Man Charged in Road Rage Murder

joris-v-541657-unsplash-copy-300x200Liltony M. Van has been charged with first-degree murder after a road rage incident turned fatal. According to reports, the other man, Marquist Boyd had a baseball bat on him and brandished it. Van pulled out a handgun and shot Boyd in the head. It is unclear whether or not Van owned the gun legally, but the only other charge against him is criminal trespass to a vehicle.

To date, 28 states have passed some version of a “stand your ground” law, with Florida’s being the most notable. In Florida, if an individual has reasonable cause to believe that another person is going to harm or injure them, they are within their rights to use lethal force against that individual. If this altercation took place in Florida, it may be hard to even get it before a jury. This is because if a defendant raises a “stand your ground” defense during an indictment, the prosecutor must overcome a burden of proof to follow up with a jury trial. Furthermore, if the case is allowed to proceed to a jury, the defendant may use a stand your ground defense to the charges.

As permissive as Florida’s law is, it is not a proverbial ace in the hole against charges that involve any altercation, and Illinois’ law is less permissive still. Here, we will take a look at what kind of chances Liltony M. Van would have with a self-defense plea.

Understanding Self-Defense Pleas

When a defendant claims self-defense or defense of others against a murder charge, he or she is  essentially admitting that he or she was the one who pulled the trigger. The defendant is simply saying the act was justified. 

Illinois’ self-defense rule stipulates that individuals are allowed to use deadly force only if they believe that force is necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. Van will likely raise this as a defense at trial, but this is much different than Florida’s statute. In Florida, the court calls a hearing to determine if stand your ground prevents a case from moving to trial. This, essentially, dispenses with the possibility that the case can move forward. The defendant will never face a jury and the charges will be dropped.

In Illinois, the decision is put before the jury to decide whether or not the lethal force was justified.

Possible Outcomes to This Trial

The best defense that the defendant can put forward here is that he was afraid the man was going to beat him with the baseball bat he had in his possession. As a result, he took out his gun and fired it. The prosecution may stipulate to the fact that the victim had a bat and used it threateningly, but they will also say that lethal force was beyond the scope of what was permissible under the act. 

Let us say that the jury buys both arguments. They may have the option of convicting the defendant of second-degree murder (which would still be very bad) or voluntary manslaughter. But it does not seem likely that the prosecution will win on a first-degree murder charge, supposing that the victim really did have a baseball bat on him.

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