Criminal Law Notes

self defense
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    December 1969
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People v. Ulep [113] teaches that The right to kill an offender is not absolute, and may be used only as a last re sort, and under circumstances indicating that the offender cannot otherwise be t aken without bloodshed. The law does not clothe police officers with authority t o arbitrarily judge the necessity to kill. It may be true that police officers s ometimes find themselves in a dilemma when pressured by a situation where an imm ediate and decisive, but legal, action is needed. However, it must be stressed t hat the judgment and discretion of police officers in the performance of their d uties must be exercised neither capriciously nor oppressively, but within reason able limits. In the absence of a clear and legal provision to the contrary, they must act in conformity with the dictates of a sound discretion, and within the spirit and purpose of the law. We cannot countenance trigger-happy law enforceme nt officers who indiscriminately employ force and violence upon the persons they are apprehending. They must always bear in mind that although they are dealing with criminal elements against whom society must be protected, these criminals a re also human beings with human rights. [114] with reference to the right of self-defense and the not quite harmonious authori ties, it is the doctrine of reason, and sufficiently sustained in adjudication, that notwithstanding some decisions apparently adverse, whenever a man undertake s self-defense, he is justified in acting on the facts as they appear to him. If , without fault or carelessness, he is misled concerning them, and defends himse lf correctly according to what he thus supposes the facts to be, the law will no t punish him though they are in truth otherwise, and he has really no occasion f or the extreme measure Ah Chong further explained that The question then squarely presents itself, whether in this jurisdiction one can be held criminally responsible who, by reason of a mistake as to the facts, doe s an act for which he would be exempt from criminal liability if the facts were as he supposed them to be, but which would constitute the crime of homicide or a ssassination if the actor had known the true state of the facts at the time when he committed the act. To this question we think there can be but one answer, an d we hold that under such circumstances there is no criminal liability, provided always that the alleged ignorance or mistake of fact was not due to negligence or bad faith. [132] Thus, Cupps v. State [146] tells that: This rule that every person is presumed to contemplate the ordinary and natural consequences of his own acts, is applied even in capital cases. Because men gene rally act deliberately and by the determination of their own will, and not from the impulse of blind passion, the law presumes that every man always thus acts, until the contrary appears. Therefore, when one man is found to have killed anot her, if the circumstances of the homicide do not of themselves show that it was not intended, but was accidental, it is presumed that the death of the deceased was designed by the slayer; and the burden of proof is on him to show that it wa s otherwise.