New Florida Self-Defense Case

It’s the Gabriel Mobley case, State v. Mobley (Fla. Ct. App. Jan. 2, 2014) (2-1 vote). Here’s the summary from the end of the majority opinion:

The record — as corroborated by a video of the events — is that (1) Mobley found himself in the middle of a violent, unprovoked attack on a companion who was standing right next to him, by one of two men who earlier had engaged in an altercation to which he was a witness; (2) after the initial violent attack on Mobley’s friend, the attacker immediately turned his attention to Mobley; (3) less than four seconds after that, the first attacker was joined by the second man involved in the altercation inside the restaurant; and (4) when the second man reached under his shirt after rushing up to join his companion who had not abandoned the field, Mobley believed the second man was reaching for a weapon to continue the attack. With these facts at hand, and with Mobley’s knowledge of these two assailants, the issue for determination was not whether Mobley knew a weapon was possible or whether he actually saw one, but whether a reasonably prudent person in those same circumstances and with the same knowledge would have used the force Mobley used….

It may have been more prudent for Mobley and Chico to skitter to their cars and hightail it out of there when they had the chance; however, as even the State concedes and the court below recognized, Mobley and Chico had every right to be where they were, doing what they were doing and they did nothing to precipitate this violent attack. The only relevant inquiry was whether, given the totality of the circumstances leading up to the attack, the appearance of danger was so real that a reasonably cautious and prudent person under the same circumstances would have believed that the danger could be avoided only through the use of deadly force.

Because the preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that had the proper standard been applied, Mobley’s use of deadly force was justified, the motion to dismiss [the murder charges before trial] should have been granted.

The dissent viewed the facts differently, and would have deferred more to the trial court’s decision not to grant the motion to dismiss. Note that Florida law (unlike the law of most states) provides that defendants who claim self-defense are entitled to have their claim considered before trial, and have charges against them dropped if they show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that they were acting in self-defense. If the motion is denied, then the case would go to trial and they’d have a chance to argue self-defense to the jury, which must acquit unless it concludes that self-defense has been disproven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Thanks to Howard Bashman (How Appealing) for the pointer.