It seems like we are inundated with reports of violent crime in the media. We regularly hear about someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This kind if news once took days to spread, but today it spreads in a matter of hours, if not minutes…and then the misinformation follows in its wake.
People begin to believe that they are the next victim because it seems to be happening all around them.
People’s perceptions of danger can be distorted if they are repeatedly exposed to reports of violent events. What are the effects of having “Am I next?” constantly in the back of your mind? Would they be tempted to prematurely use deadly force as a result of that fear?
As a society, we hear about people being brutally assaulted and killed without warning. For instance . . .
From nbcwashington.com . . .
Three men were shot, two of them killed, during a home invasion Friday morning in Prince William County, Virginia, police say.
Two suspects forced their way into a home on Renegade Court in Dale City about 11:30 a.m., and then there was a shootout, police said.
Two men were killed, police said. Police believe one of the victims lived at the home and the other is a suspect. The third man who was shot is a contractor who was working at the home at the time, authorities said.
Or this one from fox2detroit.com . . .
Southfield Police said a man was shot late Monday night when he was carjacked of his Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Police said they were called to the area of Lincoln and Southfield Road a little after 10 p.m. to a report of a shooting. The victim told police his 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee was stolen and he had been shot.
He told police two suspects, both younger black men wearing ski masks, carjacked him at a gas station at the intersection.
When the man tried to resist, he was shot in the hand, forearm, and back. Police said he’s listed in stable condition at the hospital.
Despite these very real situations, people may subconsciously perceive a threat as more serious or imminent than it really is. The difference between surviving or dying can come down to a fraction of a second. Could the prevalence of these reports contribute to more deadly responses by victims?
We have all said things we regret because we were angry. But it’s too late once the words come out. As the saying goes, you can’t unring a bell. Once something has been done, you have to live with the consequences as it can’t be undone. Saying something you regret can be difficult and embarrassing. Employing deadly force too quickly can ruin your life.
Most of us are familiar with the “reasonable” person standard which asks what an ordinary, reasonable individual would do under similar circumstances. Some applicable self defense laws use vague language such as . . .
“threats or perceived threats,”
“reasonable fear of an imminent threat to his life or serious bodily harm,”
“imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death,”
“use of deadly force was necessary to defend against the danger”
If people constantly see reports of crime becoming more frequent and violent, then their definition of words like ‘perceived’, ‘reasonable’, ‘imminent’, and ‘danger’ might change.
Subconsciously, individuals may judge the potential threat they face based on current events. Does that become the new “normal” if enough people have the same fears? If enough people worry about and fear the same things, does that then become the new standard by which we are judged?
Could someone’s actions could be defended and justified based on the outside influences of what they are hearing and reading in the news?
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I was with a friend of mine who’s a criminal defense attorney. When I brought that thought up, he just gave me a look. It turned into an interesting topic, especially since we both live in Illinois, where the governor recently signed HB-3653, which basically abolishes bail in the state. Abd we’ve seen too often how well that works.
Many laws refer to what a “reasonable person” would do in similar circumstances. If we move the bar of what is considered reasonable, then logically, the burden of proof may change, too…given enough time.