Friday, January 18, 2013

Initial Aggressors and Self-Defense

A creative question was asked as follows:

"So, let's say Rocky picks a fight with Tony Stark at a bar. Tony Stark has a suitcase kicked to him and turns into Iron Man. Rocky starts apologizing on his knees. Ironman tells Rocky that as soon as his laser canon powers up all the way in 10 seconds, he's going to blow Rocky's face away. Rocky sees an opening in Ironman's helmet and figures he could stick in a shiv in there and bring down Ironman. Can Rocky stick a knife in Ironman's helmet and then later use self-defense?"


The problem for Rocky here is that he was the initial aggressor. A few issues here, and the first is whether Rocky was using deadly force against Tony when Rocky started the fight. If so, Rocky will not be able to claim self defense if Tony threatens deadly force against Rocky, because Tony would have had the right to use deadly force against Rocky to defend himself from Rocky's deadly force.

But assume Rocky was not using deadly force, and Tony, in defending himself, escalated the harm by threatening deadly force against Rocky. In that instance, Rocky would have the right to use deadly force against Tony, but, because Rocky was the initial aggressor, he would first need to retreat if retreat were possible prior to using that force. This also assumes that a reasonable person in Rocky's position would believe that Tony had the ability to kill him with the laser.

If it's true that a reasonable person in Rocky's position would believe Tony had the ability to kill him, and if it's further true that the 10 seconds didn't provide Rocky an opportunity to retreat, then, assuming Rocky did not start the fight by threatening deadly force, he'll be able to use deadly force to defend himself against Tony.

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