State v. Bristol (Wyo. 1938), as summarized by an earlier case, the facts were:
[T]The defendant was responsible for ejecting the intoxicated victim out of a cocktail bar and liquor shop. The victim [Skogerson]The defendant later returned, and he verbally abused the defendant. The defendant took a gun with him when he left the premises and went to a café. Although the defendant claims to have been unaware of this, the victim was in the same café. He was attacked by the victim, and he shot him. Because the victim attacked the defendant, the State claimed the defendant was the aggressor. He armed himself and went where the victim was.
However, the court that tried to convict had given instructions to jurors regarding self-defense.
Instruction no. 16. If one causes a problem or aggressor, it is forbidden to invoke self-defense. He must first withdraw or attempt to withdraw from combat. Then, his opponent will be able to see that he wants to withdraw.
Instruction no. 17. You are instructed in relation to the law of self-defense, that one cannot claim the benefits of the law of self defense, after he has intentionally put himself where he knows or believes he will have to invoke its aid….
The state claimed:
Bristol didn’t go back to the liquor shop. He set out to find Skogerson. Armed, he entered the restaurant to check if Johnson and Skogerson were there. The deceased was sitting at the counter, so he walked back to him. He was aware that his actions could provoke a dispute and that he could fire dead without any consequences in the back hall, dimly lit.
It Bristol Court responded:
According to the State, he oughta gone home instead of eating at the restaurant. That view was affirmed by the jury. Perhaps that is ethically right.
It is impossible to say what the truth of this matter is. IsTrue, standing firm on one’s rights may not be the best choice. It is clear evidence that the defendant’s current predicament shows this. You will reap the benefits of following the words of Buddha, who advised that a man should overcome his anger with love and overcome evil by good. Christ also encouraged people to listen to the counsel of Christ, saying: “Resist evil. But whoever smiteth him upon your right cheek, let him turn towards the other.”
However, we are not yet at such an end. These difficulties seem more daunting than Hercules’. This restaurant was public. In itself, it was neither unlawful nor wrongful for defendant to visit the restaurant. The deceased made unlawful and wrongful threats to make it wrongful. It is difficult to draw such an illogical conclusion.
The larger goals of ethics and public policies can sometimes override logic. In this instance, the defendant clearly had to stay away from the restaurant because of threats. We should ignore the logic. The point at hand is ethics and public policies. The balance between freedom and movement is important.
The question is whether law has the ability to allow bullies to terrorize the citizens of the country by making threats. It is not something we would recommend.
It is similar in principle to the “retreat the wall” rule that some jurisdictions have. Both are subject to the rule of avoidance homicide. In cases of assault, the rule of retreating to the wall applies (wherever it is applicable). The element of time, in cases like the one we have just seen, seems to be more important and makes a distinct difference between these two types of cases.
How long must it take for a man to limit his freedom of movement due to threats? Do you need it to be for a few hours or a whole day? Or a full week? The consequences could be fatal in either case. However, regardless of our conclusion, some courts like those in Kentucky or Alabama that adhere to “retreat from the wall”, lay the foundation for the argument. down the rule that a man has a right to go where he will notwithstanding threats against him….
Most people would agree with the statement that no man should be forced from his home to protect himself against an unlawful threat. Many, if not all, agree that it should be the same rule as for going to a man’s place of business. There would be differences in opinion about going to different places when there are such dangers. All would probably agree that men should have the right to go to any place if necessary. However, there is a limit to the necessity.
The jury would likely disbelieve a defendant, just as they did in this case. If the necessity of going was made the criterion for determining a defendant’s liberty to move, that would mean that he would make that decision at his own risk. Perhaps there is more to debate when the defendant acts merely for or for his enjoyment and goes where his opponent is. But … a man may [generally] go where he has a right to be, and we hesitate in view of the apparently overwhelming authority to that effect, to hold that such rule should not prevail in this state….
The right to travel where you want, regardless of threats, implies that one also has the right to remain where you want, and without any hindrance. These statements are controlled with the notion of a lawful rights to be in the locality he travels to or stays.
Human life is precious, but liberty is also sacred. Each is equally important in the eyes the law. And neither one is willing to yield its legal status for the sake of the other. The wrongful or violent acts of one man will not affect the constitutional and lawful rights of the neighbor. …