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Join the conversation! There are now 14 comments on “Duress pg 12
  1. Alex says

    I was wondering… what if Stu argued that, had he not shot the guy, it was pretty likely somebody else would’ve done so shortly after killing him? In other words, it wasn’t a choice between one death or another, but one death or two deaths, and therefore he took the action that resulted in the fewest casualties? Would that affect anything?

    • That’s a pragmatic argument that certainly could have gone through a reasonable person’s mind, but in most [U.S.] courts it wouldn’t get him off.

      • On the other hand, don’t charges sometimes get dropped or pleaded down?

        I would think in this case they would drop the case so long as he helped testify against his captors or something? (Who, despite their philosophical assumptions, ARE guilty of the guy’s death despite not literally pulling the trigger, because they took premeditated actions to cause it)

        Of course I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know the process for “dropping” charges…

        • I’m sure that kind of thing would be taken into consideration by a responsible prosecutor, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue for when we get into criminal procedure.

  2. kd7sov says

    Hmmm. They just gave Stu a gun, so he presumably could have tried to shoot the guy who was threatening him. Which, I believe, (he says before reading the next section) would be at least arguable as self-defense.

    • I’ve seen too many movies where a person in this situation tries to shoot at the captor only to find he was holding an empty gun to believe it would be the better option. Not to mention that realistically, the second Stu turned his gun at the captor his brains would be making a Jackson Pollock on the wall. On another note, this wouldn’t be a crime in my country because the mainstream interpretation in these cases is that you cannot expect a person to risk their own life when compared to others’ in an inexcapable situation, otherwise you’d end up in the unreasonable ( but too common) Dark Knight situation of “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain.”

    • Are you honestly suggesting that he should try to fight his way out of a gang hideout? With a gun with a single bullet?

  3. Clint says

    What about the situation where they also threatened Stu’s family? Does the many vs. the one situation also apply? Also, in that situation, would they have to have a gun to Stu’s wife and child’s head (i.e. immediate danger)? Or would the threat be sufficient (since Stu would be dead and could not stop them or warn them before they are killed)?

    Another situation, what if the gang was planning on killing Snitchy regardless, and just made Stu do it so that he wouldn’t be able to rat on them. So, the choices for Stu (and the gang) are either Stu kills Snitchy, or both Stu and Snitchy die.

    • Moreover, what if Stu has seen police new conferences about the Horde doing exactlt the same thing to others, so he knows it’s not just a threat.

  4. Eric says

    The idea that a legal philosophy (duress) applies up to a certain level of harm inflicted (killing someone) but not past it just kind of blows my mind. Either the philosophy is valid or it is not.

  5. WJS says

    Again, it just seems horribly unfair. Hardly anyone is going to refuse if the alternative is getting their own skull ventilated. It seems your hypothetical “reasonable person” is what people pretend to be rather than what they really are. People say they would rather die than kill, but that’s fantasyland. In the real world, if it’s a choice between him not going home tonight and me not going home tonight, sorry pal. People look out for themselves. But Stu’s going to jail because the jury won’t admit that to themselves.

  6. Dexter says

    So, Stu’s options are to either die or be charged with murder? I don’t think there’s any point to making this kind of exception other than to intentionally produce a catch-22 for people in that kind of situation. But why in blazes would they want to DO that?? It’s ridiculously unfair.

  7. Shashakiro says

    I’d guess it’s mostly a practical thing. The comic’s situation really isn’t terribly common in reality; no real gangster is likely to risk giving a deadly weapon to someone they just kidnapped. What I expect is much more common, though, is a (perhaps new) gang member himself being ordered to execute the snitch, with guaranteed death being the price of refusal. It would be undesirable for the gang member to be able to argue duress in that situation (i.e. “they’d have killed me if I chickened out!”) since, well, it was his fault for joining a murderous gang in the first place.

    That’s my guess, anyway.

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