You’d be hard-pressed to find people who will argue that using a gun in self-defense is wrong. It’s pretty much one of the most cut-and-dry legal justifications out there. The only problem is figuring out how to distinguish between cases of self-defense, and cases of not-quite self-defense.
An excellent example is a fatal shooting two years ago involving two high school classmates in San Antonio, Texas. According to reports, 19-year-old Jasjeet Singh had invited two of his classmates, Brian Odipo and another unnamed student, to visit his home with the purpose of showing off a pistol. Singh had planned on selling the gun to Odipo.
From there, things got a little fishy. Singh testified that he showed the gun to Odipo, but Odipo pointed the gun at Singh in a threatening manner. Singh feared for his safety and grabbed the gun. Singh said in the courtroom, “When I snatch the gun, I lose balance and I fall back and I see Brian kind of off balance too, and I hear a chair move. Before I realize it, the gun goes off.”
Singh makes it all sound like it was an accident, sorta-kinda. Odipo was shot twice – once in the head and once in the leg. Odipo died two days later in the hospital.
The third friend did not corroborate Singh’s story. He testified that the shots were fired from across the room rather than at close range. He also said that Singh did not originally say he fired the gun in self-defense. Other witnesses said that Singh never liked Odipo.
Ultimately, the jury sided with the state. They found Singh guilty of murder earlier this week and Singh was sentenced to 11 years in jail.
What’s particularly interesting about this case is how Singh’s lawyer, John Convery, managed to reduce the sentence. Singh originally faced a maximum sentence of life in prison, but Convery swayed the jury by arguing that Singh acted with “sudden passion, with adequate cause.” According to Texas law, this lowers the severity of the crime.
If Singh had an adequate cause, wouldn’t that mean that he shot in justifiable self-defense? We’re not trying to argue that Singh was justified, necessarily, but it seems odd that a jury would grant Singh “adequate cause” and give him a jail sentence, anyway.
What do our readers think of this sticky case? More importantly, how much of an “adequate cause” does a shooter need before the shooting is justified? Can you think of a situation wherein a shooter has “adequate cause” to pull the trigger but deserves jail time anyway?