CaseCast™ – "What you need to know"
Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, Bernhard Goetz (Defendant) shot and wounded four youths he believed to be trying to “play with” him.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A person may use deadly force in self-defense if he reasonably believes that said force is necessary to protect himself.
Evidence of a defendant's circumstances includes relevant knowledge that the defendant may have had about the victim, the physical attributes of all those involved in the incident, and any prior experiences that the defendant may have had which could provide a reasonable basis for a belief that another person's intentions were to injure or rob him or that the use of deadly force was necessary.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Is the reasonable belief that a person is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury requirement for self-defense a wholly subjective test that focuses solely on the Defendant’s state of mind?
Held. No. Allowing a person to justify his conduct by self-defense simply because he personally believes that his actions are justified cannot be a result the legislature intended. This would allow any person, no matter how delusional, to kill at will if he believes his actions are justified. Therefore, “reasonableness” must be determined based upon the circumstances facing a defendant.
Discussion. In order for the defendant to use deadly force, he must reasonably believe that said force is necessary to prevent harm. This reasonable belief cannot be based upon his own thinking under the circumstances, but rather, what the circumstances dictate to a reasonable person. In other words, the court applied an objective standard.