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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2002 3:59 pm 
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We begin a case that all martial artists should be aware of. It involves most elements of self-defense, which alone makes this case for that reason alone a must for MA's to follow. The trajedy is that both the victim and the defendant, were up to that point, your every day working family men, who supported their sons and were watching a game of hockey, but ended in the death of one, all over something that neither had a right to get invloved in.

In the great self-defense forums hosted by Van Canna, sensei, we constantly are aware of well thought out scenarios, and the effect of the "chemical cocktail" in most cases, being controlled in self-defense or defense of others. This case involves men who were not criminals or street fighters.

This well may be the province of social scientests and behavioral experts, but here we must deal with the law:


Hockey Game Fight Between Spectators-Murder of Self-Defense?

It is a most unfortunate blemish for the sport, the players and the law abiding spectators in a sporting event, when a fight breaks out between spectators. When these spectators are the parents of players it is outrageous, and is almost always a punishable crime by one or more of the participants.

A trial begins this week in Cambridge, Massachusetts charging a parent of a hockey player with the crime of Manslaughter of the parent of another hockey player.

The defendant is charged with brutally beating to death the father of one of the players.
Both the victim and the defendant were spectators in a hockey game in which both their sons were on opposite hockey teams.

The defendant claims that the death occurred while he was defending himself.

Those of you who have read this forum know that we have had many discussions on the law of self-defense, the right to have the judge deliver instructions to the jury on the law of self defense, and we have examined many leading cases on the subject.

When we received news of the trial as it progresses, we do not have an actual transcript of the record, but we can get a pretty good picture of highlights as the case goes on.

Martial Artists should always be aware of the elements of self-defense as applied by the law as a guideline in the event that one needs to invoke his training if attacked or in defense of another.

A case of this magnitude will get the full attention of local and national media.

This one should be particularly interesting because the event was viewed by a large number of people and took place in a hockey arena.

Some of the elements of self-defense which will be presented and evaluated are.

1. What were the facts leading to the confrontation prior to physical contact?
As an example, was it true, as reported by the press, that the defendant charged across the ice and became aggressive?
2. As to both parties, did either or both have a documented predisposition to violence of aggressive behavior?
3. What were the facts relating to the first instance of physical contact.
4. Can the utterance of inflammatory language justify physical action.
5. If the defendant was in the process of defending his person, was the force used reasonable or excessive, justified or not permitted.
6. Facts to be weighed would involve the skill of the participants and their physical size or strength, such facts to go to the determination of “reasonable conduct” or necessity of the force used..
7. Even if self-defense was plead and allowed as a jury instruction, what about the charge of manslaughter where both parties were involved in a mutual melee and the other party was killed accidentally. Could this nevertheless be manslaughter. Or was the conduct and action of the victim so egregious as to permit the use of force to the degree that the victim died, and even though this was a melee or affray, the defendant had to invoke his action for self-preservation.

There is nothing cut and dried about this case and it is salad bar for elements of manslaughter, and self-defense. The law reviewed will even be more interesting if it goes to appeal and the appellate court renders its judgment.

I did note last week that GEM, sensei, in a discussion of IUKF and the Uechi Ryu championship events presented together with a list of concerns, the subject of control of spectators in these events.

Even in well sanctioned martial arts events you see interference from spectators, and yes even the so called soccer moms types who disrupt events and become or promote belligerence.

I make this statement not out of moral judgment but for concern about the liability of the sponsors and promoters, as well safety of the players and spectators.

I think the standards can be met if incorporated in written sets of rules designed to promote safety and protection are promulgated; having designated persons watching and observing the events such as I have seen in the NHB events, and a police presence.

I certainly have not read every case of self-defense or manslaughter, but I do believe that this case will be one of first impression of a fight between two hockey dads and the tragic conseqences.

What are your thoughts about this case and its possible effect on all types of sports and MA activities?

Alan K


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2002 3:09 pm 
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This has been dubbed by the media as the
"Hockey Rage" case.

The trial of this case began after jury selection, and the jury went to the hockey rink to view the scene, even before opening arguments.

I think this was a good thing to do because the jury can visualize the action and scene portrayed by the witnesses and even in the opening arguments.

Without that view jurors would have to conjure up mental visions based on mental images difficult to discern. After the view the evidence can be weighed in prospective.

You know the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words.

The opening statement of the Commonwealth is that this six foot two 275 pound man (Thomas Junta) took down Mr. Costin who weighed 100 pounds less, repeatedly punched Costin's head, neck and throat,and began slamming his head on the ice, resulting in death.

The defense attorney opened his case with a demonstration of a John Wayne style punch, which he described as a succor punch, toward the head of Junta, by Costin. He stated that Junta actions take were to defend himself

There were about 11 children who witnessed
this melee and some will testify.

I make no comment on the facts of this case because opening statements are made to present a general promise to the jury which each side intends to prove, and do not constitute evidence.

This case is on national media, and Augustine Costin, father of the victim, was on television this morning with Matt Lauer.

This case should be a text book on subject matter such as:

1. Reasonable Conduct of the parties
2. Manslaughter and its degrees
3. Propensity of the victim and the defendant to violence.
4. The duty of a defending party to cease action.
5. Justification of the degree of force used to defend if there was indeed a genuine issue of self defense.
6. The differences between a case where the person defending was doing just that and no hostility of the defender was present as opposed to a case where the defender was engaged in a two way confrontation which escalated into a physical fight.
7. Even if Junta presents a case of self-defense, he could be found guilty of manslaughter if he had no premedation to kill, if the evidence presented determines that force used was excessive.
8. He could be found not guilty of manslaughter and be found guilty of the lesser included offense of assault and battery if that crime was charged in the bill.

While this case may assist us in how the foregoing laws are applied, we are left with the families of these people in the throws of a terrible trajedy.

Alan K


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2002 9:30 pm 
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Hi Alan,

Interesting topic. I have been following this case closely through the papers. I think you have a few of the agreed upon facts confused. The "victim" was actually on the ice and running the practice. The fight occured in two parts after the practice and off the ice. However, Costin was still wearing his skates outside the locker room. After these facts, the stories diverge as to who was the agressor and threw the first punch.

The defense has been careful to say that Costin was the aggressor and that as soon as he stopped being aggressive and took a "defensive posture" Junta backed off. That is a pretty good indication of the duties of a person claiming self defense. After stopping the aggression, you can't go ahead and finish the guy off.

Like any self defense type of claim, this is going to hinge on whose story the jury believes. Personally, I think the fact that Junta left the building after an initial confrontation and then returned is going to be his undoing. He had achieved safety, and then voluntarily went back.

I'll be watching this one unfold.

Norm Abrahamson


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2002 10:23 pm 
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What if one or the other had martial art experience???

As it is, the jury will have to view the defendants' 100 pound advantage as very damning evidence of over-reaction. Can't see him getting off... the only question is what the punishment will be.

Hope you guys will continue with the commentary. We will be very attentive I promise!

------------------
GEM

[This message has been edited by gmattson (edited January 04, 2002).]


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2002 10:51 pm 
I'm following this story as well. I have no legal background,but the story is fascinating.

We see possibility for one to be charged for a one punch homicide if things go wrong.All it takes is a good shot and some bad luck,one more thing to consider before one engages.

I expect that as the case unfolds the defense will claim the deceased fell to the floor missing a sucker punch in the second altercation.

They will then present their expert medical witness who will testify that the cause of death(Torn artery) could have happened when the deceased struck head during this fall. The Expert will claim that the cause of death wasn't the punches.

It could be that I may have watched too much TV.

I think MR Junta's council should advise him not to sit thru the proceedings with his elbow on the table and chin supported by his fist. The man has huge fists and as the prosecutor talks I'm sure the jury is looking and those big weapons.

Laird


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2002 6:37 pm 
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One question:

Did the defendant make any voluntary statements to the police after the event?

Assuming he had refused to make any statements initially, and had retained counsel, would the police still have a legal right to insist on an interrogation/videotaped or recorded?

Would the defendant be able to refuse a police interview and allowed his lawyer to make a statement to the police on his behalf?

I agree Junta must be careful about his posture and body language.

He is a bear of a man, and looks tough from any angle. The jury is being subliminally intimidated by this man; no questions about it.

Here is one example of the kind of adversary you might find yourself up against when a random fight breaks out, not some drunk guy, half your size tripping on his own feet.

I don't think there are many trained martial artists who would be able to deal with such size and brute strenght.

It's like trying to shuto and poke at a telephone pole.

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Van Canna


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2002 7:24 pm 
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Van, sensei

I have not yet caught up on the latest in reported or alleged evidence and intend to tonight.

Even if a statement were made the prosecution would be wary of releasing any information that may taint their case.

I am sure that Junta was given his Miranda rights; his attorney was on the scene very quickly and started talking about how Costin looked tall and intimidating standing on skates which made him 6 ft 3".

Junta can refuse to answer any questions which might be used as evidence against him, and require the presence of counsel in most circumstances.

Both the prosecution and defense are under a duty not to elaborate to the media in such a case. This is difficult to adhere to especially when the media is apt to spin the facts and editorialize rather than just report bare facts which may have been reported at the trial.

The observations of Junta's intimidating appearance including facial expressions and body language is very important. My first impression is that the guy looked like a giant bully. Evidence may prove that may not be the case. Counsel should address that problem.

If a man were charged with being an assassin, you would not have him come to court dressed as a Ninja.

I would think that Junta was very carefully advised to keep his mouth shut. He looks like he could talk the talk as well as walk the walk.

I have seen some tough and mean looking professional boxers, who when interviewed,
were articulate and soft spoken.

The O.J. case is a prime example of the effect of the media, and the revelation to the general public from jury picking to witness preparation and defendant preparation, specialists are required enhance the chances of success.

Alan K


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2002 9:44 pm 
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The news to be reported from the trial today makes things look worse and worse for Junta. In response to Van's question, apparently Junta did record a statement to police the day following the fight. He told police that he and Coston were "two dopey guys arguing about their sons hockey practice" and that the fight shouldn't have happened and that he "hoped" Costin wasn't seriously hurt. The tape was played to the jury. That could be construed as an admission of several facts, including that he knew he hurt Costin.

The testimony from the rink manager is that Junta pushed her against a wall and bruised her, then went right for Costin, threw him down, knelt on him, held Costin's head in his left hand and punched with his right. The defense is going to have a lot of witness rehabilitation.

Junta testified, and probably believes, that he only hit Costin 3 or 4 times. If he was hammering home punches, I doubt he was counting them. He probably stopped either because he sensed Costin was seriously hurt, or he just got tired.

As a martial artist, I think the big lesson here might be to recognize when the other guy is no longer a threat, and immediately stop. We train to follow up and "go for the kill," but that may be what lands you in jail.

Norm Abrahamson


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2002 5:08 am 
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Norm,

Thanks for the post counsellor. I have not had the opportunity over the weekend to catch up on the allegations, and made my statements based on the sketchy opening statements revealed by morning television.

If you are correct, and Junta came back to confront Costin after disengagement, this could negate a valid self-defense posture.

There were witnesses to this affray most of whom I believe were the children and perhaps some parents.

A lot may depend on forensic evidence both as to the cause of death and the amount of force used.

GEM has raised the issue of Martial Arts training and the relative size of the participants.

These issues may be raised in establishing whether the matter was self-defense or action taken being "reasonable".

I had discussed these issues in a recent case that I had posted in the Martial Arts & the Law forum. The fact that a person was trained in the skills of self-defense is one issue that should be admissable to negate a contention that the larger person had the advantage. I have not heard that Costin or Junta studied martial arts.

One element that could be admissable is the propensity of violence of either party.

Costin's father, in a television interview with Matt Lauer admitted that his son had been involved in assault and battery cases, had served some time in jail, and was involved in a domestic violence case.

Laird, you don't need to be lawyer or have legal training to evaluate cases of manslaughter and self-defense. Your expertise in martial arts qualifies you to be able to evaluate the evidence, once you know the elements of the crimes. That is all the jury has. The judge does make the decision of whether the evidence if believed by the jury, was sufficient to make out a case of self-defense. If so the judge will give instructions to the jury as to the law.

We will continue to follow this case.

Alan K


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2002 2:39 pm 
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Norm,

We have seen about all of the prosecutions case and the way it looks at the present time, the judge could rule that Junta would not be entitled to have the jury instructed on the law of self-defense. This is such a high profile case that the public and media would have a feast if this happened. I believe that between the evidence already presented and some testimony which should develop in the defense case, that a prima facie self-defense could be established.


The defense has a temendous burden to convince a jury that Junta acted in justifiable self defense.

The requirement of the standard necessary to prove a case of self-defense includes the duty to desist from further action when the "threat" to the defender has ended.

Another element of the standard is that the defender can use only such force as is reaonable and necessary to defend.

You stated in your post:

"Junta testified, and probably believes, that he only hit Costin 3 or 4 times. If he was hammering home punches, I doubt he was counting them. He probably stopped either because he sensed Costin was seriously hurt, or he just got tired.

As a martial artist, I think the big lesson here might be to recognize when the other guy is no longer a threat, and immediately stop. We train to follow up and "go for the kill," but that may be what lands you in jail."

Although I agree completely with what you say, I believe that an average person not a martial artist must also adhere to the duty to refrain. To not require this would be to allow the defendant to imply that his temporary rage clouded his thinking, and did not recognize the danger to the victim.

This case is an important to Massachusetts law because of its ability to bring explore and fill in the gaps not addressed in many other cases of self-defense. Road rage continues and now sports rage rears its ugly head.

I have seen parental anger and interference in several martial arts tournaments and have had personal experience in this while acting as a scorer, timer and other duties.

The case, IMHO to this point, has been presented humanely and respectfully by the media. It should be, given the consequences of this horrible tragedy.

I cluld report 30 cases of self-defense to assist the MA readers in evaluating the sometimes subtle differences in facts which influence the outcome of these cases, and not come within one iota of what may be gleaned first hand in this case, and the number of people who may benefit thereby.

We have streaming video and Court TV, neither of which I have time to view.

In the interim there will be the defense case, final arguments, the verdict and the appeals process to consider and learn from.

Alan K


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2002 2:51 pm 
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Alan,

I agree that the judge is going to have to let the question of self defense go to the jury. Junta will likely testify that he went back to the locker room because he was worried about his son. He was then attacked by Junta and did only what he thought he had to do to protect himself. That would meet the self defense requirement if believed and creates a question of fact for the jury.

The prosecution's case is quite strong. At least 3 unrelated witnesses pointed to Junta as the agressor. Only one said he saw Costin swing first. I believe Junta's fate rests in how he comes across on the stand.

As to the duty to back off once a threat has ended, you are right, that duty is for everyone. I did not mean to imply that only a martial artist has a duty to back off. I do think that it could be a bit tougher for a martial artist to back off if he achieves an advantage and is doing damage. We have a tendency to drill into students to finish the fight.

My understanding is that Costin's record and prior violent run ins with the law are going to be excluded from trial due to pre-trial rulings. Because of this, if Junta is convicted, the case should go up on appeal for that reason if no other. I think we will see at least one higher court make rulings on this case that will change or clarify the self defense rule in Massachusetts.

Norm


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2002 3:19 pm 
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I made a comment early on in this thread about how the case might be changed/view had either of the two participants been trained in the martial arts.

My point was to try and see how the public (jury) and experts (lawyers and judges) might pre-judge a martial artist (as either the deceased or defendant).

Might the public's perception of martial arts skill come into play, had either Junta or Costin been trained in the martial arts?

Would the court's definition of "reasonable" force or, depending which one had the martial art experience, expectation of deadly force during the fight, become an issue?

As an example of how this might happen: If a witness said: "I saw Costa try to kick and punch Junta using karate", would Junta have been justified in believing he was in danger of being killed and therefore justified in applying more force to subdue Costin? Remember... we are dealing with perception, not reality...

And of course, if Junta was throwing what appeared to be "karate punches", would he be judged by a different standard than someone with no formal training or knowledge?



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GEM


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2002 9:17 pm 
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Sensei Mattson asked, "Would the court's definition of "reasonable" force or, depending which one had the martial art experience, expectation of deadly force during the fight, become an issue?" The issue of whether reasonable force was used depends on the circumstances. The defender must have been reasonable in fearing imminent
harm and using deadly force. The perception that an attacker was a trained martial artist would be a factor in determining whether a defender acted reasonably. For example, if an attacker gave a kung fu movie yell and struck a "karate stance" a defender who could not retreat may be justified in using a deadly weapon to defend himself.

If an unarmed attacker goes at a trained defender, and the defender kills him with one or two well placed strikes, I don't believe that the defender's training would be relevent in determining whether the response was reasonable. You must judge the response in view of the facts known by the participant at the time an event occured, not with the benefit of hindsight.

That's my opinion anyway.

Norm Abrahamson


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2002 6:49 pm 
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George asked me to bring our thoughts in. Rather than reproduce, I'll just make a quick link.

Thread in Bill Glasheen's Dojo Roundtable

- Bill


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2002 4:01 pm 
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To the Group:

I agree with Norm's view as to how the circumstances are to be weighed in arriving at what is "reasonable" under the particular facts of the case.

From the O.J. Trial to the Nanny Trial (the one responsible for the death of a small boy), the trajedy of the situation, and the fact that the defendant's are otherwise nice people cloud the prospective. The perceived bully is tranformed to a caring father who loves his children. Louise the Nanny was just a child and the child's mother was made to look like a bitch. I remember the large groups of people cheering and rallying for Louise in the street facing the courthouse.

Jury, judges and the media are affected by a mind set which seems to create a mood or theme like in an opera.

Does this send a message even to the jury?

Well it did in the O.J. Case and to the judge in the Nanny case.

GEM, sensei was still left with no answer to the question posed as to what if the defender was an MA.

I think this could create an unfair negative aura to the detriment of the MA which could influence the case.

What if the alleged defender in the Junta/Costin case was once a professional boxer?

The public perception of MA's is molded in Hollywood and Hong Kong fantasy productions with more bad guys than good, and the good ones are supernatural, with all being able to kill with one dim mak strike.

It is my firm belief that MA's would have to demonstrate with much evidence that defensive action was both reasonable and necessary.

The detriment to an MA in a real situation is that the time taken to evaluate or to not act quickly enough for fear of over reaction could be quite costly.

Thanks for your comments and the thread to your forum Bill.

This case is now before the jury as I write this and I am without radio or TV in the office.

Despite the trajedy some good can be realized from the awareness of what the law is relating to self-defense.

And as I see from Bill's posts and from this very case, people have to abondon the idea of living the lives of their children vicariously and get their own lives.

Alan K


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