Concealed carry training in gun safety, marksmanship and legal issues is the pathway to the “not guilty” verdict we want to hear at the end of a month-long court case. Here is how it works.
In every state in the land, the jury will judge your self-defense actions against the standard of the reasonable person. What would a reasonable person, knowing what you knew at the time, have done under the same or similar circumstances? The jury will receive jury instructions from the court, but when it is decision time, when an individual juror votes “guilty” or “not guilty,” they will be asking themselves, “Would I have done the same thing, in his or her shoes?”
Of course, the jurors weren’t in your shoes, and they likely don’t have a level of training and expertise equal to yours, so giving them that level of training, communicated through your defense attorney, will be your job.
You see, the issue is your mindset at the time you pointed your gun at the criminal suspects and, if necessary, pulled the trigger. The jury needs to see the incident through your eyes, but it is your responsibility to make sure what they envision is accurate.
You accomplish this through the admission of evidence of your training, and I do not mean just a list of classes you attended. You need to introduce actual training documents or videos into court. The judge will rule whether the jury can see those materials.
In fact, the judge has great latitude over what evidence is admissible, and admissibility of evidence is rarely overturned on appeal. The appellate courts routinely write that they believe the court (the judge) knows best as far as the admissibility of evidence. The rule of admission of evidence basically states that all “relevant” evidence is admissible, unless it is either unreliable or excessively prejudicial.
If the judge believes that you actually did not know the training material and it was not part of your mindset, or that the training material or video is “overly prejudicial,” then he or she will not let your attorney discuss it. A real life example is seen in Larry Hickey’s trial.
Before the incident, Hickey had studied a dash cam video of a Texas law enforcement officer being overpowered and killed with his own weapon. Hickey testified that he thought about that footage while he was being attacked, but the judge would not let the video be played in court because she said it was overly prejudicial. Of course, defense attorney Matthew Messmer objected to the disqualification of this video. If Hickey had been convicted, Judge Godoy’s ruling would have been a very valid point of appeal.
Admitted into Evidence
How do you get a DVD or set of class notes admitted into evidence? Let’s say that you become the victim of road rage. Perhaps the assailants followed you to a parking lot and surrounded you. This is a classic pre-attack maneuver. Your decision to draw your firearm and display it to short-circuit what you perceived as an impending attack, despite the fact that they never exhibited any overt intention to harm you, can likely be justified if you were trained to recognize pre-attack indicators.
In my work with the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network, I am tasked with developing court-admissible educational materials for the protection of our members. For example, in one video, Recognizing and Responding to Pre-Attack Indicators, I focus on being able to articulate what you saw that put you in danger. In that program, Marc MacYoung stages scenarios to clearly demonstrate what people do when they are preparing to commit a crime of violence against another person. Of all the titles in our member-education set, this one is of critical importance when it comes to defending yourself in court.
For that DVD program to be introduced in court, you must be able to positively state that you knew the lesson’s content ahead of time and learned it from that DVD. The DVD would then be introduced to the jury, the judge having previously ruled on its admissibility. The jury can be shown the part of the DVD pertinent to your situation, and then the jury will be able to decide if they, knowing what you knew at the time, would have drawn a gun and told multiple assailants to back away.
Because other pre-attack indicators—including verbal threats, physical gestures and more—go along with the flanking maneuver in our example, perhaps the entire video would be played in court, and your attorney could direct further exploration of lessons that applied to the particular incident being judged.
This is a complex subject with a lot of facets both trainers and students must consider. In Part II, I’ll discuss how training can hurt you in court.
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