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Looking for Trouble: Framing and the Dignitary Interest in the Law of Self-Defense

NCJ Number
Ohio State Law Journal Volume: 71 Issue: 2 Dated: 2010 Pages: 287-339
Margaret Raymond
Date Published
53 pages
This article argues that the law of self-defense should not be undermined by requiring that persons who claim this defense engage in excessively avoidant behaviors prior to the confrontation that would have prevented the confrontation from occurring.
The author notes that when an assessment is made of whether a person properly used force in self-defense, the assessment must decide how far back, both in time and circumstance, the assessment will go in considering how the actor came to be in the situation in which force was needed in order to prevent being injured or killed by an aggressor. In analyzing this issue, the author borrows the term "time-framing" as used by Mark Kelman (1980-81). "Time-framing" refers to the parameters of time in which a person's actions occur and are evaluated in determining whether a person was legally justified in using force against another person. "Framing" in a self-defense inquiry refers to the "conception of the acts, outcomes, and contingencies associated with a particular choice." This article argues that the law of self-defense should not permit the expanding of the time frame to encompass prior decisions by the actor to engage in lawful conduct that may be linked to the creation of the circumstances in which the action in question occurred. This means that any lawful intent or behavior that may have contributed to the confrontation should not be used to undermine the claim of self-defense. Therefore, the content of self-defense law should provide a clearer answer to whether the self-defense problem should be framed to deny the actor the privilege of self-defense based on earlier choices that might be viewed as "looking for trouble." 232 notes


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