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Self-defense argument an issue in trial of former police officer

"The defendant acted in self-defense" is an argument frequently asserted in murder cases where the implement of death was a firearm. The judge in the trial of a former Carbondale police officer charged with the crimes of first- and third-degree murder has now been asked by the prosecution to bar the defense as a matter of law.

The prosecutor has argued that a defendant who wishes to claim self-defense must show that he could not have retreated in complete safety or that the person against whom deadly force was used was armed. The prosecutor is claiming that the defendant has not and cannot offer evidence that the deceased was armed or that the defendant was unable to retreat. The defendant's attorneys plan to argue that the issue of self-defense is a factual issue to be determined by the jury and not by the judge.

The prosecution is also asking the judge to bar defendant's attorneys from arguing that he was entitled to use deadly force because he was a law enforcement officer, even though he was off-duty at the time of the incident. The prosecution contends that the defendant was acting as a private citizen at the time of the shooting. The trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 17, and the court is expected to rule on all pre-trial motions before the trial begins.

Regardless of how the court decides these issues, they show the importance of being represented by competent legal counsel. All defendants are entitled to be presumed innocent unless and until they are found to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This presumption can be reduced if defense counsel does not assert all possible defenses. Anyone facing serious criminal charges may wish to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney about the case. Such a consultation can provide a useful analysis of the law and the facts that will determine the outcome of the case. A knowledgeable lawyer can also provide an estimate of the likelihood of obtaining a favorable plea agreement or an outright acquittal.

Source: Scranton Times-Tribune, "DA to court: Bar self-defense claim in former cop's trial," David Singleton, Dec. 19, 2016

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