Never, ever talk to police without your attorney. It is advice that every defense lawyer and constitutional rights advocate wants everyone to know and follow. But one Florida man might have taken things a little too far when he killed a neighbor in self defense, and then drove the body to his lawyer’s office to confess to the killing.
Reports say John Marshall had contacted his attorneys days before the incident, saying that he and a neighbor were in dispute over property work, and that he feared for his safety. His lawyer advised him to file a protective order against the other man.
However, on Wednesday of this week, things took a turn for the worse. Marshall and the other man became involved in a physical altercation. Marshall says the man pulled a gun on him, but he was able to wrestle it away, firing in self defense and killing the man.
Marshall suffered a swollen lip, broken and missing teeth, and two apparently broken thumbs in the incident.
After Marshall shot the other man, he placed the body in the bed of his pickup and drove to his lawyer’s office, saying he “didn’t know who else to trust.” The attorney called 9-1-1 to report the killing.
It is good that the man can trust his attorney. It is wise to understand not to talk to police without his lawyer present. However, it is unnecessary–and unwise–to actually load the body into the truck and deliver it to the attorney’s office. Instead, the appropriate response would likely have been to call the lawyer and 9-1-1.
Marshall’s attorney calls the incident a clear-cut case of self defense and says his client is in shock. He says that the man will not be arrested, but the local sheriff’s office says it is investigating.
In Oklahoma, it is permissible to use lethal force in protecting oneself or one’s family from the threat of imminent harm. Killing an assailant in self defense is considered justifiable homicide, defined by state law in 21 O.S. § 733:
A. Homicide is also justifiable when committed by any person in any of the following cases:
1. When resisting any attempt to murder such person, or to commit any felony upon him, or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person is;
2. When committed in the lawful defense of such person or of another, when the person using force reasonably believes such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to terminate or prevent the commission of a forcible felony; or
3. When necessarily committed in attempting, by lawful ways and means, to apprehend any person for any felony committed; or in lawfully suppressing any riot; or in lawfully keeping and preserving the peace.
B. As used in this section, “forcible felony” means any felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any person.
In considering whether or not an act of homicide is justifiable self defense, police and prosecutors will determine whether the use of lethal force is commensurate with the violent threat. Shooting a fleeing suspect, killing to protect property rather than a person, or killing a person after the threat is neutralized would not be considered “justifiable homicide.”