A 33-year-old man has been charged with murder after thwarting an attempted burglary on his vehicle. The assailant, Lazaro Vaquez was reportedly cruising with his girlfriend to find someone to rob. He crossed paths with Adam Woods, who was not having it.
Video surveillance shows Vazquez approaching the car, but then appearing startled as Woods exited with a gun. Vazquez could be seen turning around and running. It was then that Woods fired four shots into Vazquez’s back, killing him.
Is This a Legitimate Murder Charge?
The State of Florida has the strongest stand-your-ground laws in the nation. An individual with a weapon is authorized to use lethal force if a reasonable person in the same position would have cause to believe that their life was in danger. Furthermore, and this is where it gets really tricky, a prosecutor must be able to prove that the defendant did not have reasonable cause to believe that their life or property was in danger. They must prove this during the stand-your-ground-hearing or the case against the defendant is dismissed. This makes it very hard for prosecutors to prove that a suspect claiming that they acted in self-defense was not. The burden to prove the suspect’s state of mind in a preliminary hearing means that most such prosecutions will be quashed in preliminaries.
Even in Florida, a reasonable person would not assume that a man running away from a potential robbery victim was an imminent threat. However, such cases prove harder on prosecutors than they would in states like Illinois which can actually rob the defense of a self-defense argument unless specific conditions are met.
Illinois Rules Regarding Self-Defense
Illinois rules regarding the justifiable use of lethal force to thwart require a higher standard than Florida. Essentially, a defendant must show that:
- There was an immediate threat to the defendant, the defendant’s property, or another person;
- The threat was not of a legal nature, ie: a threat to call the police;
- The defendant had reason to believe that the threat was significant enough to require force;
- And the defendant used force that was equivalent to the threat.
In this case, it will be hard to get a jury to sign off on the idea that someone scared enough to turn and flee from his intended victim posed a sufficient threat to warrant shooting him in the back. However, a case could be made that the victim was going back to his car to retrieve a gun. If that was the case, then why didn’t he use the gun to burglarize the car? Are three shots in the back really justified from a fleeing defendant? Probably not. But he can always use the police officer’s argument. He can say that he thought he saw a gun.
Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you are being charged unfairly with a murder you know is self-defense, then call Chicago criminal defense attorney David Freidberg today at (312) 560-7100 to discuss your situation in greater detail and allow us to begin preparing your defense immediately.