Friday, February 18, 2011

A Very Imperfect Case of Self-Defense

Self-Defense is one thing, but when you mess up, you can expect to receive a manslaughter conviction.

Detroit man gets minimum sentence in vigilante shooting

A man who had come to symbolize for many their frustration with rampant crime in the city for his act of executing a man he claimed to have caught breaking into his east-side home was given a minimum sentence today.

Tigh Croff, 32, was ordered behind bars for two years for killing Herbert Silas, 53, by shooting him in the chest Dec. 28, 2009, after Silas had stopped running and put his hands in the air in surrender.
Mr. Croft is a very sympathetic figure - a man earning an honest living as a security guard, being victimized by having his home broken into 3 times in a short period and finally catching one of the burglars in the act.

He certainly well-represents all those frustrated and victimized by Detroit's out-of-control criminal element. Indeed, that sympathy led him to have a mistrial in his first trial.

Mr. Croft made a series of serious mistakes in this situation:

1. Chasing the suspect for 3 blocks after he caught the guy breaking into his house.

When the criminal is retreating and no longer presenting a threat, you've won. Don't start chasing them as you then shift from victim to being an aggressor. Not to mention chasing a felon is not the healthiest thing to do. You don't know where he's going, if he's armed or if his buddies are waiting around the corner. Instead secure your location, call the cops and let them go play cops and robbers - after all its what they like to do and its their job to do it.

2. Shooting the burglar after the chase when the criminal surrendered and did not present a threat.

Once the person is not presenting a threat of deadly force, you are no longer legally entitled to use deadly force.

3. Making a bombastic statement before shooting.
"I told him he was gonna die, and I shot him."

Follow the wise words of Eli Wallach - When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk.

There's no place for bravado in self-defense, and it opens the door to your future cell. Of course, in this situation Mr. Croft should not have been shooting. The statement he made indicates not a mindset of self-defense but one of retaliatory homicide. Remember that if you have to shoot in self-defense you're shooting to stop the threat, not to kill your attacker. Leave the Hollywood repartee on the silver screen where it belongs, not on the street.

4. Making tons of incriminating statements to the police after the incident.

To remove absolutely all doubt that Mr. Croft was no longer properly acting in self-defense when he shot Silas, he told the police about the above statement and capped it off by stating that the burglar had his hands in the air and "had that mercy look".

There's something to be said about shutting up and asking for a lawyer.

In short, Mr. Croft went from victim to criminal real fast through a series of major errors in judgment beginning with that first wrong decision to pursue.

Thankfully, the judge has shown him considerable mercy. Judge Michael Hathaway did so first by dismissing the second degree murder charge and then giving him the shortest possible sentence under the law of two years for use of a firearm in a felony and 3 years probation for manslaughter.


Murphy's Law said...

OK, mad props for the Eli Wallach/Tuco bit. (You know he was Jewish, right?)

Aaron said...

But of course. He's one helluva great actor and he's still around working in film. The man's career spans over 50 years and he's still going!