A security guard shot and killed a man armed with a knife in a store in northern Philadelphia. The incident provides an important glimpse into an important aspect of self-defense law: the defense of justification.
Security Guard Kills Knife-Wielding Man in Philadelphia
According to reports of the incident, a man wielding a butcher's knife stormed into a cell phone store near the intersection of North Broad Street and West Lehigh Avenue just after noon on March 12, 2019. He went around the counter while holding the knife, where an armed security guard shot him once in the chest.
The man was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Self-Defense and Criminal Charges for Murder
There is a lot to unpack in this scenario and lots that we do not know. What we do know, though, is that the security guard shot someone and killed him and that killing someone else can lead to murder charges.
If there is any question whatsoever that the killing was not the result of self-defense, prosecutors are likely to file criminal charges for murder. A conviction can come with up to a life sentence and can even lead to the death penalty.
Proving that the killing was done in self-defense is itself a defense to a criminal charge. In cases where it was clear that the killing was an act of self-defense, that legal defense strategy can be so strong that it deters prosecutors from even filing charges. When it is less clear, though, prosecutors can press charges and force the defendant to make their case of self-defense to the jury.
Defense of Others: Justification
Self-defense does not just apply to dangers faced by the individual person holding the weapon – it can also help someone if they acted in defense of others, as well. In Pennsylvania, this is the law of justification and is found in Pa. Cons. Stat. §§502-503.
While the statutes are vague, subsequent cases have filled in a lot of the blanks. People who have acted in defense of others and killed someone else, like this security guard, can make use of the defense of justification if they can show that:
- They believed someone else was in danger of death or serious bodily harm,
- They believed that they needed to use deadly force to defend that other person, and
- Those beliefs were reasonable in light of all of the circumstances known to them
Because so much of this legal defense relies on the person's beliefs and knowledge at the time of the incident and because so much is at stake in the case, having a skilled criminal defense lawyer on hand to present the argument is critical for your future.
Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento
Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia who can make use of the justification defense for people who are facing very serious criminal charges. Contact him online or call his law office at (215) 535-5353 for the legal help you need.