Another Case on Carrying a Gun When “Expecting Trouble”

I’ve been researching the cases dealing with self-defense rights of people who go to a place armed, knowing that it’s likely to be dangerous; hence my posts about the Wyoming Buddha/Christ/Hercules case and about the D.C. Laney race riot case. Another case of race riot, which I believe reflects what is today the minority view. This one comes from 1913 Arkansas. Moore v. State:

Appellant was charged with the crime of murder second degree. She is alleged that she killed her husband Arthur Moore. Upon her trial, she was convicted for voluntary manslaughter.

On the 24th February 1913 appellant was a negro-speaker who went to Little Rock’s house of poor reputation. There she met Mary Johnson, a negress, and her husband. The appellant claims she visited this house in an effort to convince her husband to go home. However, he became furious and forced her to enter the alley next to the house. There, he attacked her with a knife. He also cursed her and threatened to cut her. She then pulled out a revolver and fired two more shots. She then ran down the alley, following the path of her deceased husband, shooting just as she was leaving the alley.

In addition, she stated that the deceased had threatened her with death if she visited his house. She also said that he was large and powerful, had beat her several times, had no regular occupation and spends most of his time playing and at places of bad reputation. Appellant offered evidence tending to corroborate her in several particulars….

Evidence from the state showed that the deceased was not armed and the defendant entered the home to kill her husband. When she shot him, she stated that “I killed his husband here,” as he was her husband. When she was asked about her motives for killing him, she replied: [“]The shooting was done by me. It would be better to not have any man, than half a woman. …

Insistence by appellant that the reversal should occur because of [among other things]Refusal by the court to issue [the following instruction]: …

“You were instructed by the court that the defendant (this deceased) saw her husband in the morning, the night before the murder, with another woman. This gave her the right to believe that they had been separated. Also, that she could go to their home and carry a weapon. Furthermore, when her husband tried to convince her to come home, she attacked her and she had the right to fire in her defense. …

[This]Instruction is not the law. While it is true that a person may carry a weapon for self defense, but he cannot be denied the right to do so because of its illegality.

This isn’t the intent of the instruction. It says that “She had the legal right to travel to the place where they believed she was staying, and to bring with her a weapon for defense against possible attacks.” This instruction … permits one who is expecting trouble, and probably looking for it, to be armed and ready for it when it comes.

If the husband wasn’t threatening his wife with serious bodily harm or death, and she just shot him because she was mad at him for cheating or beating her, it would be murder. But that is a different question. This is an issue that a jury must decide, and should be given a clear instruction. I also think that shooting him when he was flying was not in self-defense. However, that wasn’t what the court paid attention to.

Here, the court wasn’t asking that question. It was rather deciding when a person who has been threatened with severe injury or death loses their right to self-defense. And the court’s answer—which would be a minority answer in American jurisdictions today, I think—is that,

  1. When someone is “expecting trouble” during an encounter
  2. So she prepares herself for “when it happens”
  3. In fact, she has lost her right of self-defense.
  4. At the very least she will go to trouble if she chooses.

Let us know what you think. Does this make sense. It might prove difficult to determine the effect of race in this 1913 Arkansas case. The defendant was black but she was allegedly her victim. She was found guilty and sentenced to a light term. It’s more interesting to hear your opinion about today’s result, ignoring any concerns about race or omitting shots because the husband fled.

Many courts will answer this question with the following:

  1. If someone Specific intentsTo provoke someone to threaten their life or cause serious bodily harm.
  2. Therefore, she arms herself in order to be able use the threat to justify killing someone.
  3. She does lose the right to self defense.

Arkansas’s court didn’t accept this, but it did state that the Arkansas court believed that the Arkansas wife was looking “probably for”. [trouble]”But that was only a possibility, and not something the prosecution had proven or that defense had accepted (as she had admitted that she was in for trouble).