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In defence or Self-defence

PostPosted: Sun Sep 12, 2004 11:42 pm
In defence of self-defence
(Liverpool, Nova Scotia)

In 1981 Jane Stafford shot her husband as he slept behind the wheel of his truck. She had her son load a twelve gage single shot with a shell (slug) and sent him back into the house before she executed him through the open drivers window. She then drove his vehicle and decapitated body 7 miles from the crime scene. Eventually she confessed to the crime. Also, evidence came forward she tried to hire a hit man prior to the murder and also attempted to acquire poison from the same "hitman" when he refused the $20,000 contract (he feared Billy).

During the trial the judge instructed the jury as follows regarding section 37 (Defence of self defence)

"You should understand that the law of self defence proceeds from necessity to preserve one`s life with instinctive and intuitive necessity. Under no circumstances may that defence be cloak for revenge or retaliation. If you have no reasonable doubt as to whether the accused acted in self defence as I`ve defined it, you will find the accused not guilty of murder or any other offense. Then the Crown will have failed to prove the homicide culpable, because homicide committed in self defence is not a culpable homicide.

One officer ( RCMP) said publically should have received a metal and the one who took her confession told her to go home and celebrate with the rest of the community.

Jane Stafford was found not quilty at the trial.

PostPosted: Mon Sep 13, 2004 2:33 pm
by Sochin
You are correct that she won her case but the prosecutor appealed and she lost the appeal.

Here is the summary from my book, Canadian Law and Self Defence.

Whynot 9CCC 3d 449:
When Jane Stafford shot her rough and abusive common law husband Billy while he slept in the car near Bangs Falls, Nova Scotia, she was acquitted for first degree murder on the strength of S. 37 that she feared for the life of her son Allan whom Billy had previously threatened to harm. The Crown appealled the acquittal for various reasons and the pertinant rulings were written by Judge Hart:
“A person who seeks justification for preventing an assault against himself or someone under his protection must be faced with an actual assault, something that he must defend against, before the provisions of S. 37 can be invoked, and that assault must be life-threatening before he can be justified in killing in defence of his person or that of someone under his protection...In my opinion, no person has the right in anticipation of an assault that may or may not happen, to apply force to prevent the imaginary assault.”

On the basis of such reasoning the verdict was set aside and a new trial was ordered in which S. 37 would not be placed before the jury as a defence and in which Jane Stafford was convicted of manslaughter.

This has been ammended by the following:

Lavalee 55CCC 3D 97:
In 1990 the Supreme Court of Canada heard of the case wherein a twenty-two year old woman named Lavalee shot her live-in boyfriend in the back of the head with a .303 rifle as he was walking away from her after threatening to kill her after other visitors to the home had left. Much evidence was presented about his previous violence toward her but her claim of self defence failed because she was in no imminant danger of death or griveous bodily harm when she pulled the trigger on him. She was convicted but appealed.
At the appeal, evidence from a psychiatrist concerning “battered-wife syndrome was considered by the Court to be relevant and necessary in the context of the case.”
It was ruled that
“where evidence exists that an accused is in a battering relationship, expert testimony can assist the jury in dertermining whether the accused had a reasonable apprehension of death when she acted by explaining the heightened sensitivity of a battered woman to her partner’s acts.”

It was ruled that the battered woman’s syndrome “mitigated the need for immanence” to be a necessary part of self defence. 1990 is a long way from 1983, as in Jean Stafford’s case.

Her case is a sad one indeed. She was finally paroled and worked for years trying to to establish "the battered woman" as a defence, and made many enemies. She later was found dead herself, in her car. Tho it was ruled a suicide, all her friends were convinced she was murdered by an abusive man she had crossed duringher work.

PostPosted: Mon Sep 13, 2004 7:58 pm
Correct on the Crowns appeal (imagine the results if that failed?)2 years later, she was sentenced to 6 months in prison (she was allowed out to continue her studies) and followed by two years parole. I hung around that area in my younger years and Billy was certainly feared by locals let alone family for years. (she was his third wife and the others had to leave the Provience to avoid his wrath). Actually it seemed he was on trial after he was shot as he essentially did as he pleased when alive. 250 lbs of hell and it was unbelivable what he was able to do without much resistance from an entire County, trust me he was a "Demon" of an individual if he sensed any weakness in anyone including the law. Her (Janes) book "Life with Billy" is a good read and the movie did some justice. Actually on another thread I may add more as to his means of control.

Se;f Defense Pleas

PostPosted: Tue Sep 14, 2004 6:15 pm
by Alan K
I have learned that the laws of self defense differ in the United States and in Canada.

Soon the a common thread begins to develop.

In most cases and jurisdictions the self-defense plea has to be earned.

That is to say that a defense of self defense has to applicable with the defendant having to make out a prima facie case. The judge will test the evidence to determine that standards are met either by evidence of the defendant or the prosecution for that matter.

However, the judge will not charge the jury with the elements of self-defense if the defendant does not offer qualitative, or quantative evidence, which if believed, could result in a proper foundation.

You will note that in the Canadian Cases and criminal Code,
that the "reasonable man" test is the basis of the right to a self-defense successful verdict.

Although there are certain standards, say for example, an abused wife killing her husband, the same case could be tried in front of different juries and some will favor the death penalty and others might acquit.

Your posts are good and will help others to reality of legal issues.

Alan K

PostPosted: Tue Sep 14, 2004 11:36 pm
by GSantaniello
Sounds like Billy got what he deserved !

The officer who told her to go home and celebrate certainly understood her situation. However, it was unfortunate that the prosecutor was not as compassionate towards her.

It took a lot of courage, or fear, to carry out what appeared to be her only solution.

It is unfortunate that some of these situations have no other resolve to them. As sometimes people can not get the help or protection from the legal community that they need.

I believe that it do more to the consequences of law that such actions as hers are not more pften resorted to.

What action would you or i take if ones life was believed to be in a life threatening situation with no apparent escape ? Run, hide, relocate, or look over one's shoulder every minute of every day.

I believe that there is a woman's penitentiary located somewhere in the U.S. that houses many woman convicted of murder in simular cases.

If i recall having seen such on a documantary program. Many are continuosly fighting appeals whle serving life sentences.

Hubbies behave

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2004 1:00 am
Less than three months after Jane shot Billy a woman in neighbouring New Brunswick shot her hubby in the head as well. She also was found not quilty in less than an hour by the jury, that case was also appealed.

The Supreme Court Justice J. Hart indicted both the defense and prosecution brought forth a great deal of evidence regarding Billy`s charactor that was not relevant and inadmissible. Also the trial judge was reprimanded for spending so much time (7 hours) going over the evidence with the jury in Janes trial.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2004 1:22 am
"Few people would suggest that Jane Stafford would deserve a severe penalty, she did not have many realistic options. However, those factors would normally relate to the severty of the sentence, not to establishing whether she committed the crime. Is the moral of the Stafford case that an abused wife can kill her husband (even when he is not immediatly threatening), without engaging in the crime of murder?...It`s hard to find sympathy for Billy Stafford. But are such people fair targets for vigilante justice at a local level? There is obviously a place for the jury in our crinimal system. It gives flexibility to the law. However, in its quest for justice in the individual case , a jury should not be permitted to distort principles. Whatever one thinks of the Stafford case, it is difficult to support on the basis of principle. The meaning of this morality play is at best confusing and at worst disturbing. Jane was a person on trial, but it was Billy who was found guilty."

Wayne MacKay
(professor of criminology Dalhousie Unirversity)

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2004 3:53 am
by GSantaniello

"But are such people fair targets for vigilante justice at a local level? There is obviously a place for the jury in our crinimal system. It gives flexibility to the law."

Obviously society can not allow a trend of killing individuals based on fear for safety to be acceptable.

Surely you statements and points are well taken. Hopefully our laws and legal system will hen needed, fullfill their responsibilities in protecting inocent people who are incapalbe of protecting oneself.

Unfortunately, at times, the process in place does not always work. As for some, threats of inprisonment, restriaining orders etc. simply are not enough to detour would preditors of the weak.

Just food for thought. Although i agree with you comments.


PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2004 10:00 am
Unfortunately, at times, the process in place does not always work. As for some, threats of inprisonment, restraining orders etc. simply are not enough to detour would preditors of the weak.

Your so right. Interesting that the jury found her not guilty (New Brunswick case as well). These are the rightous citizens picked to represent our population etc. That has significance. Important to note that Jane had attended a trial in Bridgewater (before her action to kill Billy of course) where a husband received a $ 300.00 fine for severely beating his wife. Also, she witnessed how her husband seemed untouchable. Her options narrawed. Leaving was not an option as he indicated that if she took that step as previuos wives did, he would execute her relatives including the children. His using the children as targets (William Tell style) to practice his knife throwing and shooting skills reinforced her belief it would occur. Yes, she did what many were close to doing but were not trapped enough to have the need.

More on the issue of self-defense with a case on point

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2004 3:56 pm
by Alan K
Cases involving homicide by battered woment are really tough.

Just yesterday, on Court TV, i watched the cross examination of a woman who had shot and killed her live in boyfriend.

The boyfriend was portrayed as a "bad ass biker" with a violent disposition and a criminal record.

I cannot comment too much on this because it is pesently an on going case.

The defendant, Judy, was being hammered by the prosecutor about the complete enactment of the shooting, and was asked to demonstrate how she was attacked.

Her reason for talking to the boyfriend at her home, was that her 4 year old daughter was forced to watch this dude masterbate, and the kid was also molested on several occaisons.

After confrontation, he came after Judy with both hands and she fired a single shot and he fell to the floor. Her responses to the questioning caused her to pause, and she certainly looked like she must have at that time.

All I could think of was the "chemical cocktail" and that her attorney should have known this, objected and have a side bench chat with the judge.

What was sad is that she shot him also on the thigh, and could not explain this. It was crucial in that she was on her way to make out a prima facie case so necessary for her ability to having the self-defense issue earned and the jury charged accordingly.

However, a jury is always able to do justice in such cases by "jury nullification"

For this reason, I have a case for you to read which deals with self-defense and the scenario of a punk attack.

Here it is:

A trial judge presiding over a criminal assault and battery trial refused the defendant’s request for a jury instruction on self-defense.

The case was appealed to the Massachusetts Court of Appeals, and the case is
Commonwealth v. Safari (not published at this time) (No.99-P-1691) (July 11, 2001)

The Appeals Court found in favor of the defendant who had appealed and went into great detail on the law as well as in the facts creating the case.

The law is that “ when self-defense has been sufficiently raised by the evidence, the defendant is entitled to an instruction that places on the Commonwealth the burden of disproving the factor of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt…Self-defense can be raised either through evidence presented by the Commonwealth as part of its case-in-chief or through evidence presented by the defense…’in determining whether sufficient evidence of self-defense exists, all reasonable inferences should be resolved in favor of the defendant, and, no matter how incredible his testimony, that testimony must be treated as true’…Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the defendant…after Michael Lilly punched the defendant in the back of the head, the defendant turned around, saw a group of six to eight teenagers, and heard his wife yell, “They have a chair in their hand. Be careful.’ The defendant put up his hands trying to defend himself from the group, which included Felix Olibo and Lilly.

“Within about thirty seconds after Officer John Curley had separated Lilly and the defendant by pulling away Lilly, who was punching out defendant, Officer Curley heard more loud noise, turned, and saw the defendant and Olibo holding on to one another, pushing, shoving, and wrestling. Officer Curley then broke up the altercation, telling the defendant to go back into the restaurant, which he did. Officer Curley had to sit Olibo down on the sidewalk and restrain him to calm him down because he was out of control.

“Self-defense was the only theory upon which the defendant relied at the trial. He admitted to having an altercation with Olibo. The defendant’s testimony reflected more than a mere germ of concern for this safety and well being…He stated that he was surrounded by six to eight teenagers, including Olibo, who were throwing punches at him, and that he put his hands out to try and defend himself. The defendant’s wife saw the group of teenagers encircle the defendant and go for the chairs that were located in the restaurant’s patio.

The court goes on to state the law: “We recognize that a judge need not give a self-defense instruction unless there is some evidence that the defendant availed himself of all reasonable means of retreating from the conflict before resorting to self-defense or that no reasonable avenue of escape was available to him…However, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the defendant, not withstanding the arrival of Officer Curley on the scene, the jury might well have viewed the incident as but one continuing altercation. When outnumbered and surrounded by several teenagers arming themselves with chairs, the defendant might reasonably have believed that there was no avenue of escape from harm other than by self-defense. The right to defend himself from Olibo would not end with the mere presence of Officer Curley, as he was occupied with Lilly who was excited and needed to be restrained.

“Because the issue of self-defense was sufficiently raised by the evidence, the judge’s denial of defense counsel’s specific request for an instruction on self-defense was erroneous. Moreover, we cannot say with fair assurance that the error did not influence the jury, or had but slight effect. The trial judge’s refusal to give a self-defense instruction constituted prejudicial error requiring reversal. ‘Judgement Reversed Verdict set aside.”

This kind of sums up the law in Massachusetts and much of which is majority rule in the states and perhaps in jurisdictions of the Crown.

Alan K


PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2004 6:34 pm
by gmattson
I watched part of that case on Court TV. Very interesting.

If you get a chance, please call. I've been trying to reach you.


PostPosted: Fri Sep 24, 2004 3:14 am
by Van Canna
The court goes on to state the law: “We recognize that a judge need not give a self-defense instruction unless there is some evidence that the defendant availed himself of all reasonable means of retreating from the conflict before resorting to self-defense or that no reasonable avenue of escape was available to him…

The flies in the ointment are several_ there is “emotional high-jack” along with incredulity/disbelief about what’s happening, whether in fact you are even the “target” of what seems to be unfolding_

There is the indignation stage: “how dare this/these punks.. will you look at this?” etc.

Then there is the anger stage, i.e., “I’d like to stomp his f!@@ head into the bumper of his f!@@# truck” _ you know what I mean.

And then there is this _ it is very difficult to read a potential human threat examples of this are legion.

The problem is compounded by the fact we are brought up by family and religious teachings to think the best of our fellow man. And we follow this blindly to our detriment some times.

And, particularly in some people trained in martial arts, there is the “I don’t back down for nobody” syndrome, especially in the ones who believe they have trained in superior ways.

Say you are stopped at a red light late at night going home. Some punk in an old clunker pulls beside you, and at the green signal, he burns rubber “racing you off the light” _ you do not oblige, mind your own business, and keep going.

The punk starts to play games with you, slowing down, speeding up, and cutting you off several times.

So you keep going instead of stopping or trying to get off at a side street, while your mind is ruminating at trying to evaluate the potential threat amidst your disbelief and anger.

So say this keeps up until you are cut off the road and the punk gets out of his piece of junk and comes at you with a tire iron, smashing your car windows trying to get at you inside.

You either cut him with a blade or shoot him.

Now, when does the court see you at point of withdrawal before your “self defense” act of cutting or shooting?

PostPosted: Fri Sep 24, 2004 4:23 am
by GSantaniello

Good points. At what time and place is one considered to have just cause for use of self defence ? When and were is the line drawn that clearly defines one not being able to flee a situation ?

As Mass. law states that you must avoid engagement in physical confrontation as long as there exsist a way to escape. Such as being in one's own home when one or more criminals break into the house while you are home you must exit if at all possible.

I really dislike that bull____ ! Be a victim of house invation and be required to flee rather than go for a weapon of choice when possibly yourself or anothers life may be in harms way ? I don't think so.

In use of a motor vehicle when being attacked by assailents as you describe, would slaming one with a door or driving the vehicle into them not be a justified self defense ? After all, one is in fear for their life when one or more are charging your vehicle with a tire iron or other weapon.

Yet, you most likely would be charged with assault with a dangerous weapon (via automobile).Or driving as to endanger etc. As i once was in a simular situation many years ago that did not evolve into legal matters.

Yet people today do sometimes challenge others in both their verbal and body language. Years ago, a fist fight usually settled the matter at hand and one went on the next day as usual.

Today it is, stabbing, shooting, murder and law suites that sets the tone for these situations. I really fail to see how or why people are not sometimes more cautious in their challenging of others.

I guess that is where we as society have evolved to such behavior.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 24, 2004 4:26 am
by Van Canna
Such as being in one's own home when one or more criminals break into the house while you are home you must exit if at all possible.

No longer the law, Gary. Governor King took care of this Dukakis aberration.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 24, 2004 11:35 am
by GSantaniello
Thanks for the clearification. I was not aware of that.