Supreme Court of the United States and Self-defense

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Delores Frimml
Kaplan University

This essay will attempt to clarify when it is legal to defend yourself and when defending yourself becomes criminal behavior. There is some confusion on this subject. The United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit addressed this issue in the case United States v. Thomas. The defendant stated he shot and killed a man in self-defense while attempting to rob him so therefore in the defendant’s mind he cannot be charged with murder. The content of this essay will include discussion on what three elements constitute a criminal act and the protections of the Second and the Fourteenth Amendments. In conclusion, the essay will address the issue of the logic behind the statement in the transcript of the case, United States v. Thomas; “It has long been accepted that one cannot support a claim of self-defense by a self-generated necessity to kill.” (United States v. Thomas, 1994).

Question One: In United States v. Thomas, 34 F.2D. 44 (1994, 2nd Cir), the court stated, “It has long been accepted that one cannot support a claim of self-defense by a self-generated necessity to kill.” What is the logic behind this principle? Do you agree with it? Why or why not? When is self-defense indeed self-defense. When in fact, is the Second Amendment enacted to protect us and when does protecting ourselves become criminal behavior? The Second Amendment reads as follows; “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed (Barton, 2010).” Some American people interpret this amendment to mean that self-defense is a human necessity; that the Second Amendment is the individual right that protects all the other rights; and that the right to self-defense is a basic human need, so fundamental that it can be traced back to the caveman (Miniter, 2011). Regarding the case United States v. Thomas, 34 F.2D 44(1994, 2nd Cir) a man shot another man in self-defense but because of the circumstances around the case the Court would not allow the self-defense plea and the Second Circuit Court agreed with the lower Court. In review of the case, on October 30, 1990 a police officer was working undercover for the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The officer was shot and killed during a cocaine “buy-bust” (United States v. Thomas, 1994). The federal agent was partnered with a confidential informant named Luther Gregory. The informant and the federal agent were set up to buy $40,000.00 worth of cocaine from a drug dealing group ran by Dean Thomas (United States v. Thomas, 1994). According to testimony at the trial, the group led by Dean Thomas conspired to rob Gregory of the $40,000.00. The federal agent and Gregory suspected that a robbery might take place at the “buy-bust”. The buy-bust was scheduled in a public parking lot. Gregory and the agent showed up for the “buy-bust” in the parking lot at the scheduled time. When two members of the group showed up, Gregory left and went with members of the group to test the quality of the cocaine. Once at the apartment, Gregory was overpowered. The two men bound and gagged Gregory. The individuals from Dean Thomas’s group then proceeded to leave the apartment and go back to the parking lot where the agent sat in Gregory’s car awaiting Gregory’s return (United States v. Thomas, 1994). One individual came up and sat in the driver’s seat; another individual was behind the front seat on the passenger’s side just outside the backseat passenger door. The individual in the driver’s seat pulled his .22 handgun and tried to shoot the agent, but was unsuccessful because no round was in the chamber. The agent fired back with his gun. He got three rounds off from his gun; one round hit the individual in the driver’s seat in the shoulder. The individual behind the agent outside the car on the passenger’s side of the car fired a...