By Shawn Vincent |October 16th, 2019
For several years now, I’ve been writing about self-defense for CCW Safe, and it’s occurred to me that you probably have no idea who I am or why I am qualified to venture opinions about self-defense. So here it is: I’m a litigation consultant. I work with lawyers on high-profile cases, and I help them explain complicated legal concepts to juries and to the public. It’s an amazing job.
In 2012, through a series of extraordinary circumstances, I met Don West while working on the Zimmerman case. Don West is now National Trial Counsel for CCW Safe. As a CCW Safe member, should you ever be involved in a self-defense shooting, chances are Don will be a critical part of your legal defense. Don is one of the most thoughtful, deliberate, and hard-nosed criminal defense attorneys I’ve ever met. If I’m ever in trouble with the law, I want Don West on my side.
After the verdict, I had the unique opportunity to consult on other high-profile self-defense cases. I got to help pick juries. For a while, I worked with an indigent defense organization as a jury consultant on murder cases, most of which involved self-defense claims. During that time, I was also asked to research and provide commentary on other self-defense cases that fell under the national spotlight.
As time passed, Don and I spent more time together, giving presentations at legal conferences, sometimes traveling together, sharing countless meals. Often we’d talk about the details surrounding self-defense cases in the headlines. Before long, he recommended me to Mike Darter and Stan Campbell, founders of CCW Safe; he said I was someone who could help communicate the complicated legal issues surrounding self-defense cases.
I embraced the opportunity because after all the research I had done, after all the cases I studied, and watched, and wrote about -- after all the cases I consulted on, I realized that most people, including most of the defendants in self-defense cases, have some mistaken notions about when deadly force is legally justified. I realized that I myself once had mistaken notions about what the law allowed, and as I watched some decent citizens face relentless prosecutions for mistakes made in otherwise justifiable shootings, I realized how easily it could be me sitting in the defendant’s chair.
I support the Second Amendment, and I absolutely believe in the right to self-defense. Based on my experience, however, I also tend to be very cautious about when I feel lethal force is justified, and I’m even more cautious about when I think it is absolutely necessary.
Here’s why: I don’t want to see you get prosecuted for a self-defense shooting. The window of justification for self-defense homicide is precariously narrow. I’ve explored cases where the victim of a robbery has been convicted of murder for defending himself with deadly force. I’ve written about homeowners who have been sentenced to prison for killing an invader. These cases often involve the shooter getting carried away, or they involve tragic misperceptions about a critical factor -- but they do happen, and they happen all-to-often. The terrifying lesson is how easy it is for otherwise good, law-abiding people to make these critical mistakes in the split-second chaos of a self-defense scenario.
Self-defense laws are designed to give you discretion to use deadly force when you are in imminent peril of death or great bodily harm. I urge you to use your discretion wisely. I want you to be safe. I want you to make informed decisions when you carry, and I want you to have the benefit of the lessons I’ve learned from the tragic mistakes of others.
The opinions I venture and the conclusions I draw in the articles I write for CCW Safe are my personal views, not necessarily the views of CCW Safe. CCW Safe allows third-party voices to contribute to the conversation about self-defense from the informed perspective of their own disciplines. I feel these articles are meant to be food for thought. Based upon my professional experience, I’ll often stress deescalation and avoidance when I explore self-defense scenarios. I do it because I don’t want you to bear the burden of a self-defense shooting that was avoidable. I don’t want you to face a prosecution for making a mistake in what would have otherwise been a justifiable shooting.