse, it may bolster the claim of self-defense by the person who committed the homicide.